SAP Still Thinking Small

Over the years, SAP (NYSE: SAP  ) has built an empire in creating enterprise resource planning software that helps companies with HR, payroll, and billing. It's extremely complex stuff, and it provides SAP with a powerful competitive advantage. Yet as the market matures, SAP needs to find new markets, and that seems to be the thinking behind yesterday's acquisition of OutlookSoft, even if the deal won't have a huge impact for SAP.

Founded back in 1999, OutlookSoft is an on-demand platform -- that means it delivers its software via the Internet. As seen with the success of Salesforce.com and Netsuite, this approach is increasingly becoming the standard in the enterprise space.

OutlookSoft develops applications for corporate performance management -- software that helps with things like budgeting, forecasting, and consolidation of the financials. With mind-numbing regulations and heady merger-and-acquisition activity, this is a top-of-mind issue for CFOs across corporate America. And to get a piece of this market, major software players have ramped up their dealmaking. Just in the past couple of months, Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL  ) shelled out $3.3 billion for Hyperion, and Business Objects (Nasdaq: BOBJ  ) struck a $300 million deal for Cartesis.

SAP did not disclose the terms of its deal, but there are rumors that the valuation was between $400 million and $500 million. OutlookSoft has about 700 customers, and there is only about a 21% overlap with the SAP base. So there should be some cross-sell opportunities.

But an interview I conducted yesterday gets to the crux of the potential problem with this deal. OutlookSoft's former chief marketing officer, Ben Plummer, thinks SAP will have its hands full and suggests that the company could have made a bolder move:

SAP's core environment is business warehousing, and they are going to have to figure out how this is going to work with OutlookSoft's applications. This is no easy task for SAP, because OutlookSoft is 100% tied to Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) platform. We already have hundreds of customers who have come over to the Applix (Nasdaq: APLX  ) platform to meet the requirements of performance and flexibility that are so often tied to these applications.

Plummer is now the senior vice president of marketing at Applix, and you can check out the full interview on my CAPS blog.

So while Oracle is making big acquisitions, SAP continues to be tepid with its dealmaking, and that's again the case with the OutlookSoft transaction. Don't expect it to move the needle.

This strategy hasn't thrilled Wall Street. The stock is off 10% this year, and although it has begun to stabilize, I'm not sure what the catalysts will be to get things moving in the right direction for investors.

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Fool contributor Tom Taulli does not own shares of companies mentioned in this article. He is currently ranked 1,610 out of 28,402 ranked players in Motley Fool CAPS. He is also author of The Complete M&A Handbook. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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