I was in a session last year with Dave Girouard of Google, when I asked him if he still believed in the statement he made 3 years prior about enterprise software. Without batting an eyelid, he asked me “Are you from SAP?”
Leo Apotheker is gone as CEO of SAP. Let’s take a moment to compliment the man for the juggernaut he built in the sales field. As he pointed to me in a heated exchange last year “I’ve been in the field all my life. That monster out there (the field) is my creature. Loyalty is to the customer. The obligation is to the customer”
But the reality is the customer has been forgotten in enterprise software, not just at SAP. It’s about squeezing as much out of old technology as possible. As I wrote earlier in the week. “I wish the other bigger vendors had the cajones to acknowledge they similarly mostly live off profits from software 15- 20 years old, from consultants which implement that old software and provide services from data centers which were designed during the Cold War.”
Leo was expected to do more of the same in his new role as CEO. So, he did – unbelievably pushing maintenance price hikes in the middle of the deep recession. For all his talk about taking on the partners who have piled 5 to 10X costs on top of SAP’s own expensive solutions, he really could not – they were part of the “field” he created.
SAP needed someone to dismantle that “old field” as the market transitions away from the big, honking upfront license and implementation and operating cost model. It is screaming for soul and innovation. Instead they rewarded Leo. Surely, they did not expect him to choke his own baby?
Now what? Bill McDermott and Jim Snabe, the new co-CEOs are good solid, likable executives – but they represent more of the same. Bill could actually take more credit than Leo for building the field in key markets like the US. Are they ready to dismantle the past, seriously put their weight behind cloud computing and take on the partners who add little value?
I sure hope so. Because Dave is so right. We need enterprise software to get its soul - and its groove - back.