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Orlando, Florida

In Pause Mode

Sapphire '02 in Orlando. Not much news. Product announcements were either old or inconsequential. Attendance was down, call it (generously) 6500. It was a conference in pause mode, the image flickering, while it waits to get going.

This is not a cause for alarm. SAP is profitable; it can sell into its customer base; it has new products; there are more on the way. It has many, many issues (more on these in the follow-up), but it is addressing them. Treading water is not drowning.

Customers were in short supply (though there were more than last year). The big potential deal mentioned in the press conference seems to be with HP. I see no reason why that won't happen, with Mike Capellas in charge of these decisions now.

Bombardier was also here in force, and many usual suspects (Chevron, etc.). But overall, 6500 means there's an average of 1 representative from every three SAP customers; if you assume an average delegation size of 3, that's 1 in 10 SAP customers in buying mode.

There are new products and more on the way. Cleverly, they bought Shai Agassi's father's ERP package and now are selling it to the multinationals to be installed in satellite sales offices. 50 seats at a time, but a seat's a seat, as Henning said.

Clearly, SAP is mature. They are in upsell mode, not big deal mode. Can they run an organization that upsells, that worries about margins, that competes on price. They haven't yet shown that they can. (Comments about the need to improve the sales force were heard from more than one SAP executive.) But more on this in the follow up.

See also our other recent Short Takes.