The beginning of every new year is always cluttered with obligatory corporate events. SAP’s is called FKOM, Field Kick-Off Meeting, and is a grand stage for SAP CEO Bill McDermott. While all of this is going on, I’m usually in my office, thinking about the future. Not about the 2019 revenue goals of good old Bill, or how much IT budget our SAP system will waste this year. No, I’m already thinking about the next ten years, with the almost magical 2025 in the middle.
A complete waste of time, according to my wife. “The only thing you should think about in ten years is your retirement!” Of course, she is right. But a lot has changed over the years. Everything’s gotten so hectic and temporary. Being able to sit back and think about the future is almost luxurious now. Being able to let go is a future challenge as well, though.
If I want to get a glimpse of SAP’s future, I’ll visit the golf course in St. Leon-Rot, Germany, in the summer, or simply stay in Heidelberg, Germany, in the winter. The golf course and exquisite restaurants give the good opportunity to try and guess SAP’s future. But I can’t really recommend it to laymen; it’s neither easy nor pleasurable.
Of course, I know that SAP customers can have a look at the SAP service market to get an idea of the plan for the upcoming twelve to eighteen months. However, these roadmaps may be nice to look at, but are completely useless for reasonable planning and coordinating. In fact, SAP’s roadmaps are more of a guideline, and not so much a strategic, reasonable plan.
You always get more information from personal encounters, but mine very rarely make my anxiety go away. Of course, my friends at SAP headquarters hear a lot through the grapevine, but that’s usually just hearsay. Even members of the inner circle don’t know what will happen in the upcoming 36 months at SAP. It’s quite alarming, really. I’m always taken aback when visiting SAP headquarters by just how little employees know about the plans and wishes of their superiors.
People live, develop, and program from hand to mouth at SAP, a phrase which here means that software is only half-done when it’s thrown into the market. The SAP customer is the guinea pig on which the software is tested on. If the Proof of Concept is successful, the product will be further developed – otherwise it is just erased from the roadmap.
This approach is very problematic for SAP costumers. For example, I have to present management with a five-year plan, with the option of prolonging it to ten years. Seems impossible with the persisting IT chaos, but it is necessary! Whoever has to come up with a reasonable budget and infrastructure plan for their own company knows what I’m talking about. To create a five-year plan with SAP is nearly impossible. Even I can only do it because of my friends at SAP headquarters!
How not to do it
Here’s an example of how not to do it. SAP’s Leonardo conference 2017 in Germany was an interesting kick-off with special guest Henning Kagermann. The results of the conference were moderate, but at least it seemed like SAP was taking Industry 4.0 and IoT seriously. Some analysts were furious about the vague announcements, and really, everything seemed cobbled together rather hastily. However, SAP customers were confident that the direction was right.
18 months later, we seem farther away from it then ever. Leonardo is almost forgotten. Bernd Leukert, the patron saint of the SAP framework Leonardo, had to give up his CTO position to someone else.
My theory is that SAP lives from hand to mouth by now. Long-term, tangible product developments and release changes are nowhere to be found. Even though there are countless roadmaps, the chaos theory prevails: SAP is clearly hoping for some butterfly effect to save the day. SAP should think about a patent for its trademark chaos theory of its own future. To a successful 2019, SAP!