Appleby’s False HANA Statements and the Mindtree Acquisition

Executive Summary

  • For years John Appleby provided information about HANA to the market.
  • There was a specific timing to when Appleby released false information around HANA.

Introduction

We covered in The Appleby Accuracy Checker: A Study into John Appleby’s Accuracy on HANA the extremely low accuracy of information provided by John Appleby over a period from roughly 2012 all the way up to the present day. However, the false information provided had a high intensity from 2013 to 2015, and then declined after 2015. Something very specific happened in 2015 which may have been strongly motivational for Appleby to release false information.

Appleby’s Role as Shill for SAP for HANA

John Appleby was “The Global Head of HANA” for the consulting firm Bluefin Solutions. And he was the primary shill for HANA particularly from the period of 2013 to 2015. John Appleby routinely published false information around HANA is what appears to be a classic shill relationship with SAP.

SAP’s support for what Appleby was doing was evidenced even in the comments made by Hasso Plattner. Appleby is repeatedly bailed out by Hasso Plattner at specific instances when Appleby is losing debates against commenters, as we covered in the article John Appleby, Beaten by Chris Eaton in Debate and Required Saving by Hasso Plattner.

How Appleby’s Prominence Helped Build the Bluefin Solutions Brand

Prior to John Appleby building a prominent role in media with his HANA posts, most people that worked in SAP would have been unaware of Bluefin Solutions as a company. There is little doubt that Bluefin Solutions prominent (but now obviously misleading) role in promoting HANA was what would have made Bluefin Solutions particularly attractive to being acquired.

This was referenced in the acquisition press release.

The Acquisition of Bluefin Solutions Mindtree

On July 16, 2015, Mindtree announced it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Bluefin Solutions.

“Headquartered in the UK, Bluefin delivers solutions to some of the world´s most prestigious companies and has earned multiple awards including the SAP Pinnacle Award, SAP HANA Partner of the Year, SAP CRM Partner of the Year and SAP BI Partner of the Year. Bluefin offers one of the industry’s most highly regarded team of experts for transitioning to SAP HANA, digital and real-time-analytics.”

Well, this is exaggerated as most press releases are. But notice the focus on how Bluefin were experts in transitioning to SAP HANA.

Appleby’s Double Financial Incentive to Lie

Appleby would have already had a strong motivation to exaggerate HANA. Nearly all of the SAP consulting companies did, but Appleby’s articles put him in a special category of being the most prominent proponent of HANA. However, with the Mindtree acquisition on the horizon, where he, as a senior member, was very likely to receive a substantial payoff, would have had an even higher incentive to lie. Of the articles that we chose to evaluate for our The Appleby Accuracy Checker: A Study into John Appleby’s Accuracy on HANA, notice the dates on each article.

DateArticle Subject
November, 13 2013What in Memory Database for BW
December 27 2013A Historical View of HANA
March 6, 2014TCO of HANA
April 17, 2014On HANA Replacing BW
June 2, 2014On HANA SPS08
July 21, 2014On HANA Versus DB2
September 9, 2014HANA FAQ
November 18, 2014HANA Performance with OLTP
December 15, 20142014 HANA Predictions
March 19, 2015The BW-EML Benchmark
April 18, 2015What Oracle Won't Tell You About HANA
June 25, 201810 Customer Use Cases

This is not an exhaustive list of Appleby’s articles, but these were some of the most notable.

Furthermore, Appleby’s production of articles dipped sharply after 2015. However, we did not draw a correlation to the Mindtree acquisition until after we completed the Appleby Accuracy Checker, and check the date of the Mindtree acquisition.

It now appears that Appleby was making a particular effort to exaggerate HANA prior to the Mindtree acquisition, with his prominent articles tailing off after mid-2015. Being an insider he would have had knowledge of the negotiations with Mindtree (and perhaps other potential buyers) many months before the acquisition was announced. By exaggerating HANA and Bluefin Solutions’ involvement in HANA projects, Appleby would have considerably increased the price of the buyout and thus his compensation. In financial manipulation, pushing up the price of an asset that you know will decline after you sell it is called “pump and dump.” And it looks like this is what Appleby did with Bluefin Solutions.

Appleby’s Departure from Bluefin Solutions

Appleby convinced the world how great Bluefin Solutions’ HANA practice was, that he led. Yet after the acquisition, Appleby leaves Bluefin Solutions along with other founders. Why? To us, it seems quite likely that post-acquisition, Mindtree found out the truth about Bluefin Solutions’ HANA practice. And recall that Bluefin Solutions was also being sold on “explosive” growth in HANA. So Mindtree was buying the future. This was a future that never materialized.

The overstatement of the HANA practice along with the lack of growth meeting the pre-acquisition expectations would have created friction with his owners. While it is not that unusual for founders to leave a consulting firm, if Appleby was a major asset to Bluefin Solutions, and part of the reason for its acquisition, it seems odd that Mindtree did not incentivize him to stay.

