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I’m not sure I should admit how this blogpost came about, but it’s funny, so why not? I was updating my LinkedIn profile, as you do, and found myself trying to explain why I have only been at SAP for the last 15 years! I realised that it didn’t feel really like that, partly because I have done different things and lived in different places, but also because SAP has changed unbelievably in that time. So much so, in fact, that by the time I had finished explaining it, I had exceeded the maximum length of a LinkedIn summary by 1000s of characters! In the mean time, I’ve finished the LinkedIn summary, but I couldn’t bring myself to delete the long version, so here it is ;o)

Personally, I think the *real* change started with the acquisition of BusinessObjects in 2008. This was the first *big* acquisition of SAP. It was SAP admitting, after 26 years (!), that the World of business software was now moving too fast to build everything yourself. If SAP has not realised this, I believe it would be quite irrelevant today, but, luckily, nothing could be further from the truth! SAP went on to do other strategic acquisitions, such as Sybase (in 2010), to get a lead in the mobile space, SuccessFactors and Ariba (both in 2012) to get into the cloud and business networks, hybris (in 2013) to turn CRM into omnichannel commerce and, most recently, Fieldglass and Concur (both in 2014, Concur still to be approved) to strengthen the Ariba Network and build the biggest (“omnicategory”) Business Network the World is ever likely to see. I recently pulled together all the Gartner Magic Quadrants and Forrester Waves I could find and found that SAP is a Leader in 31 out of 35 of them! A lot of this is thanks to these acquisitions and it just goes to show that, when SAP buys, it buys the best! It also pays good money, but hey, you get what you pay for ;o)

   

Today, SAP still has all of its traditional strengths (more integration than anyone else; industry solutions, knowhow and references; truly global reach etc), but it also has one of the broadest, largest and fastest-growing cloud businesses and by far the largest Business Network, which will make SAP the “Google of
business data” and lead to all sorts of new opportunities for its customers. As it that wasn’t enough, SAP took the wind out of Oracle’s sails (which is funny,
if you know what Hasso Plattner and Larry Ellison like to do in their spare time ;o), by re-inventing the database right in front of their eyes. I’m talking about SAP HANA, which is a completely new way of managing data and building software, comparable to going from the horse-driven carriage to the car. Okay, so we don’t always do a good job of explaining HANA (and some people even complain of HANA-fatigue!), but the more time you take to understand it, the more you will realise how revolutionary it really is (and that’s why we can’t shut up about it!) and what incredible things it can do for a business, especially in combination with the cloud, the Business Network, big data, the Internet of Things and so on. The possibilities are endless!

   

Great technology is one thing, but deploying it in the real World is something else, and the one thing stopping them from doing that is complexity, both in business (layers of management, complex-decision making, complex business processes, many approvals etc) and technology (number of applications, vendors, releases, databases, integration etc). Earlier this year, SAP made it its mission to rid customers of this complexity and “Run simple”, so they can grow and innovate. Many people find this ironic, because SAP has been known for the complexity of its own products and processes. It’s fair to say that SAP has sometimes made things more complex than necessary, but, at the same time, SAP has 42 years of experience, in helping many of the World’s largest and most complex organisations solve their most complex business problems, and we believe you have to understand complexity, before you can beat it. Bear in mind that “Run simple” does not mean “doing simple things”, like many of our niche competitors arguably do. It means doing the same complex things as before, but in the simplest possible way. As Albert Einstein said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

   

Having said that, the onus is on SAP to simplify every aspect of its own business – including its products, pricing and processes – and that is exactly what it is doing. Personally, I am amazed at the fast pace at which all of this is happening, but I do also understand the scepticism of (other) SAP oldtimers, who say, “SAP has tried to simplify itself before and it never really worked. What is different this time?” Well, a group of us recently asked that question to our Global Head of Strategy, Deepak Krishnamurthy and his answer was surprisingly… simple ;o) He had two reasons. Firstly, this is the first time the simplicity has been the TOP priority, across all 6 Board Areas, at the same time. Everybody knows it’s not an option anymore and there are no excuses this time. Secondly, we now have technologies that promise massive simplification and are ready for prime time, especially the cloud, to simply all aspects of software consumption (and development), and, of course, HANA, to simplify the IT stack and the customers’ IT landscape. When you (re)build an application on HANA, it becomes much smaller (factor 7-20 less lines of code) and much more powerful at the same time. It’s like having a car with a very powerful engine, but also a very small and light one, which makes it very fast, but also very simple to run (in the cloud or on premise), maintain, extend, everything! SAP is applying this to its entire portfolio and it’s also using it as an opportunity to integrate all its products much better than before, so HANA is not only “the great simplifier”, but also “the great unifier”, and I’m convinced that customers will love it.

Hopefully, I’ve convinced you that “Run simple” is more than a marketing slogan! Personally, I have never felt more empowered to speak up when something
needs to be simplified and I do my own bit, especially in the area of strategy communication. As I also wrote at the end of my LinkedIn summary, Albert Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” And, if you can, your audience will love you for it ;o)

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6 Comments

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  1. Sridhar Bolisetti

    That’s fantastic explanation indeed.  Going forward everything (majorly) will be in the Cloud leveraging HANA for efficient performance and innovations.  Lot of things to learn to abreast with latest technologies.

    Regards,

    Sridhar

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  2. Paul Hardy

    There should be no reason that you should think working for the same company for 15 years looks bad.

