Global CIO: An Open Letter To SAP Chairman Hasso Plattner - InformationWeek

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2/9/2010
08:03 PM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
Commentary
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Global CIO: An Open Letter To SAP Chairman Hasso Plattner

Ten very candid suggestions on overhauling SAP's value proposition, corporate culture, commitment to the cloud, competitive outlook and more.

Dear Hasso:

It's great to hear you're going to re-engage with the company you founded 34 years ago because it can sure use some big new ideas and some strong leadership. As you undertake this new adventure with your new co-CEOs, I'd like to share a few thoughts and observations as a very close observer of your company for the past year and as a big believer in the potential SAP has to be a world-class IT partner for the many instead of just the few.

You're no doubt extremely busy in planning out how to carry out all the promises you made in your recent webcast announcement, so I'll be brief in offering a thought or two on each of these 10 vitally important areas:

• Your need to overhaul SAP's chaotic approach to communicating with the world (the maintenance-hike fiasco is but one of many examples);

• Your need to create the SAP Customer Bill Of Rights (and then live up to it);

• Your need to view customers in terms of what they need rather than what you have (will make product development seem easy by comparison);

• Your need to articulate what SAP is and what it stands for--and what it rejects;

• Your need to excite and delight all of your 95,000 customers, not just the Top 100;

• Your need to listen to your CTO and Chief Value Officer because they get what SAP needs to be;

• Your need to clarify the real plan for Business ByDesign (currently a credibility-crusher);

• Your need to stop being so defensive about having co-CEOs--it's abnormal but you've made your decision (and just to clarify, neither Oracle nor Microsoft ever had co-CEOs);

• Your need to adapt SAP's timetable to the realities of the market instead of the convenience of internal operations (e.g., last December's once-every-five-years rollout of corporate strategy); and,

• Your need to address your primary competitor (and I don't mean Oracle).

Global CIO
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Communication And Message Discipline. SAP's problem isn't just that it communicates its strategy and intentions poorly; it's that it communicates them so poorly so often and so consistently. The maintenance increase flip-flop disaster; the dribbling of rumors about flat-rate pricing; the muddled story of two-tiered pricing; the world's longest-rumored product, Business ByDesign; and so on. How can customers--other than your Top 100--know what to expect and how to plan for it? And then, this week, you made your own contribution to the mess with your well-intentioned but ultimately confusing comments about trust and happy employees. You comments about the need to re-establish trust and the need to make employees happy once again coincided with the announcement that Leo Apotheker was not being brought back as CEO, but when you were asked if the loss of trust and happiness were the reasons for his departure, you refused to answer the question directly. When you were asked why you chose to drop him as CEO, you huffily stated you weren't going to get into that. For a moment, forget what you know and put yourself in the mind of your customers and partners:

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