The Secret to Counter SAP Marketing

Executive Summary

  • SAP has a very low accuracy, and other vendors are not able to understand how to manage this inaccuracy.
  • How vendors can bring this inaccuracy into play.


SAP has enormous credibility with many companies. What they say, what they propose changes the purchasing behavior at many companies internationally.

  • SAP’s messaging is the most repeated, and repeated without alteration, of any vendor in all of the enterprise software.
  • SAP has a constellation of entities that while they appear as independent, are in fact nothing more than repeaters of this messaging. This is because, for many SAP partners, there is no more profitable business line than SAP. And of course, money talks – meaning the repeaters can be relied upon to be on message.

This is curious if one thinks of SAP’s real accuracy, something that we have been tracking for some time. When I say “prediction” I mean what they say will happen regarding their applications. The list of things that SAP has been wrong in predicting is lengthy. If we take just say what SAP has proposed on the future of the SAP user interface — that alone requires a lengthy exposition and travel down memory lane of things that never panned out.

SAP almost never receives negative commentary for its poor track record in following through on its announcements and predictions. In politics, being consistently wrong, but not paying the consequences regarding credibility is called being “Teflon.”

What is SAP’s Accuracy Level?

More than any other vendor we cover, SAP has more announcements of applications that end up amounting to nothing. There is not a close second, and I have included 53 vendors at Brightwork Research & Analysis. This research can be found at this article.

I have recently begun to see this track record as an opportunity for vendors that we consult with that compete against SAP.

Vendors that compete against SAP can use this as ammunition against SAP,  but first, two things have to happen.

  1. Know the History: The vendor has to know this history or have access to the history. We work with software vendors of various levels of familiarity with SAP’s history and antics. Some of these vendors have ex-SAP employees working for them. Other vendors have no one who has ever even worked on an SAP project. For the last vendor, they need to be apprised of what the SAP history is, as most will not know. For the first type of vendor, they most likely know the history, particularly in the space where they compete… However, it takes more than knowing. It means using this information as part of a joint marketing and sales campaign against SAP.
  2. Be Prepare to Use This History: Many software vendors are unwilling to confront SAP. This topic gets into some different subject areas. As many companies partner with SAP, they lose their ability/appetite for marketing against SAP. This partnership arrangement gives some benefits to the “partner,”  and in some cases, it is viewed as mandatory as it is a first question asked by purchasing executives. But the partnership has the unfortunate consequence of frequently neutering the vendor. It takes their natural instincts to differentiate itself from SAP and converts them over to showing themselves as complementary. We cover the contractual terms of SAP’s partnership agreement in the article The Control on Display in SAP’s Partnership Agreement. I have discussed this with many heads of marketing at various vendors that compete against SAP. I find most heads of marketing too focused on what I call the complimentary strategy. As soon as the vendor takes that pathway, it is my view that another vendor is now playing SAP’s game. SAP uses their partnership ecosystem actually to limit competition, as well as pulling intellectual property out of the vendor. I covered this years ago in an article titled Which Software Vendors are Afraid of SAP.

Let us take a fertile example. Netweaver.

Example: The Illusion That was Netweaver

Netweaver was the major marketing tentpole that preceded HANA (SAP’s new database). For a while, you could not read about a SAP announcement without some reference being made to Netweaver.

We have spent enough time analyzing Netweaver over the years to state with confidence that Netweaver was never actually anything.


NetWeaver was a name that was appended to pre-existing products.

  • XI became “NetWeaver XI”
  • MDM became “Netweaver MDM.”

If you went to your SAP account manager and said: “Sell me just Netweaver.” There was nothing to sell you. Did I cover this five years ago in the article titled Did SAP Netweaver Ever Actually Exist?

This is rather an astounding revelation. After discussing this with a wide variety of people, I don’t see how the story can be different than this conclusion.

Netweaver came and went, having no positive impact on companies.

It did have an enormous impact on PowerPoint slides. It pumped up the SAP client base for years, serving to block out vendors who had real things to offer. By the time the age of Netweaver had passed, SAP had introduced HANA and moved away from Netweaver in marketing focus. Not Gartner, not Accenture, not CIO magazine nor countless of other outlets that pumped up people on Netweaver ever apologized for getting it so wrong.

