Our journey towards SMEs
SAP as a company is everything but a failure. It is a very large, successful and growing company. Yet there is one area where they failed - bringing the proper business tools to millions of small and medium-sized companies worldwide.
According to the Census Bureau, companies with less than 100 employees account for 98% of the total number of companies and represent over 35% of the active workforce in the United States. This proportion is even higher in other regions of the world. The vast majority of these companies do not have access to the right software to manage their activities.
Maybe they have no need? I am just curious to meet the first business owner who would not need to manage his customer acquisition, manufacturing, customer support and after sales service or its team. I have never met one. Small businesses have often similar needs as large companies; they just have fewer resources.
Other vendors have embraced this challenge pouring hundreds of millions of dollars in product development and sales efforts to reach these customers. Yet Excel and QuickBooks (or the equivalent in other regions) remain the favorite management tools of most businesses. Customers expect something which is impossible to deliver. They expect powerful, flexible, easy-to-use and affordable solutions. They expect something so intuitive that would require almost no training to use. They have very limited or no IT resources. They would love to have an integrated business solution but will not dedicate the time required to deploy an ERP.
We do not claim to be in a position to change how SME customers think. We claim to change the way software is built. With the launch of OpenERP 7.0, we give the customer the option to deploy one application at a time, whichever application he thinks will bring him more business benefits and build an integrated solution at his own pace. This may look obvious but no other vendor is in a position to offer this today and we believe that by doing so we are creating a whole new category of business applications, the “Integrated Business Apps”.
We have tested this latest version of OpenERP with customers who have never been exposed to it. They have been able to complete a simple flow (creating a sales order, invoicing a customer and registering the payment) in only a few minutes. Nobody has ever followed training to use Facebook, Linkedin or Gmail. Why should it be different for business software? We just think that the vast majority of the software used at the office is simply badly designed.
So what customers expect is not impossible. It just requires to do everything from a different perspective such as leveraging from our Open Source community to translate the software in over 25 languages, designing everything from the business flows to the user interface so that users feel really comfortable using it. Simplicity is certainly the most complex task in a software design. We came up with an innovative business model in order to be able to cut prices by more than half of what the competition is offering while securing the long term financial viability of the company.
20.000 companies from over 150 countries install and test OpenERP each month. 700 new companies use it in production each month. Theses figures are already significant but they are minimal compared to the size of our addressable market. By breaking the barriers which prevent companies to adopt proper business tools, OpenERP 7.0 will allow us to succeed where others have failed… Sorry SAP, we did it.