How to Compete with the Mirage Offered by SAP

What This Article Covers

  • What is the SAP Mirage?
  • SAP’s Influence Over IT Media
  • Information that Can Travel
  • Where We Come In
  • How We Make Money
  • How We Help You With The Prospect’s In-House Consulting Advice


This article is for software vendors that compete with SAP. We will cover one of the most influential techniques used by SAP to win in accounts where they have a weak product offering. We will then discuss what vendors can do to combat this.

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 constantly 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 popular 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..

We have published the most analysis of SAP and have the only full-time SAP researcher that we are aware that exists. 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).

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.

Effectively Fighting Back

When competing against SAP, it’s not enough to present your software’s value proposition, because SAP will present an illusion, which will be backed up and endorsed by SAP consulting companies. SAP must be called out on the accuracy of the information they provide.

What is a major issue is drawing a distinction between SAP’s hypothetical capability versus is practical capability? What is not always, but often in short supply for vendors is an understanding of what the actual implementation history of an SAP product is.

Differentiating from the true parts of SAP’s products and continuous announcements from the marketing hyperbole is a significant overhead item for vendors.

Where We Come In

Brightwork Research & Analysis has the largest amount of research into SAP.

  • We Are Not Paid by SAP: As is Gartner and Forrester.
  • Actionable Intelligence: And we do actual research that is actionable by sales teams.
  • Going Deeper: Unlike virtually any analyst in IT, we have decades of SAP implementation experience. In fact, Brightwork was started due to the differential we observed between SAP’s marketing claims and the reality of SAP projects.
  • Our SAP Global Contacts: We have grown our SAP project contact base to the point where we know what is happening on real projects.

We are specialists in SAP in not merely in one dimension, but in many. We have provided some of the most in-depth coverage of indirect access, we were the first to call out the performance exaggerations of HANA, the first to describe the limitations of SAP DP as well as the first to predict the decline of Solution Manager. Our list of firsts is extensive.

How We Help You With The Prospect’s In-House Consulting Advice

If you are competing in SAP accounts, this means you are not only competing against SAP, but against a consulting company that makes its money from implementing SAP.

  • You may give the best demo of all time.
  • You may have demonstrated the ability to meet every one of the customer’s requirements.

As soon as you depart the client, Accenture, Deloitte, (fill in the blank), undertake to undermine your credibility.

Statements that are made by the consulting company might be..

“We still don’t know how well the solution will work with SAP.”

“SAP is coming out with something that will be very similar. We don’t want to see you go down this pathway when we can get essentially the same thing from SAP just by waiting a bit longer”

When the partner at the SAP consulting company reports their projected revenues out of the account to senior partners, one of the areas of discussion is what non-SAP software purchases are planned by the account. And whether they have the potential to cut into the consulting company’s billable hours (hint, they usually will) and how to prevent that sale from taking place.

And vendor that simply focuses on what its solutions have to offer, will lose far more frequently on accounts it deserved to win.

How We Make Money

We can be hired to perform specific sales intelligence work for vendors, but our primary source of information is advising software buyers. We rely on account executives and business development resources to spread our knowledge to software buyers.

We do not charge vendors, so aside from some very limited research items, it is free for you to use.

Next Steps

  • We have a wide variety of completed articles. I connected to you to both keep you updated on future shares on LinkedIn, but also to begin a dialog. So feel free to reach out to me for any questions.
  • If you face SAP in pursuits, you can reach out to me, and I can provide you with links to relevant articles and research that will help you win. We have a large database of articles on SAP from many different angles.
  • Under certain circumstances, we offer short question and answer conference call sessions with your prospect that you also participate.

Finally, if there are questions you still have, feel free to reach out.

Who is the Most Accurate Source on SAP?

Want to find out? See... A Study into The Accuracy of SAP

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