As software vendors tend to do during their big annual user conferences, SAP made a lot of promises to customers this week at Sapphire. The overarching theme was a desire to make SAP's software simpler and its customers' lives easier.
Like any promise, SAP's pledge will only be as good as the follow-through. Here's a look at the work that lies ahead, as well as some important conclusions drawn from Sapphire's content.
It's wait and see on Simple Suite
SAP used Sapphire to unveil Simple Finance, a new version of its core financials application that takes advantage of the Hana in-memory computing platform and uses a simplified data model. It plans to give other Business Suite modules the same treatment.
SAP will continue supporting other databases for the suite, such as Oracle. But co-founder Hasso Plattner made it clear in public remarks this week that suite customers who want the best new innovations should go the Simple route.
However, that will require an investment in Hana, which only a small percentage of SAP customers have bought so far, whether through direct purchases or as part of a subscription-based deployment of Simple Suite on SAP's Hana cloud.
It's also early days for Simple Suite. SAP, like many other vendors, has had delivery dates slip well past the original intent. It's not yet clear when SAP will be able to present customers with a fully baked Simple Suite for their consideration, giving competitors more time to lure them away.
SAP also needs to give customers good reasons to make the switch, according to one observer.
"For SAP, adopting Simple Finance enables it to cut down on the vast amount of code it's previously maintained," independent enterprise software analyst China Martens said via email Friday. "For an SAP customer, how do they translate all that into business benefits? That message is in there, but it needs to be the primary message in order to really ramp up adoption."
Sapphire was Bernd Leukert's first major appearance as development chief since he replaced Vishal Sikka, who launched Hana but abruptly left the company recently as part of a management shakeup.
Leukert, a veteran SAP employee, seemed more than prepared to take up Sikka's leadership mantle during Sapphire, speaking with poise and insight both in a keynote session and a press conference with media and analysts.
"There was a confidence with Bernd I was glad to see," said analyst Ray Wang, founder and chairman of Constellation Research.
Hana is growing up
Sikka was so enamored with Hana, he often referred to the software as his "little girl." Extending the metaphor, Sapphire showed that Hana is now more of a young adult, some three years after its general availability.
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