While a high-profile legal sideshow begins today that will result in SAP paying Oracle either a lot of money or an incredible amount of money, life outside the courtroom proceeds apace for the two companies and SAP, buoyed by last week's strong quarterly results, believes it has all the pieces in place to maintain and extend its marketplace lead over Oracle in enterprise applications.
In the earnings call with analysts, SAP co-CEOs Bill McDermott and Jim Hagemann Snabe outlined a range of ideas that, when strung together, reveal a battle plan that they believe gives SAP competitive advantage over Oracle in product strategy, go-to-market execution, innovation, and in a business model that enhances customer trust.
Oracle, of course, sees the situation quite differently: Oracle believes SAP's product strategy is fractured rather than cohesive; Oracle believes SAP's underlying architecture is old and brittle rather than fresh and flexible; and Oracle believes that SAP's continued focus on standalone software, rather than on integrated and optimized systems, is yesterday's approach to tomorrow's problems.
The beauty about these archly opposed approaches is that they give CIOs unmistakably clear choices in each of those vital areas: product strategy, enterprise-architecture philosophy, vertical-market expertise, and corporate personae.
And that's exactly the kind of approach that creates healthy, vibrant, and innovative markets: aggressive and well-heeled suppliers competing openly and vigorously for the approval and buying decisions of customers and prospects.
So from the comments of SAP's co-CEOs during last week's earnings call, I've extruded a list of the Top 10 reasons SAP believes it can beat Oracle for the hearts and wallets of CIOs and CEOs around the world. I've ranked those 10 based on my perception of how McDermott and Hagemann Snabe positioned them in terms of emphasis and significance, and I'll roll them out below in ascending order, starting with #10 and moving up to and finishing with #1.
10. Oracle's Fusion applications are vulnerable. Oracle originally planned to have those apps out in the market a few years ago but now says they'll be available on a limited basis in 2011. While Larry Ellison's extremely bullish on the products themselves, SAP is looking to leverage their tardiness into enduring FUD over their ultimate value. On the earnings call, McDermott went so far as to say that he hopes Oracle gets its Fusion apps into the market sooner rather than later because they will create revenue opportunities for SAP:
"In relation to the competitor bringing a new product to market, considering it's several years late now, it still remains to be seen if it won't be another year late," McDermott said. "The fact of the matter is they don't do very well in Generation One releases, which is why I think they've watered down the messaging to sort of beta-ing and testing with some customers on quote-unquote 'the new product.'
"We look forward to the day when they may have some kind of a new product or a new release level because that will then put all their existing customers in their existing installed base, of all the roll-ups they've done on the M&A front, in a buying mode—they'll have to make a decision. They'll have to make a decision to keep the legacy and the maintenance on that, or they'll have to make a decision to switch. If they consider switching to a new platform or a new application from Oracle, you and I and everyone else on this call know that they're gonna shop it against SAP, if for no other reason than just to keep Oracle honest on price, which means we come to the table in a buying decision with the customer," McDermott said..
"When we're at that table, in 25 industries and all market segments around the world, my money's on SAP."
Next comes a strategic thrust aimed at Oracle in China: