Renewed push for Business One could boost SAP SMB strategy

SAP has strived to dispel a reputation for pricey, hard to deploy ERP with aggressive marketing and products for small businesses. How's it going, and where does S/4HANA fit in?

The fall of SAP Anywhere, an e-commerce front end that arrived in the U.S. in 2016 with some fanfare, may have raised questions about SAP's commitment to SMBs. However, with SAP boasting 60,000 Business One customers and with no plans to sunset Business ByDesign, the end of SAP Anywhere may help clarify the SAP SMB message.

According to experts, SAP's plans for Business One may prove to be what resonates with this market, even though Business ByDesign is also being pushed as a contender.

Business One is becoming more of a real platform, with a more modular microservices architecture, according to Cindy Jutras, president of the Mint Jutras consulting firm.

"This will be a big plus for partners who develop add-ons as extensions," she said, noting that instead of customizing Business One, partners can use plug-and-play extensions. This can also benefit customers who won't have to deal with custom code.

SAP SMB messaging for Business One is clearer

Additionally, SAP seems to have clarified some of its messaging around Business One. The company stopped using the Business All-in-One tag, which was never a separate product, but a software package consisting of SAP ERP with best practices and templates built in, according to Jutras.

Internally, SAP has merged Business One and Business ByDesign so they are handled by one team, but the vendor does not plan to merge the products.

"Calling it by a different name implied to the market that it was a different product, and it really wasn't," she said.

Internally, SAP has merged Business One and Business ByDesign so they are handled by one team, but the vendor does not plan to merge the products, according to Luis Murguia, senior vice president and general manager of Business One and Business ByDesign. The intention is to simplify the way partners work with SAP and allow resellers whose customers are reaching the limits of Business One to offer Business ByDesign with less hassle, he said.

Business ByDesign may need more of a push

However, Business ByDesign is still in a gray area and may not even be necessary for the SAP portfolio, according to Jutras.

"If they do with S/4HANA what they're talking about doing in terms of bringing it to the cloud ... I'm wondering if that will crowd Business ByDesign out of the niche," she said.

The sweet spot for Business ByDesign is a company with 250 to 1,500 employees, while Business One is aimed at companies with 10 to 350 employees, Murguia said. SAP hopes that partners will embrace Business ByDesign as an offering to their customers with the idea to re-energize the momentum behind Business ByDesign and expand the reseller market.

However, Jutras is not convinced that this will keep Business ByDesign from being crowded out of the SAP SMB niche. With S/4HANA in the cloud, "I'm not sure that they really need that third product anymore."

SAP has no plans to drop Business ByDesign, but based on the seemingly lackluster marketing, there are still some customers who believe it may not survive, Jutras said.

"Either it does go away and S/4HANA fills the gap or [SAP] needs to be more vocal about it in its go-to-market messaging."

Partner program could help SAP SMB sales

Meanwhile, the vendor recently unveiled a new SAP partner program that, among other things, opens up SAP Leonardo to partners who primarily sell to small businesses. The idea is to offer technology that is loosely coupled with ERP to smaller businesses both in Business One and Business ByDesign, Murguia said.

Partners are still seeing a significant demand for ERP from their SMB customers, according to Nir Orbach, founder and CEO of Illumiti, an SAP partner. Customers are also asking for analytics, he said, and Illumiti is excited for the partner program to offer Leonardo, SAP's suite of latest-generation technologies for the intelligent enterprise, as its customers have shown interest in that, as well.

But SAP certainly has room to improve on its marketing messaging, according to Dror Orbach, chief operating officer of Illumiti. SAP isn't always on the radar of smaller companies, nor is it near the top of the list of software they're considering, he said.

Jutras doesn't expect partners who work primarily with SMBs to offer Leonardo, but she does expect that they will use parts of Leonardo to extend Business One or Business ByDesign.

"No small business is going to buy something like Leonardo," she said.

SAP is also encouraging its best partners to offer both Business One and Business ByDesign, but not all of them have the resources to add another product to their lineup, Jutras noted. The larger partners will probably add Leonardo-like extensions, however.

"The nice thing about the cloud platform and architecture is that both SAP and its partners should be able to develop some of the extensions and some new value ... that would work across both platforms," she said, noting that SAP is allowing for more reusable code in both Business One and Business ByDesign, things originally designed for S/4HANA.

In a way, it seems like the end of SAP Anywhere is an opportunity to refocus on the SAP SMB effort. By clarifying its messaging and continuing with open architecture and reusable code, SAP may find more inroads in its quest to dominate the SMB market.

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