Thursday, February 18, 2010

SAP pushes back on Gartner for its ranking of Business Objects

SAP is complaining about Gartner's latest Magic Quadrant, which shows its Business Objects product line ranked way down the line for "ability to execute," behind Oracle, Microsoft, IBM, SAS, and Microstrategy.

From Information Week:
When vendors make it into the top-right "leaders" quadrant of a Gartner Magic Quadrant (MQ) report, they generally don't complain. But SAP isn't thrilled with the "ability to execute" positioning of SAP BusinessObjects in the 2010 Gartner MQ for Business Intelligence Platforms, which was released early this week.

"If you look at the results, it's nonintuitive and nonsensical that we would have less ability to execute, than, for example, Microstrategy," said Franz Aman, SAP's vice president, intelligence platform product marketing.
You can read the entire Magic Quadrant at no charge on Gartner's website.

Magic Quadrants may have their deficiencies
Now, I'm no fan of Gartner's Magic Quadrants, as I've discussed previously. In a nutshell, I don't find MQs useful to buyers for the following reasons:
  • Gartner's criteria for evaluation are almost certainly going to be different from the criteria of a specific buyer.
  • MQs measure things not of interest to buyers. For example, as a buyer, is "completeness of vision" really one of the two primary criteria in evaluation? How about fit to my functional requirements and industry?

  • MQs often leave out vendor that a specific buyer ought to be considering, as Gartner typically only evaluates vendors above a certain size threshold. The MQs by definition favor established, even legacy, vendors.

  • Vendors use MQs in their sales presentations, if their position is favorable, without noting all the caveats that Gartner includes. First-time buyers, especially in small or midsize companies, may not understand the misuse of MQs in this way.
But this MQ calls out specific problems with SAP
Having said that, I think SAP is asking for trouble in bringing attention in particular to this MQ, because Gartner had specific reasons according to its criteria for ranking SAP as it did in terms of "ability to execute." The reasons? SAP's problems after its acquisition of Business Objects in transitioning support to its own support systems as well as apparent issues with how it is dealing with acquired customers.

As Gartner points out in cautionary notes regarding SAP (emphasis, mine):
For the third year in a row, customer survey data shows that customer support ratings for SAP are lower than for any other vendor in our customer survey. Overall customer experience scores that include support, sales experience and software quality are also at the lowest levels. These results are not unusual in the aftermath of an acquisition. To address these challenges, SAP has put in place programs to address customer issues with support and to address, more broadly, the customer experience.
Gartner points out, however, that SAP is not alone in problems stemming from an acquisition of a BI player. Oracle had some of the same problems with its acquisition of Hyperion, while IBM with its acquisition of Cognos is currently in the same boat as SAP:
Customer turmoil from acquisitions typically follows a life cycle. Initially, there is significant customer concern because of uncertainty about product road maps and commitment. This is followed by the actual execution of the acquisition transition in which support, contracting, pricing, sales territory alignments and products are often changed. This transition process takes time and is not easy on customers. Successful acquisitions at some point complete the transition and reach a new "normal" for customers.While Oracle, which acquired Siebel and Hyperion in 2005 and 2007 respectively, seems to be successfully exiting the back of this curve, as shown by significantly improved Magic Quadrant customer survey results this year over last, weak customer survey results for IBM and SAP suggest that they are still in the throes of this transition. This heightened level of customer dissatisfaction revealed in the customer survey is reflected in these vendors' Ability to Execute positions.
On a side note, it appears that SAP may be attempting to squeeze additional revenues from some of the Business Objects customers that it acquired, leading to client dissatisfaction. This also affected Gartner's ranking of SAP's ability to execute:

Usage terms, not previously defined in older contracts for virtualized deployments, have led to confrontational experiences with SAP for some Business Objects customers. In the middle of 2009, SAP added virtualization definition and a migration path to new contracts. Installed base customers with old contracts could still be subject to additional fees from an audit.
If the issue around SAP's support for Business Objects rings a bell, it's because I covered these problems back in July 2008, when I wrote about SAP's botching up support transition for Business Objects:
The problems are confirmed by postings on the Business Objects Board (not affiliated with Business Objects or SAP). As of this writing, there are seven pages of posts, showing a complete lack of coordination for the migration of support. It sounds like a deadline-date-driven migration for which SAP was not prepared.

This is not the first trouble SAP has had in its relationships with Business Objects customers. Things got so bad earlier this year that Business Objects emailed its customers to apologize for "issues related to poor service including delayed deliveries of the company’s technology."

If SAP is going to make major strategic acquisitions in the future, it is going to have to learn how to make them painless for customers.
Bottom line
The fact that Business Objects customers are still having support problems--two years after they found themselves in SAP's customer base--suggests that SAP should spend less time trying to disprove Gartner's findings and more time getting its own support systems and processes in order.

Related posts
Gartner Mid-Market ERP Magic Quadrant: Should Have Stayed in Retirement
SAP botching up support transition for Business Objects

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