The SAP Sisyphus


sisyphusThese days , far removed from the origins of Greek mythology, it is easy to feel sorry for Sisyphus as he pushes a huge boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down. He is cursed to repeat this action over and over again. Talk about cruel and unusual punishment. But read the ancient texts, and you are reminded, it was a punishment for previous actions.

I often feel SAP has become a modern day Sisyphus. They try so hard – all the positive vibes coming out of SuccessConnect last week, my friend Tom Raftery helping them polish their IoT message, a Millennial CIO at a legacy software company and much more.

Yet, everything is a huge struggle. HANA is making slow progress, S/4 as I predicted in SAP Nation 2.0 will not be much of a factor till it is flushed out over the next several years. In the meantime, SAP has to carry the huge burden of an ecosystem ten times its size. Makes Sisyphus’s boulder look tiny.

As with Sisyphus, you have to feel sympathetic, but you also have to stop and ask how it got there. The ecosystem did not grow to $ 300+ billion a year overnight. The endless stream of spectacular project failures have been going since the mid 90s. Yet, all SAP has wanted to do is sell more, not clean up the messes of the past. For years before I wrote SAP Nation, I told just about every SAP and partner executive they needed to fix things. They would attempt small fixes and hope the rest would go away. So for years now they have talked about consultant certification, when the total cost is driven by countless other elements. They needed to continue to enhance products for the maintenance dollar, fix the upgrade cycle, lasso in their telco, application management and hosting partners, and do  much more.

I thought they had turned the corner when CEO Bill McDermott acknowledged at SapphireNow in May about “pointed feedback received from customer CIO’s as well as from SAP Board members.”

Now I am not so sure – they are back to hyping new stuff and pestering customers for new revenue, and not responding to customer questions about value from previous revenue.

So, customers are mopping up the mess themselves using the strategies I describe in SAP Nation like Ring Fence, Two Tier ERP, Third Party Maintenance. In such a customer environment, it is doubly difficult for SAP to sell more of its new products.

The boulder it has to keep pushing is something SAP alone can chip away at. May be some day it will.

(Cross-posted @ Deal Architect)

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