Interview with Andreas Schumann in S@PPORT magazine 11/2017

Pay-per-use is great if it helps to establish the truth

S@PPORT: Mr. Schumann, you've been part of SAP right from the very start, there are very few people who know the company like you do. Why did you decide to become self-employed a few years ago?

I left SAP in 1998. My knowledge of the company therefore needs to be put into perspective. I took the step of becoming self-employed at that time because unfortunately (or you may well say fortunately) I was not able to put forward to my superiors at SAP my idea of reusable software modules, which are attached to applications by means of process modelling. No-one was interested in this new type of software development. In this respect, I was virtually forced to leave SAP because it never entered my head to give up on this idea.

S@PPORT: Why did you choose to focus on document processing? Does the SAP software offer too few functions in this environment?

When I became self-employed, my one and only aim was to realise my idea. However, over time I have learnt that it is very hard to market a development platform while there is no evidence that it can produce everyday business applications. Even European or US patents, which we do hold, are no use in this respect. Then, as is still the case today, SAP did not offer an adequate product for processing inbound documents. So it made sense to concentrate on this very topic. The tangro Inbound Suite demonstrates the suitability of our platform and application architecture for daily use.

S@PPORT: Providers of special archives and then also providers of DMS for SAP have been around for more than twenty years, starting with companies like Ixos. Do you consider yourself as one of these companies and if not, what distinguishes you from them?

We are neither a provider of archives nor DMS. At tangro, as with most providers, archives are linked using SAP ArchiveLink. We see ourselves as drivers of innovation for modern solutions for the automation of document-based business processes. We help companies to access business information in the areas of financial accounting, purchasing and customer service without any modal fragmentation and therefore to fully automate procedures. We are therefore putting into practice today what is postulated as digital transformation.

S@PPORT: The ERP market is vast: effective industry solutions from say Datev, abas or PSI exist alongside products tailored to medium-sized firms, such as MS Dynamics etc. How do you believe that SAP has managed to successfully hold its ground over the decades?

There are several reasons for this. SAP is the market leader. SAP is the master of integration. SAP is good, even if some others are of different opinion - often due to ignorance. Yes, in terms of UI, SAP has long indulged in the sleep of the just, but that is in the past. Anyone who opts for SAP is taking a much smaller risk than those opting for a less well-known product. Despite this, well-produced industry solutions do have a market. After all such systems, which are specially tailored to individual industries, are much easier to implement and use because they provide exactly what the user needs.

S@PPORT: How would you characterise yourself in the SAP partner ecosystem, are you a provider of product enhancements, a consultancy firm or a system integrator?

Without a doubt, we are providers of product enhancements. Our consultancy work concentrates on the product launch. This is a very pleasant compulsory exercise because a standard launch takes around 15 days of work.

S@PPORT: What are the greatest challenges facing medium-sized firms in terms of transformation? Where do the pitfalls/sources of mistakes lie?

This hasn't really changed much over the course of evolution. For companies, it is still the case that they need to be attentive, challenge traditional approaches and, if necessary, respond. There are no clever formulas for how to correctly deal with digital transformation. But one thing is for sure: not every company will succeed with the often quoted approach taken by the likes of Uber, Airbnb etc. Most don't need to fully change direction when it comes to overall company strategy. In fact, it is often not at all advisable to be the first follower of a new strategy and thereby expose oneself to high levels of risk. Optimising existing processes is often much better advice.

S@PPORT: In the past, SAP hasn't always made things easy for your customers in terms of licences or service. How do you define your role as a go-between in this area of conflict?

We ask our customers and potential customers to be persistent with SAP when they make unjustified licensing demands. tangro has it comparably easy because we do not use standard SAP functions for the most part - take Workflow for example. And in instances where we do, our customers already have licences for the standard functions. What's more, DSAG and SAP have agreed that solutions from third-party suppliers, which may be integrated in SAP solutions via interfaces, but don't use the SAP NetWeaver, don't require a licence.

S@PPORT: SAP believe that pay-per-use will become another more prevalent payment model in the future in greater response to the trend towards digital transformation - what do you think?

Pay-per-use is great if it helps to establish the truth. But at the end of the day, with this payment model you still have to ask what use means. Depending on interpretation, this still doesn't resolve the issue of licensing at SAP.

S@PPORT: Managing businesses in real time, developing new business models - in the eyes of SAP, the new S/4HANA generation of products should be able to do all this and thereby advance digital transformations in companies. Are SAP users really ready for this? What stage have the plans for S/4HANA reached?

The better SAP S/4HANA sells, the better the sales figures. This is the only thing that is reasonably certain. Technology can encourage digital transformation - but the companies themselves need to put their houses in order. It's anyone's guess how ready SAP users are for this. If you ask SAP, everyone is using HANA. If you ask experts, the figure is much lower. It's amazing how the world has managed to survive to date without HANA. Yet, SAP S/4HANA is also of importance for tangro. Our applications will also have to be able to run under S/4HANA without our customers having to do anything.

Interview: tangro's Managing Director Andreas Schumann.

S@PPORT: Smartphone and tablet use means that business users have access to information from any location. Many ERP processes can now be initiated from mobile devices using Fiori apps and mobile applications from SAP partners. To what extent are users actually doing this?

We know that the mobile components of our Workflow enjoy very high usage levels. For me, there is no doubt that these technologies are gaining ground in all areas.

S@PPORT: You have been a successful SAP trading partner for a number of years. What is the reason for your success? And where do you see yourself in five years?

tangro's success is based on a good idea, on the fortune I learnt at SAP and on good employees. Our independence from venture capital and creditors who don't understand the idea but want their say is also important.In addition to the classic solutions for processing inbound documents, in five years tangro will offer a wide range of cloud solutions - with or without a relationship with SAP. These solutions will be developed mainly for small to mid-sized companies, say for planning holidays, time management even extending to tailored ERP solutions, e.g. for ISV, Independent Software Vendors. We are already making productive use of the latter in our internal processes.

S@PPORT: As a founder and Managing Director of a large firm, people expect a lot of you. What characteristics are absolutely essential for success as an independent entrepreneur?

Humour is very helpful. Fortune may not be a characteristic but I would highly recommend acquiring as much of it as you can. Apart from these traits, you should pursue your goals without any deviations. It's useful not to fantasise too much as most entrepreneurs wouldn't have even got started if they knew what lay ahead.

S@PPORT: Do you have a good work-life balance? How do you relax in your free time?

By going on holiday with my wonderful wife, playing tennis and loosing myself in my headphones, playing the best selection of classic and pop music. With respect for fellow men, I don't write poetry.

S@PPORT: And what about reading? Do you prefer prose or nonfiction?

On holiday I read everything that comes my way - from books about Michelangelo to Andre Agassi.

S@PPORT: If you had the opportunity to start your company afresh, what hiccups that you have experienced would you avoid the second time round?

None. It's only via the hiccups that I've got to where I am today.

Scroll to top