How to Best Understand SAP’s Negative Innovation

 What This Article Covers

  • Major Areas of Backwardness and Negative Innovation
  • SAP’s Focus on Marketing Rather than Innovation.
  • SAP’s Acquisitions
  • How SAP Creates Fake Innovation, Such as S/4HANA and HANA.
  • How SAP Pulls Funding Away from Innovative Applications from Other Vendors to Their Own Lower Quality Innovation.
  • The Horror that is PP/DS
  • Use Indirect Access to Prevent Companies from Buying Applications they Prefer over SAP’s Applications.
  • ABAP and Development Tools
  • Data Model and Data Access
  • What is the SAP Mirage?
  • SAP’s Influence Over IT Media
  • Information that Can Travel


Many companies exaggerate the amount of innovation they are involved in. This extends from software vendors to the pharmaceutical companies. SAP is probably one of the greatest exaggerators of the innovation that they are engaged in. And in fact, in this article, evidence will be presented that SAP reduces innovation in the enterprise software market.

SAP’s Focus on Marketing Rather than Innovation

SAP has one of the most deception marketing departments that one could imagine. I have spent a lot of time studying the nuclear arms race, or the Cold War, and from that, I learned of the fantastic propensity of Pentagon and US Defense establishment to tell lies. After also studying SAP for many years, I often draw comparisons between SAP and the Pentagon. It is incredible to me how much SAP lies and misleads customers and how they perpetually get away with it. I have documentation many areas of deception on the part of SAP at Brightwork Research & Analysis as well as at LinkedIn. Much like a major pharmaceutical company, they pose as an innovator while being chiefly a marketing company.

SAP’s Acquisitions

SAP has been acquiring far more vendors that it did in the past. Almost all of these acquisitions have been cloud vendors. This is because SAP is interested in tricking Wall Street into thinking that they are a cloud vendor, as Wall Street pays a higher multiple for vendors that are based in the cloud. The very act of engaging in a high number of acquisitions is indicative that the acquiring software vendors are not innovative. IBM, another poser innovator, is also a big fan of acquisitions. As with IBM, after a few years, the SAP acquisition is no longer prominent. Therefore not only can SAP not innovate internally, but they smother the innovation in their acquisitions.

How SAP Creates Fake Innovation, Such as S/4HANA and HANA

SAP is deciding for its customers should be buying, and they have pitched HANA as hard as a product can be pitched. However, SAP is wrong about performance being an issue on SAP projects. This is covered in the article What is the Actual Performance of SAP HANA. SAP has deliberately misled customers on how much HANA is actually innovative. Oracle 12c has everything that HANA has and is a more effective database. This is covered in the article What is Faster HANA or Oracle 12c?

I have worked in SAP since 1997, and there is not a single time I have seen anything in SAP that is innovative. In fact, the opposite is the case.

How SAP Pulls Funding Away from Innovative Applications from Other Vendors to Their Own Lower Quality Innovation

SAP has repeatedly pulled intellectual property out of other software vendors. This is covered in the article Why the SAP xApps Program Needs to Terminated. But secondly, SAP wins on software selections that it should lose. It can do this because companies like Deloitte and IBM do not care about their clients and recommend SAP software not matter its capabilities or what the competition has to offer. The topic of the poor state of SAP applications outside of a single application, which is SAP’s ECC system is covered in this article. How SAP is Now Strip Mining its Customers.

What this does is redirect funding away from software vendors that are producing innovation to SAP, which spends the money on marketing and executive salaries. I can provide one excellent example.

The Horror of That is PP/DS

In the production planning and scheduling space, there is no vendor more innovative than PlanetTogether. PlanetTogether is rated at this Brightwork Research & Analysis link. PlanetTogether is one of the most intuitive and robust applications in supply chain planning, and they have received a perfect score in innovation from us. SAP also makes an application for production planning and scheduling. It is an application that I have personally implemented. It is called PP/DS, and I consider it to be one of the worst applications I have ever tested. PP/DS is rated at this Brightwork Research & Analysis link. PP/DS does not change much from year to year, and it was always a bad application. Its optimizer does not work and cannot be implemented. PP/DS is a utterly derivative application that sets back production planning and scheduling everywhere that it is implemented.

Use Indirect Access to Prevent Companies from Buying Applications they Prefer over SAP’s Applications

SAP has begun to apply indirect access claims to its customers. Indirect access means that any system that is connected to SAP is a potential liability for the customer. When customers show a preference for using far better applications that are innovative, SAP does not respond by making their products innovative, but by either lying to their customers or by applying indirect access claims against them. The very existence of indirect access as enforced by SAP, which differs from the definition of indirect access of every other software vendor, as well as the constant lies on the part of SAP about the abilities of their applications tells you all you need to know about how shockingly derivative SAP is.

Major Areas of Backwardness and Negative Innovation


First up is the most obvious, which is right in front of one’s face. That is the SAPGUI. Although we take much of what Hasso Plattner says serious, he was correct when he stated:

“Our UI Sucks!”

However, the problem is that Hasso only admitted this after SAP had released Fiori. SAP will occasionally provide accurate descriptions of its products, but only to create a burning platform to move to SAP’s new product. Now that years after this comment was made and there is no real pathway to Fiori adoption if Hasso would have made this comment. That is if 99%+ of all the users of your applications still use SAPGUI, do you want to admit that it sucks.

The problem is that Fiori never took off and in our estimation, Fiori probably won’t be the future UI of SAP which is covered in the article Why Fiori Will Probably Not Survive. However, I participated in some SAP sales presentations where customers were told not to focus on the SAPGUI because it would all be replaced by Fiori (or Personas — another SAP UI that did not work out).

