Like the magic broom from Goethe’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Christian Klein seems to be in the mood for a deep clean, and nothing can stop him. Christian Klein is attempting to tidy up SAP for the new CFO and the future Supervisory Board Chairman. He is consolidating, harmonizing, and orchestrating the company anew—sometimes to SAP customers’ displeasure, who are becoming ever more vocal about their frustrations.
But that’s nothing new. Even under Hagemann Snabe and Bill McDermott’s joint leadership, their reorganization did not necessarily always inspire joy in users. Reorganization is always a balancing act: companies must continue to evolve, and profit margins must continue to grow; however, simultaneously, usage must also become simpler and cheaper, yet old and beloved features cannot be disturbed. Never change a running system, is a saying that should apply to legacy assets.
And now the same thing is happening again. SAP has presented us with an avoidable innovation and wants a pat on the back for it. Juergen Mueller, CFO and member of the SAP Executive Board, presented a new data management tool shortly before the DSAG (German-speaking User Group) Technology Days conference: Datasphere. Mueller also spoke about Datasphere during his keynote speech in Mannheim, Germany, at the Technology Days conference, loudly trumpeting promises for the future. So much so that the SAP community and DSAG members present were left wondering: does Mueller not know about SAP’s successful past? About his predecessors’ Shai Agassi, Vishal Sikka, and Bernd Leukert’s previous attempts at doing the same? Or about SAP products such as NetWeaver, Data Hub, and Information Steward?
With Datasphere, Juergen Mueller has pulled an interesting product out of his hat. But it is simply another attempt at taming the rampant data chaos between SAP apps. The proliferation of apps in recent years has created an enormous amount of additional work for users. Harmonizing and orchestrating different apps has become one of SAP customers’ most important tasks.
SAP’s digital transformation is suffering from self-inflicted data chaos, making Juergen Mueller’s attempt to once again tackle the problem the right call. However, there is a lack of a coherent overall concept. SAP’s customers have a history with SAP; they have invested heavily in NetWeaver, Data Hub, Information Steward and Warehouse products and want to build on these in an organic and evolutionary way. Instead, what we get are new products and new partners.
Legacy assets should be accepted; they are not necessarily a disadvantage. An evolutionary transformation incorporating legacy assets ensures continuity and investment. Although SAP is innovative, it has lost contact with its own community. Christian Klein and Juergen Mueller should be open to hold discussions once again with partners and users. This is a matter of listening and learning—and less about putting on a magic show.
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