Blog Last and Least

Musical Chairs

SAP can’t hear the music, and all the seats are taken.

Musical chairs is an exciting game to play at children’s parties. There’s always one chair less than there are people. When the music stops, everyone rushes to find a seat, and whoever can’t find one is eliminated.

Definite advantages in this game are a good ear and quick reflexes. SAP, however, currently lacks both. In recent years, the company has lost the ability to listen to its customers and act on what it hears.

SAP regularly comes up with interesting innovations, but these rarely meet customer needs. Hana is a database innovation that happens only once every 20 years in IT; however, SAP’s customers were already very satisfied with IBM DB2, MS SQL Server, and Oracle. There was no need for a new and exclusive database. The company putting gentle pressure on vendors would have been enough to motivate them to perform better. The Hana disruption was a culture shock for many SAP customers and was not in any way a reflection of their wishes.

But because the voices of its customers matter to SAP less and less, the space the company occupies in the hearts of its users has become smaller and smaller. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy: if SAP does not listen to and deliver what users want and need, other IT vendors will take SAP’s place.

When it comes to CRM, SAP seems to have lost its seat in musical chairs, but Salesforce is still in the game. And the music has already started playing again, so SAP may lose the next round to ServiceNow. If you have ever seen the game played at a children’s party, you know how brutal it can be.

The situation is not so straightforward: SAP’s innovations are evidence of strong developer skills, extensive knowledge, and long-term staying power, but more and more of late, SAP’s inventions fail to meet market needs. RISE with SAP is an innovative approach—but does anyone in the SAP community actually need it? RISE’s features don’t benefit the average SAP customer. Users don’t want to be left floundering in a game of musical chairs; they want to secure a seat before the music stops playing.

E-3 Magazine December/January 2022-2023 (German)

About the author

Peter M. Färbinger, Editor-in-Chief

Peter M. Färbinger is Editor-in-Chief and Publisher at E-3 Magazine, AG, Munich, Germany. He can be reached at

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