There are a lot of slogans to the tune of “We are stronger together!” For a long time, this cooperative thinking was prevented by technical hurdles in IT. Successful ERP system SAP R/3 was a black box, only able to communicate via SAP’s own interfaces. Of course, it was possible to import and export data using Excel, but it wasn’t easy.
Open source has initiated a paradigm change, not only concerning the development and the costs of software. Open source has also changed companies’ perspective. In the private sector, there are hardly any devices anymore that don’t have public interfaces. My wife’s first Audi A3 still had an audio and navigation system whose firmware could not be updated. My astonishment and indignation were almost boundless. After all, the car cost almost 60,000 euros at the time.
Nowadays, there are hardly any devices that don’t have an IP number. This means that almost everything in the network can be accessed and administered via a web browser – from the coffee machine to the video projector and printer to the server. Since this is not the focal point of this article, I will leave out the potential security risks of such interconnectedness, but it does go to show that people are expecting connection to be seamless and easy.
Get with the program or clear out
For a long time, SAP and especially sales teams have acted following core principles: Either you are a friend of SAP and accept its price list and system measurement, or you are kicked out (a.k.a. get to know SAP’s lawyers). However, because technology and IT are such vital components of digital transformation, SAP’s “Alpha provider” mindset could not be sustained. SAP failed to expand its sphere of influence with appropriate initiatives. This paradigm shift from “or” to “and”, from monolithic to collaborative, affects the entire SAP community and especially SAP itself.
It cannot be denied that we are moving in the direction of a more open, interconnected and collaborative world. However, SAP has yet to get the memo. With Hana, SAP is building an absolutist and monolithic system. AnyDB with IBM, Oracle or Microsoft is a thing of the past. No more collaboration, just SAP – that’s just not sustainable in the long run.
SAP does not have this absolutist claim in the application area. Here, the ERP world market leader must increasingly share the IT budget of SAP customers with Microsoft, Workday, Salesforce, ServiceNow, and many other providers. At the application level, open interfaces enable almost seamless cooperation – a big advantage for customers.
For SAP itself, of course, this new openness could become dangerous. The company is just not set up for competition. In the past, there was no need to negotiate prices because there were no alternatives. This new era, with its openness in all directions, requires rethinking and reorganizing.