Despite being the fourth largest software company in the world,
with revenues of dollars 2.4bn (pounds 1.45bn) in 1996, the name SAP is
hardly a household one.
The software the company sells is designed to help large corporations
manage information on a global basis, so there is no reason why it
should be. Even so, SAP director of corporate communications Chris Alder
believes that it could be time for all that to change.
’SAP has been going for 25 years and is a market leader in business
applications software, but only people in our industry have heard of
us,’ he says.
’We are moving into a more competitive era, and we will have to pay more
attention to the image people have of us and to communicating what SAP
stands for in the marketplace.
’We have a fantastic product in R/3, but we cannot just rely on that
because, in time, there will be competitors, and so it will become
important to communicate with people outside the IT industry.’
The R/3 software Alder refers to enables enterprises to integrate
different business functions and share information across all areas of
It offers a comprehensive suite of applications in four key areas:
financial and accounting, human resources, manufacturing and logistics,
and sales and distribution.
Alder says: ’R/3 manages the information resident in an enterprise, so
that the people who need it can get at it.’
With the increasing globalisation of business transactions and the
imminent arrival of European Monetary Union - irrespective of what the
UK government decides to do, the proposed interim period begins on
January 1 1999 - more companies are finding a pressing need for software
like R/3, which can cope with different aspects of an operation and
allow them to integrate successfully, and in a variety of
The 45-year-old Alder joined SAP in July from Unisys, where he spent two
and a half years as director of media and public relations Europe.
Before that, he was with IBM for nine years in a variety of roles, the
most recent being chief press officer and communications consultant.
Alder says that SAP itself is undergoing a business process
re-evaluation and that his own responsibilities, while not yet
completely defined, will include customer relations, media and public
relations, partner relations, corporate advertising and the firm’s
He describes his overall role as looking after ’the external look and
feel of SAP in the marketplace’, and believes the situation he has
inherited there is similar to the one he found when he joined Unisys in
1995, with lots of marketing communications in place, although not quite
as well co-ordinated as they could be.
’Public relations, advertising, direct marketing - all these things are
there, they all happen, but they are not driven from the same place,’ he
’They all need drawing together in one place and given a consistent
All communications should go hand in hand, they are all part of the
’Consistency of message should be paramount. When advertising and PR
work in isolation, you get a confused message, and a confused message
leads to confused customers, not to mention the press and analysts.’
Alder, a keen painter who says he ’sells a few’ of his landscape
canvases, believes that in SAP’s business in particular, where the order
value may be particularly high, PR has a special importance.
’Advertising has a bit-part to play, but good public relations has more
impact,’ he says. ’PR influences people to say good things about you,
and in this business, where a single order could be worth tens of
millions of pounds, you need the credibility that a third-party
endorsement can give.’
1985 - 1994
Various marketing communications posts, ultimately chief press officer
and communications consultant IBM
1995 - July 1997
Director of media and public relations Europe Unisys
Director of corporate communications SAP