carloscastilla - Fotolia
What happened to SAP Anywhere?
It looked promising when SAP launched Anywhere in the U.S. in May 2016, and the company seemed confident in the software's ability to serve the front-end e-commerce needs of SMBs. However, just six months later, Anywhere's growing pains became apparent. Now, SAP has quietly pulled the plug on SAP Anywhere just two years after its U.S. launch.
Users and experts alike speculate that the software was destined to go nowhere, as SAP lacked a clear roadmap and support for third-party integration, among other issues.
Failure to launch
Some customers were unable to even launch SAP Anywhere successfully, despite a team of SAP engineers assisting on the project. Micropower Battery Company, for example, had planned to go live with SAP Anywhere in 2017 on its Microbattery.com site but nixed the implementation before going live. One of the biggest problems with SAP Anywhere was how self-contained it was as a locked-down, cloud-hosted platform, according to Micropower Battery CEO Jeff Becker.
SAP Anywhere's shortcomings became apparent as Micropower proceeded with a new on-site e-commerce team. Compared to other similar products, SAP Anywhere lacked basic e-commerce functions, like displaying related products and adding products to the shopping cart from the homepage, as well as difficulties with the checkout page, Becker said.
Additionally, SAP Anywhere's SaaS delivery made it more difficult to grow new channels, add features, change the design and customize the code, according to Becker.
"We were unable to assign custom templates at the product level, and there was a lack of any third-party, out-of-the-box available themes," he said. SAP Anywhere also lacked third-party extensions or a marketplace for third-party developers.
SAP Anywhere could also end up being pricey for rapidly growing sites, while making it difficult to continue with existing revenue generation methods.
"Each additional marketplace will cost us more per year, and there are only a few connectors already available for SAP Anywhere. We intend to add multiple new sales channels, and each will need to feed into our system," Becker said. "Without third-party extensions, these would all have to be set up using the API, which is very time-consuming." Additionally, the system didn't include out-of-the-box support for major affiliate programs.
Becker also lamented how SAP Anywhere was overly dependent on Sage [Micropower's ERP system] and required that certain quantities of items be kept on hand. This rule didn't work with Micropower's heavy kit requirements. Essentially, to manage the rules set in SAP Anywhere, Micropower would have to create workarounds on the back end, which is not an ideal scenario, he added.
"We believed [these] and other barriers … would significantly impact our long-term e-commerce success," Becker said. However, he said that there was a mismatch between his company's needs and SAP Anywhere, and that SAP made a diligent effort to implement the product before he ultimately decided to pull the plug. Micropower chose a Magento product instead.
SAP Anywhere a piece, not the whole puzzle
Customers are looking for something to run the business that can be expanded or extended to meet the business's needs, according to Cindy Jutras, president of Mint Jutras.
"SAP Anywhere was never running the whole business; it was a piece of the puzzle," she said.
While customers want the concept of Lego-like building blocks that can be plugged together, that wasn't something SAP Anywhere offered. Additionally, SAP Anywhere might have fared better if SAP had clarified its messaging.
"I kept saying, 'Is this an extension to SAP Business One?'" Jutras said. SAP Anywhere might have been more successful if the company had taken its functionality and marketed it as an extension of its other products, rather than offering it as a stand-alone product.
SAP also aimed Anywhere at a very specific niche, the pet supply market, after discovering that most of its customers were in that industry, according to Laurie McCabe, co-founder and partner of SMB Group.
Laurie McCabeCo-founder and partner, SMB Group
"For such a big company, it's a narrow focus," she said. The idea was to build out after getting a foothold in the pet supply industry, but it appeared that SAP Anywhere only had about 30 customers in its final days. And the market strategy seemed to be more improvised than researched, she added.
"The death of SAP Anywhere reflects the fact that they probably need to do more homework with SMBs," McCabe said. "They probably need to get a much better idea of what is really required by SMBs, and it won't be the same thing [across the board]."
SMBs are diverse and fragmented, and what may work well in one vertical won't in another.
"Unlike large enterprises, you can't talk to a handful of SMBs and think you understand the market," she said.
Good idea, but no traction
Although early Anywhere reviews were positive, SAP Anywhere never quite took off, and the company has remained quiet on the issue. The only public comment has been the following statement sent to The Register, a U.K.-based technology news and opinion site:
"To help our customers transform and thrive in a competitive digital economy, SAP is continuing to research and develop new cloud solutions, while making cloud acquisitions that can best support customers. From time to time, we evaluate our current solution portfolio and make changes based on our overall cloud ERP strategy. As such, we have decided to sunset the SAP Anywhere solution. We will be working closely with our customers to help them transition off the product and to find a new SAP solution that best fits their needs."
Ultimately, it seems like SAP views the product as a great idea that just never gained traction with its intended audience.
"The only regret I have is that we don't have more answers. In the technology industry, there are no guarantees," an SAP executive said. "If you don't fail with a product once in a while, you're not pushing boundaries."
SAP Anywhere did have potential. But technical limitations and a confusing marketing strategy led it on the road to nowhere.