The German startup Signavio is working in the field of process mining, and SAP is expected to have to shell out roughly 1 billion euros for it. Experts suspect that SAP has mined in the wrong place. The world market leader in process mining is Celonis and not Signavio, but even their headquarters clearly show why SAP chose the latter.
While Celonis may reside in Munich, it also has locations all around the globe, from New York City to Tokyo. Signavio is based in Potsdam near Berlin, Germany. Some of you may have already guessed where I’m going with this: Signavio’s co-founder Gero Decker studied under Professor Hasso Plattner, chairman of SAP’s supervisory board, at the Hasso Plattner Institute, HPI, in Potsdam. He probably also knows SAP board member Juergen Mueller from the institute, as SAP’s CTO earned his doctorate at HPI, too. Furthermore, former SAP CEO Léo Apotheker is a member of Signavio’s supervisory board.
The apple never falls far from the tree
The logical choice for Business Process Mining Intelligence would of course have been Celonis. However, the company is currently very successful, so it is not for sale (yet). An exit strategy at the stock exchange in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, or New York City would probably be more lucrative for Celonis. As a young startup, Celonis received a lot of support from Hasso Plattner and SAP, but its success has made the company more autonomous, and several top managers from SAP now work at Celonis. Perhaps pure jealousy was the reason why SAP made Signavio and not Celonis its partner for the digital S/4 transformation. (Just kidding, of course.)
In all seriousness, it has become apparent in recent months and even years that SAP had to act, and it had to act soon. The fulfillment of its S/4 promises depends on sustainable and continuous business process reengineering. A purely technical release change from ERP/ECC 6.0 to S/4 Hana does not add any value for SAP’s existing customers. Only those who understand how to optimize business processes can also benefit from new S/4 functionalities. With process mining, Signavio and Celonis try to tackle that challenge. Only problem: With Signavio, SAP may have acquired a large chunk of fool’s gold.
As is often the case with SAP, the timing and location of the announcement were a disaster: The acquisition of Signavio was publicly announced at SAP’s virtual ‘RISE With SAP’ event. A few minutes later, CEO Christian Klein presented SAP’s existing customer Siemens as a shining example of digital innovation. Apparently, it has already been forgotten that Siemens once wanted to terminate its service contract with SAP and switch to Rimini Street for its support needs. Then executive SAP board member Gerd Oswald – who was a Siemens employee in his early career – prevented its departure. He hopped into SAP’s private jet and headed straight for Munich to negotiate a new service contract. This maneuver saved Siemens many millions in licensing fees. Now, Siemens is one of Celonis’ most important and prominent customers and has been successfully renovating its own SAP systems for many years with minimal input from the ERP company.
Comparing Celonis in Munich (and at Siemens!) and Signavio in Potsdam would have been enough to tell that not everything that glitters is gold.
Our Editor-in-Chief Peter M. Färbinger posted an update to this story.