    In some cultures the perception is that if you do not move jobs twice a year there is something wrong with you. You have no doubt also heard the “fact” that there is no such thing as a job for life any more.

    There may be no such thing any more as a job for life where you just sit round doing nothing for the whole of it (some government departments were like that, when I was 18 I worked for the UK civil service during my summer at university and no-one did anytihng, there was even a pool table in the office) but where I work, in the construction industry, I have been there 25 years and I am a newcomer. 30,35,40 years are common, one guy hit 50 years the other day( he is going to retire soon).

    Admittedly I have worked in many different countries (UK / Israel / Germany / Australia) on SAP projects so it is not just doing the same thing for 25 years, but in IT things change so fast that, if you keep up with it, every year is your first year of doing something new, even if you stay at the same company.

    Appropo HANA I have been doing a lot of research on this lately and it is as you say – SAP have done a terrible job selling this, they just made everybody sick of the phrase “HANA” whilst still not explaining what it is about .

    However once you delve into the technical guts of thing and start to understand how things work then you start to relise that Oracle should be quaking in their boots.

    As to “simplification” being a wooly marketing term and not being measurable, I would take one small example – the changes in ABAP 740 lead to a reduction in the lines of code you need to write any ABAP program by a vast amount as you have no need to declare variables at the start of each routine any more. This makes programs shorter and easier to follow which makes them more robust (if you don’t really understand something you might break it whilst making a change).

    To end – here is a challenge to SAP – to make life simpler for your customers, why not declare even one day – how about two tuesdays time – as “do not rename any product at all” day? See if that is possible – spend a whole day where at the end of that day every SAP product has the same name as it did at the start of the day. Impossible you may say? Maybe – but surely worth a shot?

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    1. Maarten Vries Post author

      I like the challenge, but I’m not sure SAP is up to it ;o) My vote for silliest name change goes to renaming ERP to ECC. Of course, there was a reason for it (I think we were moving some things from other solutions, like SRM, into the ERP software, so we needed a different name to refer to the ERP product), but it led to loads of confusion, so we changed it back to ERP and officially got rid of ECC (at least, that’s what I heard). The problem is customers had just got used to it by then and you still hear people talking about it today, probably almost 10 years later!!

      That said, I do think there is ONE excuse to change the name of a product and that is to genuinely make it simpler. For example, HANA Enterprise Cloud (HEC) could have been called HANA Managed Cloud (HMC) and HANA Cloud Platform (HCP) could have been called HANA Platform-as-a-Service (HPaaS), which would have been so much easier. Would you also be against changes like that?

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  3. Paul Hardy

    How do you know I am against renaming all four thousand products every day? I might think it is a wonderful thing.

    In real life I am not against doing anything if there is a logical reason behind it. What I am against is “make work” – when someone does something solely to justify their existence in life with no other reason.

    A fine example of “make work” is portfolio management by a portfolio manager at insurance companies. That job involves selling a million shares of BLOGGS LTD and coming up with a reason why they are no longer a good company, and paying a stockbroker loads of money for the transaction, and then a month later buying the shares back again because now BLOGGS LTD is a good company again, and paying the stockbroker again. You do this all year long and at the end of the year end up with pretty much the exact same portfolio you began with, only 5% smaller due to all the transaction costs, but you have been seen to be “active” and thus get a big bonus which the pension holders pay for to thank you for destroying 5% of their pension for no reason.

    Going back to renaming products one sensible reason to do so is when someone in marketing makes a bone headed decision to call a product something nothing to do with its purpose. An example of this was the “River RDE” which did not really have very much to do with the River language, but “River” was a hot topic for marketing that week so they put the word in the name. Later the product was renamed to “SAP Web Development Environment” which was a more accurate name. I am not opposed to that.

    Sometimes, amazingly, when marketing give something a stupid name it is NOT changed. The example here is DUET which was an utter failure, so SAP and Microsoft got rid of it, and came up with a totally new product, different in every way, and then marketing thought it would be a good idea to call it DUET once again. In this case perhaps renaming would have been a good thing.

    Such sensible renaming almost never happens.

    However, BW => BIW => BI => CDF (Corporate Data Factory) => BI => BW.

    What did that achieve?

    Such stupid renaming happens every day.

    I have a good day at work when I do something and can say “that really made a difference to our company” – it made someones’ job easier, removed a tedious manual step, generally made people happier and saved the company money. In my job that happens a lot I am happy to say.

    If at the end of the day someone said “what did you do today” and all I could come up with was “I renamed Solution Manager 3.0 to Solution Manager 7.0, it is the same product but lots of other products end with 7 so I decided that one should as well” then am I actually contributing anything at all to the planet or just being a collosal waste of space?

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    1. Maarten Vries Post author

      Totally get it! I never knew BW had had all these names! I was only aware of BIW => BW. So I guess you’re not a fan of names like Lumira then? I see what they were trying to do, but I think its more in keeping with Run simple to “say what it does on the tin”, in this cade SAP Agile Visualization or something.

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  4. Maarten Vries Post author

    Hi all – In the mean time, we’ve launched SAP S/4HANA, which not only embodies all the principles of Run Simple, but also signals a big wink to the past, even in its name! I’ve just done a video called “S/4HANA on a Napkin” (S/4HANA) and, in this picture, I have visualized that wink to the past. The SAP oldtimers will know exactly what I’m talking about ;o) Check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HDVafvli5UE

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