SAP Shines the Spotlight on Small and Medium Businesses

SAP SME SummitSAP’s stellar success in building its blue-chip large enterprise business has often overshadowed its considerable but quieter achievements in small and medium business (SMBs) markets. But SAP is not a household name in the SMB community. Even technology insiders are often surprised to learn that SMBs (or as SAP refers them, small and medium enterprises, or SMEs) account for the majority of SAP’s 197,000 customer base.

But at SAP’s first small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) summit, hosted at the company’s New York offices in late November, co-CEO Bill McDermott and other key SAP execs made it clear that SAP is intensifying its aspirations and endeavors with new programs and initiatives that reach well beyond its conventional solutions.

From SME Solutions to an SME Ecosystem

Over the last few years, SAP has steadily grown its SME business with its traditional solution offerings. For instance, year-over-year revenues have grown 20% for SAP Business One, SAP’s flagship ERP offering for small businesses. As discussed in The Progressive SMB: Customer Stories are Worth 1,000 Analyst Words, SAP has been particularly attractive to Progressive SMBs, who realize the increasingly direct connection between strategic IT investments and successful business outcomes.

The steady growth of SAP solutions has been admirable, but, as we learned at the SME Summit, SAP is casting a much wider net through a series of different initiatives that bring SAP’s big data, mobile and cloud capabilities to smaller organizations in a more accessible manner. Together, these are starting to take the shape of a growing SAP SME ecosystem. For instance, SAP is:

  • Growing and enabling the traditional partner channel. SAP channel partners currently account for one-third of SAP SME sales. SAP intends to raise this to 40% by 2015. To help accomplish this, SAP is enabling more of its traditional partners (VARs, SIs, MSPs, etc.) with Rapid Deployment Solutions (RDS).  Currently, SAP offers 150 RDS solutions, which provide businesses with fixed cost, fixed scope preconfigured software, best practices and implementation services that give customers everything they need to get up and running in just a few weeks. RDS has proven to be very instrumental in driving SAP’s growth in the SME sector. In the past year, RDS deployments in SME have outpaced the 500%+ overall RDS growth rate over the prior year. The importance of building and enabling the channel cannot be underestimated: according to SMB Group’s 2012 SMB Routes to Market Study, over half of SMBs purchase business applications through indirect channels.
  • Recruiting partners to build micro-vertical solutions on Business One. The small business market is actually very fragmented. While all small businesses share some common needs, each micro-vertical has unique requirements and needs specific capabilities when it comes to business software. SAP is building a development-focused partner channel to zero in on the needs of each micro-vertical. For instance, SAP partner Orchestra is building specialized solutions on Business One for small businesses in the fuel, beer and food industries. OrchestraBeer was showcased at the Summit. In this video interview, Ryan Hilliard, CEO of Hilliard’s Beer, a small startup with less than 10 employees, explains to me why he selected OrchestraBeer. Ryan plans to grow his business, and wanted a solution that would grow with him, and one over the lifetime of his business. But he also needed a turnkey solution geared to his business, and able to track specific metrics–such as batches and barrels of beer for visibility into his supply chain and production.
  • Empowering startups with SAP HANA. At the Summit, SAP announced that it has powered over 150 startups in Silicon Valley with SAP HANA. These startups are using HANA as a development platform to provide SMBs with a new, user-friendly generation of real-time analytics and advanced predictive solutions. For instance, Vish Canaran, CEO of Liquid Analytics, talked about his company’s cloud-based, mobile analytics applications for iPhone, iPad, Blackberry and Android users.  As Vish explained to me in this video discussion, Liquid Analytics starts with the user experience to help optimize productivity. Liquid Analytics apps use gamification and predictive analytics to help make it easier, quicker and more fun for wholesale industry sales reps to place orders and set and meet sales goals. As noted in SMB Group’s 2012 SMB Routes to Market Study, the data fire hose is running at full blast and shows little signs of abating. But, the big gap in big data is painfully evident for small businesses: Just 18% have purchased/upgraded a business intelligence solution in the past 24 months, and only 17% plan to do so in the next 12 months. Solutions such as Liquid Analytics show promise to offer small businesses an accessible, user-friendly ways to harness big data for business good.
  • Extending the Ariba network effect. As part of SAP’s recent Ariba acquisition, every SAP customer gets a free connection into the Ariba network (and any company, whether an SAP customer or not, can enroll as a Supplier on the Ariba Network). As revealed in our 2012 SMB Routes to Market Study, about one-quarter of SMBs sell goods and services to large enterprises. Since attracting new customers, growing revenues, and increasing profitability are perennial SMB challenges, we expect that SMB interest and involvement in big company supplier networks to heat up in 2013. As discussed in SMB Group’s Top 10 SMB Technology Predictions for 2013, access to the Ariba network is one opportunity that SMBs can leverage to compete for their share of the $300 billion dollars that large businesses spend annually on goods and services.

