Don't Laugh: Will SAP Ever be the "Apple" of Procurement Apps?

In the procurement sector, SAP has come a long way over the years. From nearly unusable eProcurement requisitioning tools that required twenty clicks to research and make a purchase -- from the limited three suppliers in your catalog -- to an initial sourcing capability that nearly matched a combination of Excel and Office for its robustness, SAP's early efforts in the sector left quite a bit to be desired. Today, SAP SRM 7.0, though few companies are willing to take the plunge and buy it, is at least a solid competitor to best-of-breed providers like Ariba -- especially when organizations work with SAP partners on supplier enablement, invoice automation and related areas. And SAP E-Sourcing, even though its functional capability is beginning to look dated, continues to offer perhaps the strongest back-end SAP integration capabilities in the market combined with the best overall configuration abilities thanks to an architecture that was truly ahead of its time.

Yet will SAP ever be the "Apple" of its market, as co-chief executive Bill McDermott is claiming? Read the commentary and related analysis over on the NYT's blog if you're interested. Granted, it makes sense for SAP to stay focused on the business applications area, which the NYT quotes McDermott as noting is the "mainstay business of supplying the software companies use to manage their finances, customer accounts, manufacturing and procurement." Yet the movement into mobile applications (another key focus area for SAP), especially mobile in areas such as procurement and supply chain, feels like a stretch to me. And the movement to becoming the "Apple" of enterprise apps seems far-fetched indeed, especially considering that SAP's own buy-side applications typically remain at the bottom of the market in terms of overall ease of use.

So even though McDermott claims that "What Apple has done in the consumer space, we'll do in business applications," I remain unconvinced. Perhaps SAP should take a card from Apple and before becoming best-of-breed in mobile, mobile usability and mobile platform development/enablement, they should first focus on greater adoption and usability within their own core business applications and architecture stack (has anyone else in the audience ever viewed NetWeaver as becoming even 20% of what SAP claimed it would at the time of launch?). At the end of the mobile (and mobile platform) housing day, it seems that SAP would best serve itself by shoring up the foundation of its primary residence -- which could be sinking faster than we think -- before adding a new wing to a second, new found property that's not even fully built yet.

Jason Busch

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