I am puzzled. This is not surprising in itself – I sit in front of a computer all week and let PR companies fire pointless emails at me declaring that their clients are unique, synergous, leveraging end to end solutions all over the shop and generally just being fab and groovy. With that in mind, it’s no wonder I’m a tad fractious by the time Crossroads comes on the telly.
No, but what is particularly puzzling me is why so many software firms refuse to embrace the category of the SME. The Small and Medium Enterprise that is, the very life blood of UK Plc, and yet a branding that all too many companies lurch away from in apparent horror. It’s corporate arrogance of course. No applications company wants to be thought of as anything other than a competitor to SAP and capable of keeping Hasso Plattner awake at night.
So to that end their poor PR flacks are instructed to position them as serious pretenders to the SAP ERP throne when in actual fact there’s more chance of them winnin g the downhill slalom in Salt Lake City than posing any serious challenge in that direction. Believe me chaps, the good damen und herren in Walldorf are sleeping soundly and will continue to do so for quite some time to come.
I met three companies this week who tried to convince me that they were the SAPs of the 21st century. I could only look at them somewhat sadly, as all three had viable products and propositions which will be thrown away if they keep aiming at the wrong target. In the database wars of the 1990s, Sybase and Informix spent all their time launching attacks at Oracle in a bid to convince us that they could be number one when they should have been fighting each other in order to secure the number two slot.
There is something that the SAPs of this world cannot do well and that’s tackle the SME space. R3 is a huge proposition and there are a finite number of companies worldwide that can afford to implement such a mighty piece of software. On the other hand, there are thousands upon thousands of companies out there in the SME space which could do with some SAP-type applications. The applications vendors that are born of that space themselves are missing a serious trick if they don’t fill that gap themselves.
Come on guys – there’s money to be made out there. Hugely expensive hosted options from the likes of SAP and Oracle are not for everyone’s tastes. There are rich pickings there for the taking. Some vendors are starting to realise this. I2 is a case in point, where in the words of EMEA VP Phil Crawford the company has had to learn to stop hunting elephants and start chasing rabbits. Others either haven’t or can’t learn this lesson.
Celebrate the SME. Embrace that market. Make some money. And stop pretending you’re a German superstar – that way madness lies…