Looking Beyond Technology

SAP is also expanding its engagements with influencers, venture capitalists, governmental agencies and other vital SME catalysts. The Summit’s “Power of Small” panel featured speakers with wide-ranging perspectives and influence in the SME market, and underscored that SAP’s focus will go well beyond technology to include initiatives focused on policy, people, capital to help create an environment in which SMEs can thrive.

For example, Linda Rottenberg of Endeavor, who pioneered the examination of how high-growth business can transform economies, discussed the necessity of “mentor capital” for SME success. At the event, Bill McDermott announced that SAP has committed to help Endeavor select, mentor, and accelerate high-impact entrepreneurs on a global scale. Sunil Hirani of trueEX examined the effect of immigration policies on entrepreneurship in the U.S., and the importance of aligning governmental policies to help SMEs prosper.


With these initiatives, SAP is tapping into a very important trend. As discussed in SMB Group’s Top 10 SMB Technology Predictions for 2013, Progressive SMBs, who invest more in technology and use technology for competitive advantage are also much more likely to anticipate revenue gains than peers whose tech investments are flat or declining. We also see this gap widening year over year, and expect that it will continue to do so.

Although not everyone at SAP may yet “get” small business, it was clear from the event that Co-CEO Bill McDermott does understand them, and also values the increasingly make or break role that technology plays for SMEs. SAP’s commitment to enabling partners to expose it technology in a relevant way, and its investment in the broader SME community were on display at this high-profile event, making it clear that McDermott wants to make SAP a household name among SMEs.  A lofty goal, to be sure, but one that SAP is very committed to aspiring to.

Save Time by Streamlining Business Applications with Integration

Originally published on December 17, 2013 on as the last of four blog posts in a series designed to help small businesses, and those that serve them, be successful.

men with puzzle piecesAt one point or another, most small business owners have had to work with applications that don’t talk to each other. It might be a payroll system that doesn’t integrate with financial accounting or a payments acceptance tool that doesn’t sync with inventory management. The experience leaves beleaguered small business owners thinking, “there has got to be a better way.”

Research from Scribe Software found that although 75% of SMBs say integration is important, integration among business applications has been low. Using disparate applications drains productivity, wastes time and leads to errors and poor decision-making. But what is a small business owner to do?

Fortunately, technology vendors of all stripes are emphasizing the importance of a unified, reliable data store as the foundation for solid analytics and reporting. This includes offering pre-integrated solutions, creating marketplaces to make it easier to find integrated partner apps and opening up their application programming interfaces (APIs).

Intuit is one such vendor. The company recently launched, an app store where small businesses can find apps that work with QuickBooks. It made its QuickBooks Online API free to encourage more third-party developers to create applications that integrate with QuickBooks.

Intuit also announced the first of many new partnerships designed to enhance the capabilities of the QuickBooks platform. The first was with mobile payments company Square to feed transaction data into QuickBooks. The second deal was with American Express Open where small businesses using the Open cards can have data from receipts integrated into QuickBooks and QuickBooks Online accounts.

In the coming year, we expect integration will be a higher priority even among small businesses. After all, it doesn’t take too many disconnected applications to feel the pain of productivity drains, errors, and a lack of solid data to support decision-making. Integration still isn’t sexy, but the improved productivity, time savings, error reduction and decision-making benefits that it enables are.

Laurie McCabe brings more than 20 years of experience in the IT industry to her role as co-founder and partner at SMB Group. Laurie has built widespread recognition for her capabilities and insights in the small and medium business (SMB) market in several areas, including cloud computing, mobile solutions, business solutions, social networking and collaboration, and managed services.

Follow Laurie on Twitter at @LaurieMcCabe and @SMBGroup.

Dell World 2012: An Update on Dell’s Journey

Just before the holidays, I had the opportunity to attend Dell’s second annual Dell World user conference. Here’s my take on  Dell’s progress towards becoming an end-to-end solutions company, and its directions in the small and medium business (SMB) market.

To put things in context, Dell has been on a journey for a couple of years to transform from a hardware company provide businesses with open, flexible and easier to use IT solutions that can scale up or down as needed. Dell is leveraging cloud computing, open standards, and a blend of hardware, service and software offerings to build more comprehensive solutions. And, Dell has pegged midmarket business requirements as its design focal point to ensure scalability for organizations of all sizes. As I discussed in The New Dell and What it Means for SMBs: Takeaways from Dell’s 2011 Solutions for a Virtual Era Event, Dell has also made many acquisitions to turn this vision into reality, including KACE, Boomi, Wyse, SonicWall, Quest and AppAssure and others.

