I released Volume 1 of SAP Nation a year ago. It was a new genre for me. Previous books had been forward looking, focused on innovations. SAP Nation was more historical analysis and modeling to understand how we got to an economy as big as Ireland in such a short time frame. Volume 2 was more current as I focused on the S/4HANA launch but I also looked at 2 decades of other enterprise software launches and adoption patterns.
Here’s what I have found in the year since:
SAP Customers: Most customers I have talked to have thanked me for profiling so many of their peers in case studies. It has encouraged them to become more introspective. They have used it to review their own deployments and make adjustments. I expect more to come out and freely laugh at the mirage of how “simple” things have become (like the CIO of Dow who recently told the WSJ their 8 year implementation cost them over $ 1 billion). I expect others to say “no mas” (like DHL with a recent EU 350 million writeoff). But for the most part I expect customers to accelerate their diversification through ring fencing, two tiering, third party maintenance etc. By the time I wrote volume 2 in the summer I was impressed how many more examples I could see in each of those strategies.
SAP itself: Their reaction has been puzzling. They had heard quite a bit of what was in book directly from me for years before. I invited them to contribute to the book, and they did in small parts. For the most part, though this is a new SAP which is HANA, SuccessFactors, hybris, Jam focused. They appear to have little appreciation for the industry applications their predecessors had sold. They do not appear to have the curiosity to go through history – that the DHL write off is just the latest in a long series of failures that filled Chapter 7 in the first volume (even with DHL, SAP says “don’t blame our software”). Cannot blame them - even I had forgotten about many of those failures. What’s more interesting is this new generation of SAP employees keeps pushing their own products at customers, when the customers want to see value from earlier investments. Worse, they use audits and other tactics to try and squeeze even more out of the older products. It’s boomeranging – I hear many SAP customers say it smells of desperation. Maybe S/4HANA was designed to reduce the burden of the earlier investments, but as I describe in the second volume I think the product will need to be radically rethought and re-launched.
SAP Partners: This is a mixed bag. Some are aligned with the new SAP and parrot how good HANA and SuccessFactors. are. Others keep clinging to the older economics even as cloud, mobile and other models are showing the need to change (and some of them have sent me nasty grams as if I created the cloud and other offerings they are being benchmarked against). The smarter ones are going in and replacing the incumbents with more efficient offerings. SAP’s own cost is only 10% of the nation’s GDP. The biggest changes have to come from its partners and they have a long way to go.
SAP competitors: Another mixed bag. The smart ones are not selling “rip and replace”(most do not have the broad functional or global footprint SAP does) but gradual transition. Some who have not even read the book happily recommend it to customers – not sure if it helps them unless they can show things will be dramatically different around their own products. Couple have told me they thought it is too nice to SAP. Seriously
Overall, I grew as an author. It made me research a lot more of the past. It forced me to listen to customers who were not necessarily happy (for books on innovation, the interviews are much more excited and animated). So, in many ways it was a very different experience.
But in a small way, I hope I am helping many SAP customers optimize their strategies.