SAP Takes Simplicity Message To Heart

Run Simple becomes the mantra for ERP vendor, its customers


SAP kicked off its biggest annual customer conference with a bang, or simply the unmistakable message of Run Simple.

For a software company that has been known for its ability to help companies tackle complex business problems, the new messaging underscores its desire to unshackle customers from being bogged down by growing sets of business processes often compounded by globalization, technology shifts as well as mergers and divestitures.

Bill McDermott, who became the company’s sole chief executive after Jim Hagemann Snabe relinquished his co-CEO post in May, keynoted on the first day of the three-day conference vowing to instill the Run Simple message across SAP in order to help customers eliminate time-wasting procedures, forms and even one of the oldest ways for facilitating business transactions – bank checks.

By working with partners such as eBay and its Paypal payment service division, SAP expanded the reach of Ariba Networks Spot Buy service in order to simplify such business processes such as indirect procurement without resorting to maverick spending or requiring customers to go through formal tendering.

The new positioning of SAP is not unique. Its chief rival Oracle has been jumping onto the simplicity bandwagon for a long time paying heed to customer complaints about its ballooning product portfolio and overlapping sales and marketing coverage.

SAP has done its part to simplify pricing including the moves to offer at no extra charge for Fiori, its new user interface that has gained popularity with a tile look and feel that underscores the simplicity message – minimizing the number of key strokes in order to optimize end-user productivity.

Rob Enslin, president of SAP Customer Operations, added that the company has also simplified its pricing scheme, despite falling short of publicly releasing its price list on its website.

With many of the thousands of SAPPHIRENOW attendees paying greater emphasis on Cloud software delivery than ever, SAP faced the delicate challenge of crafting a message that underscored its commitment to the Cloud, while sustaining interest of its current installed base of largely on-premise customers.

Company executives reiterated choice as the gating factor for customers that may want to retain some of their software behind the firewall, while leveraging use of Cloud applications sparingly.

The simplicity message comes at a time when the company has gone through a major round of reorganization. In May SAP laid off an undisclosed number of employees while reshuffling its executives to better meet its revenue target. That coincided with the abrupt departure of Vishal Sikka, the former chief technology officer and one of the key architects of SAP HANA, which underpins its ambitious database strategy to deny Oracle’s ability to collect revenues by supplying SAP customers with the database needed to run their applications.

There were other changes including Rodolpho Cardenuto, formerly head of its Latin America operations who is now in charge of SAP Global Partner Operation. Bernd Leukert, who replaces Sikka as SAP product chief, used to be in charge of on-premise application development specifically SAP Business Suite. Rob Enslin, a 22-year SAP veteran who has been promoted a number of times with added sales responsibilities, was appointed to the executive board as president of global customer operations.

At SAPPHIRENOW, McDermott said such changes were prerequisites to restoring growth to SAP as he  reiterated the plan of ending 2014 with more employees than what it had earlier this year. In addition the executive changes were instituted in order to help usher in a more integrated global operation. Rather than relying on a handful of people to lead its technology direction, McDermott placed greater value on teamwork and collaboration as its best weapon to drive growth.

With this simplicity message, SAP appears to be reverting to the core attribute of SAP, which takes consensus building to heart. The irony is that a team-work philosophy may not necessarily translate into a simple management approach.

For that to happen, SAP may need more than a new slogan to help accelerate its decision making process in order to become more responsive to its customers and partners, or for that matter the fundamental shifts brought about by Cloud computing that are reshaping how users perceive and manage their application landscape.