SAP’s Sleeping Product Giant

Michael Krigsman and I had a chance to chat last week — he recorded a podcast w/ me that will be up on his blog before too long — and thankfully the chat got my blogging mojo going again.¬†

I don’t want to steal our podcast’s thunder, so I’ll focus on a tangent from our call — SAP’s innovation problem.¬† Michael himself has hoped that SAP’s leadership change¬†would help to bring more innovation to market.¬† Ray Wang put it more bluntly in his take on Leo’s ouster:

[T]he issue is not sales. It’s products. Snabe and Vishal will need strong product vision to right SAP and point it in a forward direction. Engineering and products need more attention to bring out trapped innovation at SAP.

“Trapped innovation”… that’s so much of what I saw at SAP.¬† There are many cool technologies floating around, but they don’t fit in the “margin now” mindset that has pervaded the company.¬†¬† The company is stuck in the classic [successful] ¬†innovator’s dilemma:

By only pursuing ‚Äúsustaining innovations‚ÄĚ that perpetuate what has historically helped them succeed, companies unwittingly open the door to ‚Äúdisruptive innovations‚ÄĚ.

Even worse,¬† SAP had deluded themselves into thinking they were responding appropriately — what was marketed as real innovation was simply new wine in old skins.¬† Exhibit 1 — 2007-2009 versions of Business ByDesign.


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