SAP chief foresees revival in 2010
Having risen through SAP’s ranks to become co-CEO with Hasso Plattner in 2008, Leo Apotheker took on sole executive responsibility in May last year, just as the recession was beginning to bite. Here, he explains to Stuart Lauchlan how the financial crisis has shaped his thinking.
Having survived last year’s “exceptional” financial storm, Leo Apotheker is glad to see the back of 2009. “I hope we don’t see another crisis like this for many years to come. I don’t even think we can survive another one, not just SAP, the world as such, but that’s a different story.”
The 2008-09 financial crisis significantly affected how people look at software and changed customers’ buying behaviours by delaying investment cycles, Apotheker explains. These new imperatives provided a stiff challenge to SAP: “People want faster value, and they want to be able to quickly implement these solutions and extract the value out as fast as they can.”
The company responded with an expanded portfolio of products that helped it deliver a return on investment more quickly. “We embarked on a lean transformation of the company, which is still undergoing and still underway, and implemented very efficient cost-cutting measures in order to support the margin.”
Strong fourth quarter figures demonstrated that the efficiency drive was having an effect, and globally, the economic climate has improved ”a little bit”, he says.
Business ByDesign, SAP's Cloud-based ERP suite for small and mid-size businesses also has a role to play in the company's revival. “Business ByDesign is volume-ready in 2010,” says Apotheker. “It will be the most complete on-demand suite in the industry, on the markets. It probably has an advance of a few years compared to any competitor. It is already in use by customers in six markets, Germany, the US, the UK, France, China, and India.
"We are bringing out new versions, which are significantly improved with additional functionality, fully multi-tenancy enabled. It has a rich new user interface. It will be available with real-time analytics, of course, with mobile support. It will enable partners or customers or both to extend it in easy fashion, so that we can have additional scale and reach. We are convinced that with ByDesign, we will change the markets and will actually create for SAP a whole new market."