Bluefin Solutions 4 Years Post Acquisition

Bluefin Solutions has seen its prominence decline in the SAP market since the acquisition. Four years ago HANA had great growth plans, but in 2015, SAP stopped reporting customer numbers as we covered in the article Why Did SAP Stop Reporting HANA Numbers After 2015?

The reason for this was simple.

SAP was able to falsely publish its numbers of customers in the 2012 to 2015 timeframe with various consulting companies being counted as customers. However, after the ecosystem had been counted as customers, it was no longer possible to show a growth story, because HANA never took off. If SAP had continued to publish customer number for HANA per quarter as they had been, it would have been apparent that HANA’s growth had leveled off, and it would have undermined the previous statements that HANA’s growth was “explosive,” (Ron Enslin) or that HANA was “the fastest growing product in SAP’s history.” (McDermott, Appleby) After this point, SAP switched to publishing S/4HANA numbers.

Mindtree could have been forgiven for thinking it was purchasing an up and coming consulting firm, one with a special relationship between its “Global Head of HANA” and Hasso Plattner. But what Mindtree did not know, and could not have known as they were not a firm with SAP knowledge (Mindtree was purchasing Bluefin Solutions to gain entry into the SAP market), is that most of the information John Appleby and Bluefin Solutions were releasing to the market was false. This would eventually have blowback, and if Bluefin Solutions were selling privately to customers on the same basis as the claims Appleby was making in print, it is an absolute certainty that Bluefin S0lutions ended up with many disappointed customers.

Even though Bluefin Solutions is listed has having somewhere between 200 employees, its website traffic has dropped to less than 10,000 page views in March of 2019 and they are clearly an SAP consulting company on the decline.

Who is to Blame?

Those within Bluefin Solutions that we have spoken with primarily blame the “incompetent Indian management” of Mindtree for their decline, and the fact that the Mindtree management does not understand the SAP market.

However, the decline of HANA, which was the main item that differentiated Bluefin Solutions has also hurt. Not only did the HANA market level out, but the second implementation market that Bluefin Solutions had intended to leverage their HANA media prominence to enter, S/4HANA, never materialized.

“Our S/4HANA team has certified SAP HANA specialists across 33 countries including SAP Mentors and HANA Distinguished Engineers. We are SAP’s preferred implementation partner in the S/4HANA space and are fast becoming the leading S/4HANA subject matter expert and S/4HANA delivery partner in the market.”

The quotations on Bluefin Solutions’ website even in 2019 are odd. Bluefin is a company of roughly 200 people, however, they claim HANA specialists in 33 countries. If there were an average of 3 HANA specialists per country this would amount of 99 HANA specialists in total.

Even though there are extremely few companies live on S/4HANA, Bluefin Solutions is also the “the leading S/4HANA subject matter expert.” Consulting firms are not entirely composed of consultants. They have salespeople, administrative staff, etc.. Bluefin Solutions statements would mean that they would rapidly run out of consultants.

Here are the solutions where Bluefin Solutions claims expertise.

  • BI/BW
  • Enterprise Performance Management
  • S/4HANA
  • Travel and Expense Management
  • Leonardo
  • C/4HANA
  • Fiori and SAPUI5
  • SAP Cloud Platform
  • SAP Managed Services

Bluefin Solutions continues to distribute false information about HANA with or without Appleby. Notice that this service offering page describes a solution that is still being developed, which is made up of acquisitions. But as we covered in the article How Accurate Was Bluefin Solutions on C4HANA?

C/4HANA is still being developed and made up of the following solutions.

“In a press release today SAP stated: “Following the completed acquisitions of market leaders Hybris, Gigya and CallidusCloud, SAP now ties together solutions to support all front-office functions, such as consumer data protection, marketing, commerce, sales and customer service.””

Yet Bluefin Solutions wrote an article about C/4 as a functioning product right after it was acquired. Does Bluefin Solutions actually have resources in Hybris, CallidusCloud and Gigya? Again, how are all these various areas of expertise fitting into the number of consultants that Bluefin Solutions has?

Conclusion

It looks extremely likely that Appleby was particularly motivated to exaggerate HANA’s capabilities and Bluefin Solutions’ HANA practice due to an impending acquisition by some company (the winner being Mindtree).

As for the second factor, there are repeated cases where Appleby lists customers doing things with HANA that don’t make any match up with our research into HANA. These cases seem to demonstrate Bluefin Solutions standing up massive HANA instances, almost as if they have no limit to their budgets. Brightwork Research & Analysis has performed more research on HANA than any other entity and we find it highly unlikely that Appleby and Bluefin Solutions were doing what they claimed with HANA.

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References

https://www.bluefinsolutions.com/news-and-press/mindtree-to-acquire-bluefin-solutions

https://www.bluefinsolutions.com/technology/technology-platform/sap-s-4hana-solutions

https://www.bluefinsolutions.com/technology/customer-engagement/sap-c4hana

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