The past year has shown just how isolated SAP CEO Christian Klein is as SAP’s CEO. His executive board members have dutifully started repeating his talking points on RISE with SAP, but enthusiastic agreement is lacking. Partners and customers I interviewed in fall 2021 all said the same thing: I could ask them anything, except anything about RISE.
RISE with SAP was supposed to be the offering that put SAP back on the innovation map. However, instead of the promised offense, SAP has to play defense more than ever. SAP is well and truly cornered; there are no real answers to challenges by Salesforce, Workday, ServiceNow, Oracle, Snowflake, UiPath, or Celonis. That is, if said companies even still see SAP as a competitor: UiPath founder Daniel Dines said in an interview with German Manager Magazin that to him, SAP plays a necessary role as a backoffice system, but not as a competitor.
Back to the wall
Christian Klein didn’t have it easy when he first started as SAP’s CEO: He inherited countless legacy burdens and construction sites from his predecessor. And he made the right choice: He listened to his customers and learned about their most pressing problems to then solve the majority of them.
However, there’s one thing he overlooked: While he was tirelessly working on fixing SAP’s internal conflicts, SAP’s competitors zoomed past him left and right. Focusing on repairing systems and supporting customers was necessary, but one look at the market around SAP would have told Klein that it was evolving too fast for SAP to catch up.
SAP’s next-gen ERP system S/4 is a shining example of SAP lagging behind: S/4 is turning ten in 2025 – an eternity in the fast-paced world of IT. According to SAP’s own timetable, the last customers should have migrated to S/4 in 2030, the year that S/4 will celebrate its 15th birthday. We don’t know yet if S/4 will have a successor, and I doubt that SAP itself knows. Customers need answers, though, sooner rather than later. The responsible thing to do would be to answer customers’ questions instead of repeating the same talking points about RISE over and over again.