A brief history of the 21st century: The Enterprise Tech chapter – Enterprise Irregulars

People in our industry like to call themselves futurists. My glasses don’t allow me to look that far out. My books have, however, forced me to become a pretty fair historian. In The New Polymath I looked at Renaissance Men and Women like Leonardo da Vinci over the centuries. In Silicon Collar, I looked at automation and impact on jobs over the last 100 century – how UPC scanners, bank ATMs, cruise control in cars and other automation was gradually absorbed by society. From the bread crumbs I lay out, I think my readers are smart enough to plot their own future journeys. My clients get a bit more guidance in the form of advisory support.

For SAP Nation 3.0 I studied and bring out in the book, 3 periods of history

a) SAP and its competitors in last 5 years since the first volume of SAP Nation

b) The broader enterprise tech industry in the last two decades

c) The US westward expansion in the 1800s. I use that to contrast missed opportunities by SAP and others in this century

Over the next 3 months as the editors and designers finalize my book for release, I will be sharing perspectives from my research.

In the meantime, here are some pre-edit extracts for each of the phases

a) “Partly because its competitors did not target it aggressively enough, and partly because SAP’s own cloud acquisitions and developed products allowed it a shield, SAP has come through the threat of the last five years relatively unscathed. In fact, when you look at the mob of strong competitors that it had to fend off, and the many unforced errors it has made, it has done remarkably well. In those 5 years, SAP’s customer count has actually increased by 50%. Wall Street has not been as generous to SAP, as it has to cloud vendors, but the existential threat that SAP faced has passed.”

“Watching Bill McDemott stay so calm can be misleading. This is not your Dad’s SAP – not by a long shot. In this chapter, we saw some of the changes in the SAP field, in their marketing, business operations, development and partner management. And these executives are just a small handful of the 90,000 worldwide SAP employees. The pivot at SAP in the last five years has truly been massive.”

b) “In the year 2000, enterprise tech vendors, especially ERP/CRM vendors led by SAP , their SI and other partners were set to dominate the corporate technology landscape. They had emerged very strongly from the Y2K crisis and the launch of the EU common currency promised another bonanza. Instead, their share of the enterprise has steadily declined over the next two decades. They have missed out on the contract manufacturing of smart products, digital marketing, cloud infrastructure, industrial internet, process automation, vertical niches like Fintech and several other trillion dollar markets. Two decades ago, not many of us had heard of Accenture Interactive, Foxconn or Google. Few of us considered Amazon or GE as tech vendors. The market is fragmented – waiting for a leader.”

c) “In Chapter 1, we described the Louisiana Purchase. It was a major risk for President Jefferson but it doubled the real estate of the young U.S. What if the population had just yawned and clung to the Atlantic Coast and not moved to the new territories? That’s a good analogy to what SAP faces. It has new real estate in the form of S/4, Leonardo, SCP, HANA and its cloud properties and yet the majority of its 400,000 customers are clinging to the “coast” of legacy products. Helping them migrate is SAP’s major short term opportunity.

Lewis and Clark then opened the country’s eyes to real estate way past the new boundaries created by the Louisiana Purchase. Successive Presidents arranged to grow the country’s real estate all the way to the Pacific. That’s the even bigger, second opportunity for SAP and other enterprise vendors – become a Fast Follower in many markets they missed out in the last two decades. “

Over the next 3 months as the editors and designers finalize my book for release, I will be sharing perspectives from the research. The majority of the book is in the voice of SAP’s customers, executives, competitors and analysts.

It is an exciting and a turbulent time for enterprise tech. From SAP GUI to digital assistants, from ABAP to Python, from on-prem to Kubernetes, deprecating old customizations and creating new ones with platform and open source capabilities, new vertical and global functionality. New generation of developers, outcome based business models, new challenges.

As usual, I am just the historian. From the bread crumbs I lay out, I think my readers are smart enough to plot their own future journeys. My clients are already starting to get richer guidance.

(Cross-posted @ Deal Architect)


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