NetSuite, provider of Web-based integrated business systems for the SMB market is going after bigger fish: the leader in Enterprise Software, SAP.
The aptly named Business ByNetsuite program guarantees at least 50% savings to current SAP R/3 customers relative to – watch this! – the annual maintenance fees they are now paying to SAP. Yes, it’s not a price-to-price comparison. With the perpetual licence model customers pay upfront, but are still forced to pay annual maintenance fees – with SaaS there is only a subscription fee, and now NetSuite proves it can be half of only the maintenance component of traditional software’s TCO.
NetSuite’s original timing was perfect: they launched this promotion in November, when in the middle of the economic downturn SAP had increased maintenance fees – and as fellow Enterprise Irregular Brian Sommer sated over @ ZDNet (emphasis mine):
In light of the current economy, SAP’s timing on this cost increase was unfortunate at best and a strategic blunder at worst. Raising customer costs in a down economy is a gutsy thing to do unless you are absolutely sure of your customers and their willingness/ability to pay more.
Well, apparently not all customers are willing, and NetSuite already presented a showcase convert from SAP to their own system.
Of course it does not mean NetSuite is ready to replace SAP as such. NetSuite is a very good integrated SaaS offering for small to midsize businesses, while SAP (and next Oracle) is what most large corporations run their business on. Comparing the two would be comparing apples and oranges. NetSuite themselves make it clear this is a divisional offer: they can handle smaller divisions of large companies, many of which likely replaced a legacy system with the parent company’s SAP R/3 as a result of acquisition. There’s no way the entire corporation could switch to NetSuite, which is why the new program offers NetSuite-to-SAP connectors for enterprise reporting.
Would these divisions not be better off with a comparable SaaS offering from SAP themselves? Most likely … and there is one, albeit not highly visible. the Business ByNetSuite name is clearly a play on SAP’s very own Business ByDesign, introduced with great fanfare a year ago.
I’ve seen demos of SAP’s system, and am convinced it is the most functionally complete on-demand enterprise system available anywhere, and @ $149/user it is reasonably priced. After some initial doubt most analysts seem to agree the product has strong feature-set, but they also all point to potential execution problems, as well as SAP’s positioning dilemma.
Business ByDesign is clearly meant for the SMB / SME market, but even there it is facing off with two other SAP offerings: Business One and Business All-in-One. Confusing? Sure it is, even for customers. There are functional limitations and BYD is clearly not a sufficient system for a large corporation, but within the SMB range it could very well serve customers SAP would rather see in the other “buckets” for its B1 and A1 products. SAP’s insistence on the strict segmentation is largely myopic: it assumes a SAP-centric world with loyal customers: but customers do have choices, including NetSuite.
SAP is clearly facing the dilemma of trying to get on the SaaS train while at the same time not cannibalizing their existing on-premise software market. In fact it isn’t simply a SaaS vs. on-premise game, BYD brings in new technology some of which has not yet made it to the main SAP Business Suite. But the best technology and feature set is not enough, it needs clear direction, marketing and sales execution. Announcements around SAP BYD’s delay, then counter-announcements that it’s not a delay, just “reduced acceleration in marketing”, the conflicting then all-but-disappearing messages from SAP at their major conferences certainly don’t help.
SAP has an excellent but poorly-positioned product that is hard to get: that’s an open invitation to competitors like NetSuite, and NetSuite is clearly smart to take advantage of SAP’s blunder.
Now I have a confession to make: what you’ve just read above is an almost verbatim reprint of my analysis published in November. I am re-hashing it to make a point that the NetSuite offer is nothing new, just the old campaign dusted off, right on the heels of SAP’s Business Suite 7 announcement, which NetSuite tries to paint as some sort of failure “provide existing SAP customers with a viable path to the Cloud that so many have been clamoring for”. SAP’s BS7 announcement had nothing to do with the Cloud, or SaaS solutions, despite the fact that the Wall Street Journal mistakenly came out with this headline: SAP Pushes Web-Based Software – only to redact it within hours.
So yes, nothing changed, and while NetSuite may be a bit noisy and some of their claims are rather questionable, all they do is take advantage of a situation offered by SAP. The simply fill a void. Even fellow Enterprise Irregular Dennis Howlett, who summarily called my initial analysis hubris appears to agree now:
Question: why is SAP allowing this to happen when it has ByDesign languishing? I wish I knew.
I join Dennis: I wish I knew. I’m done ranting – please read Dennis’s really good piece here.
Update: Not directly related, but I can’t help laughing at the naive description of SAP, the Enterprise Software leader by TechCrunch:
Hilarious… I think we’re in for some time as Web 2.0 blogs venture in the Enterprise.
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