SAP targets simplicity

ORLANDO – Bill McDermott used his first keynote as sole CEO of SAP to relentlessly drive home a message of simplicity. In its products and its processes, McDermott said, the company has to focus on making things easier, and even more consumer-like, in the software world.

“SAP has a bold vision for the future of business, a dream for a simpler world, a simpler SAP, and a simpler customer experience,” McDermott told attendees at his keynote speech kicking off Now here Tuesday morning. “We chose to simple not because it is easy, but because it is hard.”

McDermott showed example of several ways the company is working to make its wares simpler, including mobile-friendly dashboards for products like its Success Factors -based HR software offering.

The drive towards simplicity may seem somewhat ironic for a company that produces products often seen as synonymous with complex, painful deployments. While things have no doubt improved since the hard deployment days of SAP R3, no one would say any platform is typically seen as an easy deployment job. But McDermott said those criticisms leave him “with a huge chip on his shoulder, and a huge chip on 67,000 other shoulders here at SAP,” and all the more determined to fight the fight.

“We want to, and we will, beat complexity,” McDermott said. “We’ve been fighting complexity for 43 years, and we’re at the inflection point.”

As one of the company’s most solid moves towards helping customers make their SAP deployments simpler, McDermott announced that its SAP Fiori software, used to re-architect business processes into ones that are more user-friendly, will now be freely available to all of the company’s customers.

“Fiori will help you design processes from ten clicks to two, and offer a consumer-grade user experience,” he said, noting that it covers “300 of the highest-demand processes in our business suite.”

Existing customers will get a credit with SAP for their purchase of the software.

There are also internal issues of complexity to battle, McDermott admitted. Its own effort to become simpler has seen it flatten management layers down somewhat, in what McDermott described as an effort to “be closer to our employees, our customers, and their dreams than ever before.” And while there has been a fair bit of shakeup at the company in the wake of McDermott’s appointment as sole CEO, he stressed that the company is not looking to cut jobs to cut costs, instead preferring to make sure resources are aligned with growth opportunities.

“At the end of this year, we will have more employees than we started the year with,” he said in a post-keynote press conference. “But if you’re working on yesterday’s product instead of tomorrow’s dreams, you may need to be re-deployed.”

The chief executive said that Wednesday at the conference, SAP will show off what he called “SAP Simple Finance,” the ability to search general ledger and other business financial information in a consumer-like interface, based on the company’s in-memory systems.

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