What does it take for execution success at SAP?


There is a prevailing thought in the ecosystem that SAP scores high on the strategy and vision, and where they need to focus is on execution. This came up in numerous conversations I had with Teched attendees this week. What is not clear is how exactly SAP is going to enhance execution capabilities. About 50% of all conversations I had in Las Vegas was on this topic.

For what it is worth, here are three thoughts on potential solutions, that were formed as a result of my conversations.

1. Cross-pollinate and learn from people who are good at it.

SAP has customers who make mission critical systems and on a deadline.  Why not request their help? Send developers and managers to watch how they work in their environment, and learn. SAP also has a bunch of SI partners, ISV partners etc who also have a lot of experience in delivery excellence.  Of course there are spectacular failures too from customers and partners – but it is a small percentage. It looks bad because headlines do not look as attractive for good news.  This is an easy route for SAP to enhance their execution capabilities.

Also, nothing stops SAP from hiring people from outside to inject new blood into the execution arm. Conversely I think others will benefit a great deal by getting some experts from SAP  into their teams.  The risk is that if not done properly – this could end up as unhealthy talent poaching which won’t help any one.

2. Include ecosystem in development and testing


Some variation of the APPLE model might work for SAP. SAP technologies have a big fan base. Current licensing models do not allow this really large pool of smart people to contribute to getting more and better SAP applications.  Sure there are legal and financial and infrastructure issues to be dealt with – but those can be dealt with if the leadership at SAP has the conviction and will to get it done.

SAP is quite good at working with customers on getting ideas for what products/features/functions etc are needed next. And they have a ramp up process which is quite good too.  However, there is a missed opportunity in using a vast ecosystem in testing.  And SDN is a great platform to get access to a large number of people who might be able to help with this, probably for free.  Why not allow software to be freely downloaded as trial versions? and if Cloud is the way SAP is going – why not host these and let SCN members play with it?

3. Industrialize innovation

Innovation should matter to the company in some measurable way.  Sure it is fun to do gamification innojams, and a couple of  apps in HANA a year. That will not add $$ to topline or bottom line. For that – innovation needs to be focused, and the process should be industrialized.

A good example is LOB on demand products.  Sales on demand, Career on demand etc are all very good – and have some of the best people at SAP doing their best to make it succeed. But they are too few to make it count. My gut feeling is that each takes couple of years to get to market, and then in another two years or so – they might make $100M or so. I could be wrong – and am glad to stand corrected. But at this scale – how much (and when) will it affect a $15 Billion company’s financials ?

Can SAP take the learning from first 2 or 3 OD apps, and get into  tens of applications being developed in parallel ? Can those be applied to HANA and Mobility applications too in some convergent fashion? I know SAP is big on agile and design thinking and other fancy ideas. Question is – do they scale to an extent that it moves the needle significantly for SAP?

As we recently joked towards the end of the HANA skills podcast with Jon Reed and Harald Reiter, we need some “action leaders”  to balance all the “gurus”, “thought leaders” and “visionaries”.