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What to look for in SAP's Q4 earnings report

SAP's HANA, the cloud, changing sales culture and product mix will all be up for discussion

By Chris Kanaracus
January 22, 2013 01:42 PM ET

IDG News Service - As it has in the past, SAP spilled the beans a bit early on its fourth-quarter and year-end performance with the release of preliminary results last week. Now the vendor is about to do a full announcement along with the usual conference calls with press and analysts.

Those calls will provide an opportunity for SAP officials to be asked some important questions. Here's a look at what may be in store for them on Wednesday.

When will newer product lines such as the HANA in-memory database and mobility become really big businesses?: HANA software sales for 2012 were A!390 million (US$519 million), with mobility contributing A!222 million, according to the preliminary results. While HANA sales outpaced SAP's internal expectations, analysts may be looking for guidance on when these product lines will become much more significant contributors to the bottom line, particularly mobility. Together, they currently represent only a tiny percentage of SAP's total annual revenue, which was more than A!16 billion in 2012.

What's with the sales organization shakeups?: SAP made two significant changes to its sales organizations last year. The first was the ouster of North American President Robert Courteau after a weak first quarter in that region. But earlier this month, as part of a more extensive shakeup affecting multiple regions, Courteau's replacement, Geraldine McBride, also left the company.

While Wall Street may look at such moves purely for their potential impact on the bottom line, customers could feel the effects as well if SAP's sales culture undergoes rapid shifts.

SAP has said the most recent changes were meant to help the company "more closely align with customers." During the conference calls, SAP officials may be pressed to explain exactly what that means.

Can SAP fight multiple wars successfully?: SAP has a full plate from a marketing standpoint. First, it is trying to make HANA the underlying centerpiece of its technology portfolio, while dislodging databases like Oracle's from its customer base. It's also attempting to cast itself as a top player in cloud computing, even though SaaS (software as a service) contributes only about 5 percent of the company's total revenue at this point. SAP is also trying to push itself as a player in mobility.

All of these initiatives "seem to be struggling with focused execution and attention," said software industry analyst and consultant Vinnie Mirchandani of Deal Architect. SAP officials may find themselves pressed to explain how they'll keep all those plates spinning steadily as 2013 unfolds.

HANA as a Trojan horse?: SAP recently said it had reached 1,000 HANA customers. It's not clear how many of those customers are running anything in production with HANA, nor what percentage of them are new to SAP technology, versus installed base members investing in the platform.

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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