My wife says that we should all give SAP CEO (and young father) Christian Klein a break. He’s at the beginning of two very challenging careers – as father and as CEO.
Apart from the stock market – which we all know was more former SAP CEO Bill McDermott’s forte – Christian Klein is doing a lot of things right at the moment. However, he doesn’t have the same sensitivity and finesse when it comes to investors and financial analysts as his predecessor. At the helm of ServiceNow, Bill McDermott doubled its stock price during a global pandemic. My wife, who met McDermott in Berlin once, says he’s a phony, but you can’t argue with results.
As SAP customer and Group CIO, I’m intensely curious as to how our three musketeers – Christian Klein, Juergen Mueller, and Thomas Saueressig – plan on tackling the challenges that lie before them. It will only get more complex in 2021.
Christian Klein managed to turn SAP around before it crashed and burned. The list of things he wants to improve is almost endless: integration of cloud acquisitions, consolidation of ERP data and master data, the return to SAP’s roots, and so on. With the help of Juergen Mueller and Thomas Saueressig, Klein might actually be able to pull it all off. If he does, he’s sure to get a standing ovation from his customers.
His worst enemy might be the rapid technological advancement in IT, though. With cloud solutions from hyperscalers, data management functions in hybrid IT architectures, open source offers from Suse, Red Hat, and more, and the growing popularity of low-code/no-code platforms, SAP customers can emancipate from SAP and go way beyond anything the ERP company has to offer.
It’s commendable that Christian Klein wants to save SAP’s core business, but his predecessor and he himself have let innovation platform Leonardo die. That doesn’t necessarily put customers at a disadvantage, as there are numerous alternatives from different providers – and that’s exactly what could become a problem for SAP. In the future, many ERP add-ons or innovations might involve only a few or even no SAP products (low SAP/no SAP).
With low-code/no-code platforms, hybrid cloud architectures, AI, blockchain, and more in the mix, it’s finally starting to make sense again to develop your own products and ideas. What this could mean for SAP is that customers will increasingly emancipate from the ERP company. SAP CEO Christian Klein might continue to do everything right, but it might stop mattering sooner rather than later.