As traditional enterprise companies like IBM, Oracle and SAP try to transform into more modern cloud companies, they are finding that making that transition, while absolutely necessary, could require difficult adjustments along the way. Just this morning, SAP announced that it was restructuring in order to save between €750 million and €800 million (between approximately $856 million and $914 million).
While the company tried to put as positive a spin on the announcement as possible, it could involve up to 4,000 job cuts as SAP shifts into more modern technologies. “We are going to move our people and our focus to the areas where the new economy needs SAP the most: artificial intelligence, deep machine learning, IoT, blockchain and quantum computing,” CEO Bill McDermott told a post-earnings press conference.
If that sounds familiar, it should. It is precisely the areas on which IBM has been trying to concentrate its transformation over the last several years. IBM has struggled to make this change and has also framed workforce reduction as moving to modern skill sets. It’s worth pointing out that SAP’s financial picture has been more positive than IBM’s.
CFO Luka Mucic tried to stress this was not about cost-cutting, so much as ensuring the long-term health of the company, but did admit it did involve job cuts. These could include early retirement and other incentives to leave the company voluntarily. “We still expect that there will be a number probably slightly higher than what we saw in the 2015 program, where we had around 3,000 employees leave the company, where at the end of this process will leave SAP,” he said.
The company believes that in spite of these cuts, it will actually have more employees by this time next year than it has now, but they will be shifted to these new technology areas. “This is a growth company move, not a cost-cutting move; every dollar that we gain from a restructuring initiative will be invested back into headcount and more jobs,” McDermott said. SAP kept stressing that cloud revenue will reach $35 billion in revenue by 2023.
Holger Mueller, an analyst who watches enterprise companies like SAP for Constellation Research, says the company is doing what it has to do in terms of transformation. “SAP is in the midst of upgrading its product portfolio to the 21st century demands of its customer base,” Mueller told TechCrunch. He added that this is not easy to pull off, and it requires new skill sets to build, operate and sell the new technologies.
McDermott stressed that the company would be offering a generous severance package to any employee leaving the company as a result of today’s announcement.