SAP Customers: Don’t Let Acquisitions Get the Better of You

If SAP holds to its recent suggestions that it may make material acquisitions from a technology perspective, how should customers respond once deals are announced and proceed into the early days of integration? I'd argue very conservatively. Procurement should play a key role in negotiating any changes in contract terms, licensing, maintenance, support, etc. that come about in the months and quarters following any deal completion, especially if SAP ends up acquiring a company you already work with in the business applications area. Moreover, I also suggest that within procurement specifically, that companies consider alternative solutions (e.g., near-term SaaS options) until SAP irons out any potential integration kinks that would most certainly come from swallowing a large provider like Ariba or even smaller, more focused vendors should a deal like this done.

How likely are these types of deals to happen -- and how seriously should companies think about spending their time to prepare for them? Quite likely, and pretty seriously, in my opinion. According to the above linked FT article (registration required), Jim Hagemann Snabe, SAP's co-CEO, suggests to the story's author that "SAP is scanning the market for large acquisitions ... as Germany's largest software maker moves faster into new technological fields." One of the reasons for deals is the "company's commitment to push the world leader in enterprise software back towards growth, which ... could include takeovers."

It's important to remember -- especially in the near-term -- what's right for Wall Street is not necessarily what's right for customers. The disruptions that potential acquisitions can bring -- including the added potential of distractions from the already glacial pace with which SAP introduces product innovation in most areas -- suggests to me that the customer view of deals should be more circumspect than the financial one. Over the long-term, I think SAP has the potential to make smart moves in the procurement and supply chain sectors, not to mention further expanding and going deeper along their broader technology platform, ERP and business application footprint. But when deals do happen -- and they will happen -- it's important for procurement to adopt a damage control approach and develop options rather than drink the Kool Aid too quickly.

Jason Busch

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