So here's a German riddle for you. When is a user not a user? When he or she is a SAP CRM customer it seems.
Market share figures have been used as battering rams to beat up rivals for years. The database vendors have made a fine art out of throwing a hissy fit at whatever analyst firm has dared to suggest that they are not in fact ahead of the pack by a country mile.
Market share is what the current deadly love triangle in the applications space is all about. PeopleSoft, JD Edwards and Oracle are all after the same thing: control of a combined installed base that will provide a clear number two in the marketplace.
SAP of course rises above this with the comment that whoever ends up number two will still be waaaaaay behind it in terms of marketshare. But drill down to the CRM sector and we get a rather different story.
In that market sector SAP is number two to market gorilla Siebel, although SAP executive calmly predict that they can overtake within a year or so. Maybe so, maybe no, but the counter claim from the Siebel camp is that SAP is already rigging the figures by counting all MySAP customers as CRM customers even if they don't use the CRM functionality at all.
So how many customers does that involve? Well, about a third actually, not an insignificant figure in anyone's book. But then Siebel would say that, wouldn't they? Well, yes, undoubtedly, but on this occasion, no they didn't. The one third estimate comes from SAP CEO Henning Kagermann and let's face it, if he doesn't know, who does?
Customers are not going to make their buying decisions purely on the Vendor-matics statements of vendors. We all know that in the branch of maths know as vendor-matics, two and two makes - hey, whatever we in sales and marketing damn well want it to honey!!! Any set of market research figures or marketshare estimates is going to be judiciously edited and presented in such as way as to support individual vendor claims.
But it's worth bearing in mind that we're not getting an apples for apples comparison when SAP and Siebel squabble. Gartner Group analyst Michael Moaz recently updated that firm's CRM market definition to acknowledge that ERP suite vendors are able to boost their figures with statistics relating to other functional modules. His conclusion was that " a direct comparison would show that yearly deployment of users of Siebel CRM products is five to eight times larger than that of any of its key competitors: Oracle, PeopleSoft and SAP."
SAP has enjoyed a fantastic couple of weeks in the sun with the rest of the market collapsing into chaos around it. It stands as a beacon of stability and a safe haven for confused customers of the Terrible Trio squabbling at its feet. Full praise to it for that. It's a lean, efficient, enormously powerful European software success story. Just work a bit harder on the CRM Vendor-matics chaps...