Having recently attended the annual SAP Field Kick-Off Meeting I’ve been immersed in the latest technology advances about HANA, Cloud, Hybris, Ariba, Fiori, etc. etc. Lots of product names and lots of things to think about but even so the one thing that I keep coming back to is something that was one of the themes introduced in the Keynote and that was: SIMPLIFICATION!

With the increase in the number of products in the SAP kitbag this might seem like a bit of a contradiction but the more I think about it the more it makes sense and the more I think I’ve seen this before.

Simplification can be applied across a number of areas, all of which delivering direct and tangible benefits:

  • User Simplification – Consumerisation of Business IT is the phrase, effectively improving the usability of Business Applications based on the expected standards of consumer products. SAP’s strategy is now to develop applications with HTML5, SAP Fiori, thereby significantly improving usability as well as enabling clients to create their own maintainable screens. Market leading Mobile capabilities, the SAP Mobile Platform, ensure that these screens can be exploited widely on different devices. This simplifies the user experience for all users, wherever they may be.
  • Infrastructure Simplification – There are 2 perspectives to this:

    • SAP Cloud capabilities – SAP now claim to be the biggest cloud company and it’s true that significant steps have been made across HR and Digital technologies. The journey is far from complete but it is clear that the availability of a suite of cloud applications that can be integrated, out of the box, with an existing on-premise landscape, or other cloud applications, marks a major step towards simplifying the landscape.
    • SAP In-memory database capabilities – In addition, SAP are now a database company. It’s HANA platform can now underpin Business Suite and as it is optimised it will enable more functionality on fewer pieces of infrastructure by allowing the sharing of databases. The opportunities that this provides are many and diverse but the result will be a simplified infrastructure that is easier and less costly to manage.
  • Application Portfolio Simplification – An additional opportunity that HANA and enhanced cloud products provide is the ability to not only simplify the infrastructure landscape but to do the same across the application portfolio. Gaps in functionality in areas such as e-Commerce have now been filled with Hybris and so there is a great opportunity to simplify the application portfolio at the same time as driving up the level of integration.
  • Process Simplification – The end result of a simplified user interface, infrastructure and application landscape is ultimately simpler, more automated, more efficient processes. This is the aim of any software and by providing a wide portfolio of integrated applications SAP is now able to deliver this to all CXOs including CEO, CFO, CDO, COO and CIO.

And we have seen this all before. The creation of R/2, and the subsequent migration via R/3 to ERP, significantly simplified the back-office application and business processes landscape. The development of an integrated suite of applications under the umbrella of mySAP.com and then Business Suite extended the principle of simplification outside of the back-office and included other areas of the business. With the disruptive nature of Digital Technologies and the significant progress that SAP has made in these areas it looks like it is time for businesses to start considering simplification again as a way to reduce the complexity that is currently inhibiting the opportunity to really drive innovation for business benefit.