And Netweaver sounded great. It was going to create an integrated platform for all SAP applications. All items were “Netweaver compliant.” On SAP projects no one discusses what happened to Netweaver.

Customers can’t remember.

Bringing History into Play

Vendors that want to compete with SAP need to bring this history into play. What is necessary to communicate the story that SAP creates a series of mirages to keep its customers under a spell. Then transitions from the old (and played out) mirage to the new mirage. SAP does this to not only sell applications. But to justify charging for its support at 22%+ per year by giving the impression there is more value in that 22%+ then there actually is.

The more “new” there appears to be, the more customers will pay to be kept up with the latest. And SAP’s support is a very higher margin business.

  • To compete with a mirage, vendors must dissipate the illusion.
  • Vendors should not seek to be-be complementary with things that will never come to pass. Many software vendors helped SAP sell the illusion by stating that they too were “Netweaver compliant.” I sometimes offer advice to those on the topic of debate. I propose that one should never sacrifice what is true. Never defend the indefensible, or engage in sophistry, even if you can get away with it — to win a short-term victory.

How Do We Get Outlet Exposure Versus SAP?

If vendors are looking for a voice in the market to serve as an independent source, they can stop waiting. The cavalry is not coming.

  • SAP has bought every information source that is of any consequence.
  • They pay we estimate $100 million to Gartner (which Gartner does not declare and refuses to discuss).
  • They in effect own the marketing apparatus of all of the major consulting companies, and the smaller consulting companies (that work in SAP) as well. These companies don’t have a single solitary, independent thought in their heads. They will reinforce everything that SAP says no matter how bananas it may seem.

SAP advertises and influences CIO, InfoWorld; the list goes on and on.

How Much of Many Articles is Written by SAP?

Much of the articles about SAP are glorified press releases from SAP. We have dissected one article after another – highlighting the portions that are most likely written by SAP. Then the parts where the author provided a segue, where SAP PR/Marketing picks up again, etc.. I did this in my article How Gartner Got Fiori so Wrong.

It is easy for me to do because I know the SAP reality, and I am a professional writer myself. However, most people who read this article don’t know that SAP wrote most of it, or how the IT media system works.

The number of authors that write objectively about SAP is a tiny circle indeed. Vinnie Mirchandani is one. I am another. Lora Cecere is another. I did not research every author who might qualify in preparation for this article.

It gets harder to name people as you start to pass five. None of us can scratch the reach of an entity like ComputerWeekly or Forbes.


Anyone can read this article, but this article is targeted at vendors that compete with SAP. What I have described above are some specific things I have learned as a person who analyzes SAP’s messaging and has seen many vendors struggle to compete effectively against SAP. I can say that the traditional “book” on how to compete with them is deeply flawed. SAP is running circles the marketing and sales apparatus of the majority of competing software vendors.

It is as if these vendors don’t know how to process how SAP works. And like Gartner, which I have also spent a lot of time analyzing, they are the genius in many aspects of marketing and sales, and not tactically, or on a pursuit by pursuit basis — in their strategy. But they are fundamentally based on deceiving the customer. A marketing and sales strategy that brilliantly overcomes product shortcomings can only succeed based on deception.

SAP has picked the lock on how executives make decisions, and even know how to time product announcements and PR releases to have maximal effect on blocking out vendors. I have not worked in SAP in marketing, but I believe there is some very long time horizon calendar where all of these things are planned. They rely on the poor memory of executive decision makers to continually get excited about the “new” thing.

We increasingly live in the time of now.

  • Did you get my text?
  • I just tweeted…and then tweeted again.
  • Are you up to date on the latest iOS update?
  • How about the latest Gartner Magic Quadrant?

What happened six years ago? Who can remember?

  • Some things can be done to counter how SAP markets. Vendors must get savvy to what I am starting to call counter SAP marketing.
  • A complementary strategy is the opposite of what work in counter SAP marketing.

Accessing Honest Information on SAP

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