This means that SAP customers will have their users on a UI that “sucks” for the foreseeable future. Furthermore, as other UIs are increasingly web-based, allowing for broader usage and distribution of the applications, SAP customers are stuck with a non-web based front end.

ABAP and Development Tools

92% of SAP customers have either moderately or highly modified their SAP system. However, they have had to do it with the inefficient and proprietary ABAP language, as well as SAP’s inefficient tools. This means that every SAP IT shop must have specially designated ABAP coders that only work on SAP. ABAP and SAP’s other development tools are one reason why SAP’s TCO is so much higher than other vendors. This topic is covered in Why Customers Followed SAP’s Advice on ABAP and Tools.

Data Model and Data Access

If you use an ERD tool to diagram SAP’s data model, you often end up with a highly confusing set of tables.

Here is part of the data model from within APO. One has to wonder who was doing the data modeling for SAP as its tables often lack a logical reason for their schema. That is far more straightforward schemas should have been created. 

To access that data, it is necessary to use the transactions SE16 or SE16N. SE16N is more feature rich, but it does not exist for many SAP products, SAP APO being one example.

SAP’s products are the most difficult to get data out of and back into because SAP does not allow a direct SQL onto their tables. This is ostensibly done for security, but no other software vendor imposes this overhead on their customers. To integrate with SAP one must connect to function modules which are another layer of complexity, or pass IDOCs, which are hierarchical mainframe era text files that are not self-describing as with XML. It is positively backward, and strange for a company that claims to be so innovative.

What is the SAP Mirage?

The SAP mirage is a combination of factors that move the discussion away from what SAP has into a discussion about a fantasy of what SAP has. Examples of techniques that support the creation of this mirage are:

  • Selling Off of SAP Roadmaps: SAP prefers to spend as much time as possible discussing the future of their products versus the present. When we supported SAP sales engagements in a technical capacity, customers were told by the salesperson to ignore the SAP UI (called the SAPGUI) because a new user interface was coming that was going to “blow the customer away.” Three years after this promise, the new user interface the salesperson was talking about (Personas) is dead, and the one that followed, Fiori, is on life support (and we predict will eventually die as we cover in the article Understanding Why Fiori Won’t Be Able to Survive).
  • Selling Exaggerated Products: This topic gets virtually no IT media coverage, which is a story in its own right. However, SAP continually exaggerates what its products can do. SAP places functionality into its products that often can’t be practically accessed or once accessed can’t be maintained. SAP has the widest discrepancy we have ever recorded between what it says its products can do versus what they can do in actual practice.
  • Co-option: SAP is a master at co-opting concepts and trends that it not only has nothing to do with but that its business model is opposed to. Cloud, SOA, “modular architecture,” the list goes on and on. Whatever is popular at the time, SAP “has always been about that” or has a partnership with some vendor that does precisely that, or is working on something that will meet that big need. However SAP keeps to the strategy that has worked for it, and this does not mean doing anything to make its products less expensive to implement, easier to use with other applications, etc..

In our view, no one is more skilled at selling a future with less supporting information than SAP. We have covered in other articles how S/4 HANA is not even released yet, and how its implementation numbers are greatly exaggerated as explained in the article How SAP Controls Perceptions with Customer Numbers, and how it has been found to be roughly 95% identical to its predecessor (ECC).

SAP’s Influence Over IT Media

No other vendor is as effective at getting a vast number of influencers, IT media entities or SAP consulting companies to repeat SAP’s messaging. For example, people like Hasso Plattner and Bill McDermott speak as if S/4 is already providing value to customers, and this has been little questioned in the IT media. Our Study into S/4HANA Implementations indicates that this is highly unlikely.

As a vendor, you know your application, and it’s valued and how to position it. But….are you prepared to compete not with SAP’s actual application something that does not and will never exist? 

  • Whatever you have, SAP is working on something that they will be released soon that is “better.”
  • If SAP has no experience in that application category, it makes no difference. They will partner with a vendor that is, promise them access to their clients, and slowly reverse engineer their products. With their market power, the only reason SAP is not successful in more areas is their development organization is inefficient.

For instance, according to Hasso Plattner, SAP already has the BEST USER INTERFACE in enterprise software (although it is barely used by customers) And the future SAP application will be integrated to SAP ERP (of course).

For SAP Bad Applications, Hope Springs Eternal

Old applications, like CRM, PLM, EWM, SPP, Netweaver that did not work out don’t count as misses in the minds of your potential customers. The promise of the future continually beacons to them.

SAP is, after all, working on next level stuff better in every way in every application area than any other vendor on earth.

  • It’s all web (or on-premises)!
  • They are re-imagining business processes!
  • It’s all completely integrated!
  • Steve Wozniak is at SAPPHIRE this year!

Vendors that compete with SAP are not competing against what SAP has to sell. If it were that straightforward, SAP would lose a lot of its market share.

Instead, vendors must compete with a mirage that is created by SAP marketing. As alluded to earlier, many, perhaps most of the announcements made by SAP never come to pass.


Far from being innovative, SAP is not only not innovative or an innovation poseur, but it also has many components that are typically more backward that competing software vendors. We call this being “negatively innovative.” Being negatively innovative is when the vendor holds back the potential of their customers with their software. This is when a vendor cannot match the capabilities of other vendors that have been achieved for decades (for instance, being able to use SQL to address the vendor’s database).

In our view SAP allowed these backward components to persist because of two primary reasons:

  1. Revenue Maximizing: They were more interested in creating new products the could charge for then going back and modernizing their backward components.
  2. Account Control and Monopolistic Competition: In other cases, SAP kept these components because they improved the account control over their customers. That is SAP in fact preferred that its applications were difficult to integrate to, allowing it to promote the idea that customers were safest if they merely exclusively purchased SAP applications to connect back to the SAP ERP system.

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