SAP released its first quarter results today – and they do not make pretty reading at all.
Although overall revenue was only slightly down overall it is the software license figures that are so alarming, crashing by a third compared to 2008. This may seem not to be important since the software license numbers are only a relatively small part of overall revneues, but in fact it is the software license performance that drives a lot of the other related activities, so weakness here will feed through over time. SAP points to the fact that 1Q08 was before the global problems had really taken hold, but while I think this is partially true, I think there is another problem evident here.
Companies are still investing in IT – there have been enough results in the last few weeks that show great growth for some, with Pegasystems and Sybase being two particular examples. However, the SAP results seem to show a greater weakness in the application package market – and this is only to be expected. The problem is that while companies like Pegasystems and Sybase are looking to help companies get immediate return through doing things differently (using BPM and going mobile respectively), SAP packages are SAP packages. They do what they do, and although it is generally a good idea to keep updating them and spreading them more widely, these tasks are
- Very time-consuming and costly
- Not exactly urgent
On this basis, most companies are electing to stick with what they have at the moment on the packages front, while concentrating on other areas of more immediate return in the infrastructure like BPM and Business Events implementations. This gives SAP a real headache in the near term. Eventually, once everyone is spending again, companies may well return to the question of their SAP application package portfolio, but at least in 2009 I suspect this will be put on the back burner. I guess that for SAP, 2010 can’t come soon enough.