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Author's profile photo Tom Van Doorslaer

Does the Vatican Run on SAP?

I’m not a very religious person. All in all, I’m far too rational to believe in anything that can’t be proven by science. Still I followed the election of the new Pope with a high degree of interest. Not so much because of the religious aspect, but because of the enterprise aspect. Without trying to banalise the importance of Catholocism, the recent election of the new Pope did get me thinking about the Catholic church. Some articles even referred to the Pope as a CEO and the church as the oldest of the multinationals. If the catholic church is an enterprise, lead by the Pope, and the Vatican is the headquarters, do they then also run enterprise software?

After all, the Vatican employs 1 million people. Priests, cardinals, co-workers, attorneys, administration,… They have 1 billion customers and offer multiple services, amongst which 7 premium services. (the sacraments) I’m not even mentioning the vast infrastructure (oh wait I just did).

I could perfectly imagine the Vatican to have a SuccessFactors license to keep track of the performance of all their employees and an HR backend for payroll processing. Every customer of the church could be recorded in their vast CRM system, where every customer complaint (confession), sunday service, premium service etc are stored. Considering the modernizations of Benedictus, who brought Twitter into the Vatican, they could even connect their CRM system via social media, for better contact with their religious followers.

The sales figures of every Priest can be easily monitored by the number of services held, followers per service, complaints and sacraments. All of this data can be mined via SAP HANA (because we’re talking about BIG Data here). Via their tablets (easy to keep those on the Altar), priests get to follow their statistics. Via the mobile phones of the followers, an app can gather data on who attended last Sunday’s service.

The Vatican also has some other activities. Think of the Vatican bank. This can be perfectly integrated with the greater whole by using SAP FI. SAP asset management provides a solution for the vastly spread real estate.

Suppose the Vatican would have such an IT system; wouldn’t choosing the next Pope become a lot easier. You would just have to consult the evaluations sheets in SuccessFactors to come to a conclusion. Although that procedure would do injustice to the religious and symbolic importance of the feat, we don’t really know what goes on in the closed meeting anyway.

#Holy Smoke

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      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Hi Tom:

      Your post got me thinking about a couple of things in particular...

      First was: running the Catholic church as a business.  I listened to an interesting story on NPR (National Public Radio) the other day, which posed the question to a money expert / financial manager and he offered business-oriented advice and perspectives, including: move the church employees to better serve its "emerging fast-growth markets," better utilize manage via a "franchise model" of diocese in the U.S. including purchasing power, improve financial reporting / management / transparency.  A transcript of the radio show is here:

      Secondly, I reacted to an early sentence. I felt a little sad for you that you "don't believe in anything that can't be proven by science."  It seems so cold and mechanical and rigid; not a world view I would want. I am a pretty logical, rational, reasonable person (at least I think so), and yet I feel really fortunate to also believe in something(s) bigger than me, bigger than all of us, unexplainable, mystical, magical, not yet revealed... I hope more of us will get to experience the knowing / sensing of this before our time here is up.


      Author's profile photo Tom Van Doorslaer
      Tom Van Doorslaer
      Blog Post Author

      Hi Mark,

      Thanks for the link to the article.

      Without falling into a religious dispute:

      Do you have to believe, in order to experience something?

      Kind regards 😉

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Hi Tom:

      I think you experience something, and then you believe!  😎   Be on the lookout for it...


      Author's profile photo Stephen Johannes
      Stephen Johannes


      In order to be very polite, a lot of the thoughts and comments you have on how the whole organization is structured and the purpose of those activities is way off base.  I don't want to get in a religious debate here, but religious organizations aren't run on purpose like a corporation and there are good reasons for that.

      Sorry but a lot of your characterizations are way off base: such as sacraments being "premium services" and confessions being complaints and needing to be recorded.  You are right that having a system to easily transfer sacremental records between parishes would be great, but it's not that type of management scenario that you envision.

      That being said if you want to take the exploration to a better level, then it would great to see how software could be used to help organizations such as Saint Vincent De Paul or the Salvation Army assist the poorest of the poor in their local communities without eating into the dollars of those organizations.  Even though they make rational decisions about who to help, many of those decisions are influenced by compassion and not cold hard logic when they are using their funds that aren't tied to grants that set cold-rational deadlines.  Yes cold-hard reasoning says you can't help someone if you they make $1 too much, instead you must turn them away.  Compassion says you evaluate the situation beyond numerical decision points to make your decision.  Systems such as SAP HANA cannot replace the ability to make compassionate decisions and hopefully the world will never get to point where all our decisions are made on cold-rational thought or it will be a worse place.

      Take care,


      Author's profile photo Tom Van Doorslaer
      Tom Van Doorslaer
      Blog Post Author

      Hi Stephen,

      I have given your reply a lot of thought and doubted for many days whether or not I would respond, as the topic seems to be sensitive.

      From your response, I get the impression that you believe that using enterprise software in an organization removes the human and emotional input in decisions. (That impression can be wrong)

      In my opinion, the IT-system helps the humans to make their decisions. But in the end, it's still a human decision, with all of its emotions and context. Just like the cardinals have an overview of all their colleague's skills, accomplishments, character and views. (be it on paper, or in their head)

      After all, how would you vote for someone you don't know?

      Perhaps that human touch is an area that in the future will fade further, as I believe that "context and emotion aware computing" will be the next step in IT.

      Obviously, I over characterized. That's what I do. It's my style.

      I write down my personal ideas and use metaphors and humour to get across an Idea. (and get other perspectives)

      In this case it's that "the Catholic church is an organization in need of enterprise software".

      Is that a bad thing? I think not. If at all, it would be good that they are more effective and transparent.