SAP’s Sleeping Product Giant

Michael Krigsman and I had a chance to chat last week — he recorded a podcast w/ me that will be up on his blog before too long — and thankfully the chat got my blogging mojo going again. 

I don’t want to steal our podcast’s thunder, so I’ll focus on a tangent from our call — SAP’s innovation problem.  Michael himself has hoped that SAP’s leadership change would help to bring more innovation to market.  Ray Wang put it more bluntly in his take on Leo’s ouster:

[T]he issue is not sales. It’s products. Snabe and Vishal will need strong product vision to right SAP and point it in a forward direction. Engineering and products need more attention to bring out trapped innovation at SAP.

“Trapped innovation”… that’s so much of what I saw at SAP.  There are many cool technologies floating around, but they don’t fit in the “margin now” mindset that has pervaded the company.   The company is stuck in the classic [successful]  innovator’s dilemma:

By only pursuing “sustaining innovations” that perpetuate what has historically helped them succeed, companies unwittingly open the door to “disruptive innovations”.

Even worse,  SAP had deluded themselves into thinking they were responding appropriately — what was marketed as real innovation was simply new wine in old skins.  Exhibit 1 — 2007-2009 versions of Business ByDesign.

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4 Responses

  1. Paul,
    It’s not about the software, it’s all about the people…

    May I interest you in these reflections:

    A word from an Ambassador of SAP customers (including SAP Oscars Ceremony) http://mesanneessap.wordpress.com/2010/03/23/my-take-on/
    SAP’s wasted passion (bull’s-eye) http://bit.ly/bPEL9z
    Stop blaming Leo Apotheker! http://mesanneessap.wordpress.com/2010/02/12/stop-blaming-leo-apotheker/

    Worth reading.
    Sincerely,
    Caroline

    • Hi Caroline, Thanks for the comment. I’ve definitely seen and appreciated your blog before. I’m familiar enough with the folks you “honor” in your first post to smile w/ recognition.

      My post was focused on SAP’s innovation ills, but I can’t and don’t separate the technology (and process) from the people. In fact, that is one of SAP’s lingering problems: almost every part of even basic SAP ERP implementations is to this day dependent on the individuals that one gets to sell, design, build, lead, and support the initiative. The awe and dread that still surround SAP projects has become comic, IMO. SAP ERP has been done tens-of-thousands of times, let’s get over ourselves.

      Also, I have no doubt that Leo was the easy scapegoat (and boy didn’t Henning get out just in time)… but I don’t think Leo was the answer either.

  2. Hi Paul,

    Leo wasn’t the answer to that world in particular; I agree. What’s worse is that there is no answer to that world at all…

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Soheil Jafari. Soheil Jafari said: SAP’s Sleeping Product Giant: Michael Krigsman and I had a chance to chat last week — he recorded a podcast w/ me … http://bit.ly/dBtw1m […]

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