At SAP executive level, everyone does what they want, some do nothing, and many leave the company. As if in slow motion, the ERP world market leader is moving toward its demise – slowly but with a defined end – similar to the death of a star.
Where does SAP currently stand?
Sticking with the star comparison: With numerous acquisitions in the past few years, SAP has inflated itself to the size of a red giant, which is merely a preliminary stage to its inevitable demise as a small white dwarf. In all probability, SAP will not make it to the size of a mighty black hole. This raises the possibility that an old plan might soon come to pass: Microsoft taking over the small, white dwarf SAP. It is a catastrophe where the failure is obvious to everybody while it is happening – it is painful to have to make this analysis during SAP’s 50th anniversary.
It is irrelevant whether Hasso Plattner remains chairman of the supervisory board for another two, three, or four years. What is more decisive is the problem-solving competence that SAP’s supervisory and executive board should have (and have sadly lost). Important people have left the supervisory board, just as many top managers have left SAP. The loss of know-how is the decisive factor, not whether any age limit has been exceeded or not.
Currently, the SAP executive board around CEO Christian Klein is working on numerous repairs in the SAP universe. However, repairing construction sites should not be a task for the executive board. Management should rather provide an analysis of why these construction sites exist in the first place. Strategic thinking should replace this repair service behavior. It is about the future of SAP, after all.
How did things get to this point?
I have been actively involved in the SAP community for over twenty years and the short answer is: You reap what you sow! For example, there are completely uncritical SAP user associations that deliver perfect service to the grassroots, but never critically and persistently question the actions of the SAP executive board. And it’s only reasonable that they wouldn’t: In the event of a conflict or disruptive disagreement, one can imagine what would happen to a user association attacking the manufacturer.
The situation is just as bad in the SAP partner community: A very committed effort was made to found an association that would consolidate the wishes and recommendations of SAP partners and then bring them to SAP for discussion. This association exists, but the majority of SAP partners limit themselves to maximizing their own sales – a commitment to the general public and the concerns of the community hardly have any place there.
SAP’s customers are not free of blame either: Many are highly committed to events of SAP user associations. This base is thriving and alive. There was an attempt to form a CIO working group at the executive level, but it ultimately came to nothing. Hardly any CIOs dare to publicly demand their rights from SAP.
No one is speaking up in fear of retribution. It’s no wonder If SAP CEO Christian Klein believes that everything is fine – who would dare tell him otherwise?
What can be done about it?
The only public and critical voice in the SAP community comes through journalism. The valuable and outstanding work of my colleagues all over the world cannot be praised enough. One piece in particular has caught my attention: On June 24, 2022, Christina Kyriasoglou published a fantastic article on Manager Magazin Online and in the July 2022 print edition about SAP’s management. She writes, “The questionable leadership style of SAP’s top management is becoming a risk. The mood is changing at Europe’s most important tech company. A lack of vision and unresolved compliance issues are driving away good people. And CEO Christian Klein is adding to the frustration.”
There seems to be a huge communication problem in the SAP community. MM author Kyriasoglou quotes a whistleblower and sums it up: “No one dares to tell Christian the truth anymore”. This does not absolve Christian Klein of all blame, but it always takes two or more to create such a fiasco! Not everything was better in the past – of course not, but I have experienced it myself: Under an SAP CEO like Professor Henning Kagermann, discussions were more open, diverse, committed, and fair. SAP had its own culture of discussion. There is still time to steer the train onto a different track through proper communication. The catastrophe is slowly unfolding, but it doesn’t have to end badly – almost like in a bad Hollywood movie, where the day is saved at the last second.