The own responsibilities concerning work and family dictate the work-life balance. Which responsibilities does SAP have concerning its customers and finding a balance between being a software developer and a cloud provider?
My wife was the first to notice it. “You’ve been home a lot recently”, she said. “Are you already preparing for retirement, like some of your colleagues at SAP were forced to do?” No, not really. I actually plan on staying in my current job as a CIO, as it brings me joy and makes me happy.
However, to be able to work as a CIO for many years to come, I have to be more conscious of my work-life balance. It’s my responsibility to be the best I can be for myself, my wife, and my company and employees.
When faced with the same problem, my friend Gerd Oswald, former member of SAP’s executive board, did things a little differently. Having survived many severe health problems, he enthusiastically joined SAP’s supervisory board. I’m trying to avoid a similar situation by going to the gym three times a week.
SAP is currently struggling to find a different kind of balance. I’m not sure if SAP even knows about its responsibility of finding a balance between being a software developer for on-premise applications and cloud provider for enterprise applications.
Change is, of course, necessary. But SAP has been an ERP software developer for nearly 40 years in an almost perfect ecosystem.
How SAP destroyed its perfect ecosystem
Once upon a time, there was peace. SAP developed the ERP applications and the necessary middleware. IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, and others provided the databases. Numerous hardware manufacturers erected the infrastructure. SAP partners concerned themselves with customization. There was harmony and balance between SAP, IT companies, and consultancies. The SAP community almost achieved the perfect work-life balance.
Everything changed when Sybase, Hana, and cloud computing came along. Instead of further optimizing the work-life balance it then had, SAP gave up its unique selling point ERP and tried to be successful in areas in which other companies were already miles ahead.
Sybase was SAP’s entry into the database market, and from then on, SAP had to defend itself in front of Oracle, IBM, and Microsoft. Hana was SAP’s way to establish a monopolistic system: future ERP infrastructures consist only of Linux and the database platform Hana. This way, the hardware was also reduced to Xeon and Power servers.
Furthermore, SAP also decided to become a cloud provider. Developing and adapting the own and acquired applications to cloud solutions would have been the most logical, reasonable step. However, SAP seems to disagree, and is now trying to compete with hyper scalers.
Sybase, Hana, and cloud destroyed the work-life balance the SAP community once had. Now, I have to ask myself the question: does SAP even now about the responsibility it is taking on? Because there is a huge difference between being an ERP software developer, database manufacturer, e-commerce platform (Ariba), software provider (cloud computing), or consultant (Trusted Advisor).
Developer or provider?
Obviously, SAP is struggling to find a balance.
SAP LaMa is completely getting out of hand. Three emergency patches in just four months for the Hana database platform are not tolerable. A cloud offer that is not scalable in either direction (breathing system) contradicts the very concept of cloud computing. Not only my own IT departments are cancelling HEC projects and are going back to on-premise, also my colleagues from other companies are thinking about a Hana Enterprise Cloud exit.
SAP in no way knows what responsibility it is to want to be a hyper scaler. As salesman, SAP CEO Bill McDermott only wants to see the revenue grow, but not the responsibilities.
If SAP wants to sustainably profit from cloud computing in the long term, it has to make sure that the cultural change from software developer to software provider is successful and that a new work-life balance can be established in the SAP community.