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Run Simple at SAPPHIRE NOW: “Don’t Forget to Sell Shirts and Shoes.”

IMG_1876.JPGWhat does it really mean to Run Simple?

This question is driving conversation at this week’s SAPPHIRE NOW in Orlando. In his opening keynote, CEO Bill McDermott explained how Run Simple enables digital transformations for businesses. With the right software, these complex transitions can be made “simple.”

But “Run Simple” means more than just speed or ease of use. Simplicity enables us to concentrate on our core missions, values, and goals.

The way I see it, to Run Simple is to focus on what matters.

This is true in life as it is in business. McDermott began his keynote with a story from his early years as a salesman. It took empathy – in this case, compassion for a customer’s cat – to make a big sale.

Empathy is simple.  Empathy is at the core of human nature – and it builds trust that can lead to better relationships.

For today’s transformative businesses, simple means data-driven and seamless. McDermott celebrated Under Armour as a company that has continued to meet the needs of its consumers by going digital and embracing data. Its desire for simplicity has resulted in unencumbered growth.

Growth often leads to complexity. Bigger companies have more products, more employees, and more processes to organize. For Under Armour, growth has also meant expanding beyond their original product line and embracing the digital revolution in athletic wearables.

Yet Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank has been able to make the sophisticated look easy – perhaps because he always remembers his core mission. He is reminded every day by a sign in his office: “Don’t forget to sell shirts and shoes.”

Businesses must remember their core mission, just as humans must remember our essential need for empathy. When we strive for simple, we strive for what is fundamental – even as we are transformed and distracted by new technology.

There is no better place to experience this than at SAPPHIRE NOW, as thousands of SAP customers, partners, and employees descend upon a massive convention center to find solutions to make their businesses run better. This is my first time at SAPPHIRE, and I am shocked at the size of the venue and scope of the program. The logistics are incredibly complex – for example, it took 61 thousand man hours to set up the conference, and just one feature on the show floor (the “octagon”) consists of 16 screens that, if placed end-to-end, are the length of three American football fields.

Yet the sophisticated and seamless execution of SAPPHIRE NOW enables attendees to focus on what matters: building human connections to drive forward important business decisions. In essence, it enables empathy.

“When you make businesses Run Simple you make life Run Simple,” McDermott concluded his keynote. A fundamental goal we should all aspire to reach, both at SAPPHIRE NOW and beyond.

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