On Track for Transformation

Dell has taken a lot of heat for not turning around fast enough to please some analyst and pundits. But, at the event, Dell provided a status report on its progress, and unveiled several new strategies, products and services that I believe will continue to propel it forward.

For example, Dell reported that cloud revenue has increased 30% year for Q3 FY 2013, and that its x86 server shipment growth outpaced the industry overall (and HP and IBM in particular) according to International Data Corporation’s (IDC) Q3 2012 Worldwide Quarterly Server Tracker. In addition, security revenue for Q3 FY 2013 rose 16% year over year. Dell now processes more than 30 billion events every day, and is growing its footprint in the security area. Perhaps most importantly, services and consulting now account for roughly one-third of Dell’s sales.

Among the many announcements that are part and parcel of any vendor user conference, several highlighted how Dell is turning its vision into reality, including that Dell has:

  • Chosen OpenStack as its open source cloud platform of choice for public and private cloud. This extends Dell’s commitment to open, standards-based solutions. While it will still provide customers with solutions on other cloud platforms, the vendor has endorsed OpenStack as the most open, flexible way to implement a hybrid environment and move workloads between private and public clouds.
  • Added new solutions to its Active Infrastructure converged infrastructure portfolio. Dell announced new blueprints for VDI and unified communications and collaboration applications and workloads. This builds on Dell’s goal of helping customers to streamline IT deployment and management with Active Infrastructure solutions. These combine servers, storage, networking and infrastructure systems management into integrated solutions that zero in on specific workload requirements to speed deployment, cut costs and energy consumption, and simplify operations.
  • Unveiled the CIO Powerboard. Using Boomi, Dell has knit together management tools from Quest, KACE, SonicWALL and AppAssure to provide IT with a unified view and metrics across their IT environment–another proof point of Dell’s ability to provide more integrated, end-to-end solutions.

We also got a glimpse into the strong potential that Dell’s Wyse acquisition has to propel Dell into the mobile management space from the very energetic Tarkan Maner, Dell Wyse President and CEO. Maner demoed the Pocket Cloud web service, which allows users to search all of their physical, virtual systems and clouds. As I discussed here, Dell recently launched Dell Wyse Cloud Client Manager (CCM), which incorporates Pocket Cloud technology, and provides businesses a centralized mobile management platform with an SMB-friendly price tag.

Stepping Up Support for SMBs

Beyond new solutions and technology directions, Dell took the wraps off of two new initiatives designed to help entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses.

For starters, Dell launched the Dell Center for Entrepreneurs, headed up by its Entrepreneur in Residence, Ingrid Vanderveldt. In this video interview,  Ingrid discusses how the community is built by and designed for entrepreneurs. One of the program’s key goals  is to help entrepreneurs secure capital to invest in the technology they need to grow. Dell Financial Services and the Dell Innovators Credit Fund supply credit and leasing options, and the site also offers webcasts, videos and case studies from Dell, industry experts, and a community of entrepreneurs sharing their experiences.

With former President Bill Clinton on hand as the event’s marquee keynote speaker, Dell also announced that it is sponsoring this year’s Clinton Global Initiative University and support the entrepreneurship theme at CGI U 2013, which will be held at Washington University in St. Louis in the spring. The track is designed to help students and young entrepreneurs get the grounding they need to launch, run and grow a business, and the increasingly vital role of technology in building a successful business.

Quick Take

Yes, Dell still has to figure out how (or maybe even whether) to really differentiate and innovate in the client and particularly the mobile device battle.

But Dell World served to highlight that Michael Dell has crafted a strong vision and is sticking to it, building it through a series of strong acquisitions (compare this to HP’s Palm and Autonomy debacles) and solid technology directions. Combined, Dell has assembled many of the building blocks it needs to achieve its vision. And, Dell will keep filling in missing puzzle pieces, as evidenced just a few days after Dell World, when Dell completed its acquisition of Credant Technologies to fortify its data protection capabilities.

Meanwhile, Dell’s continuing commitment to provide solutions that scale up and down from the midmarket bode well for growing its footprint in the SMB market. In addition, Dell’s new initiatives to support entrepreneurs are a natural, given Michael Dell’s credentials as a poster child for entrepreneurial success. Through these programs, Dell will not only help young companies benefit from technology, but forge engagements with entrepreneurs that will fuel future directions with fresh insights.

Overall, Dell World 2012 demonstrated while Dell still lacks a magic bullet for the client device side of its business, it is making steady progress in its goal to supply the end-to-end IT infrastructure solutions and services that businesses need to support them.