Sapphire Now: SAP promises users a 'Roadmap to simple'

But in typical SAP fashion, it looks like the complete roadmap will come out piecemeal over the next few days.

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SAP CEO Bill McDermott

ORLANDO -- The run up to this year's SAP user conference was suspiciously familiar.

During last year's Sapphire Now event, SAP CEO Bill McDermott made a pledge: "SAP is simple from now on."

As promising as that pledge appeared, there's been little progress made over the last year to make simplicity more attainable for core SAP users.

So for this year's iteration of Sapphire, all eyes and ears were back on McDermott to see whether he would recycle the same old "simple" story or if he would finally lay out -- in clear terms -- what simple means and how SAP is moving in that direction.

"This year we are giving you the roadmap to simple," the sliver-haired McDermott said after he quietly sauntered on stage. "Forget about SaaS, that's old school. Now its simple-as-a-service."

In his typical loquacious fashion, McDermott spent most of his keynote building up to a big roadmap reveal. But in typical SAP fashion, it looks like the roadmap will come out piecemeal over the next few days.

Here's what we know so far. Stressing the importance of digitization, SAP is rolling out a supposedly simplified online purchase process designed to provide immediate consumption of digitally-native SAP products.

More specifically, SAP is is making it possible for employees of both enterprises and SMEs to purchase SAP products without a purchase order, invoice or RFP process. This is done via a streamlined contract process, which enables purchasing through a one-click online agreement. According to SAP, individuals will be able to configure their new applications in a few hours or less, without requiring the aid of an IT department.

Obviously that is a bold claim for a company such as SAP, so it remains to be seen how this plays out in practice. However, the enterprise software giant is devoting the new SAP Digital business unit to this effort, making it safe to assume SAP will focus heavily on the digitally native concept going forward.

Continuing the digital theme is the announcement of Digital for Customer Engagement, which SAP calls its first ever purely digital product. In a nutshell, it's a cloud CRM platform designed for individuals, small teams and SMBs (pricing is $29 per user, per month), but with enterprise-grade capabilities.

SAP says the platform is provisioned immediately and can be set up in minutes. Again, that's a lofty standard for SAP's usually cumbersome deployment process to live up to, but so far the on-site demos are upholding the short timeframe.

There were also several partnership announcements sprinkled throughout McDermott's keynote, but most notably is a new collaboration between SAP and Google. At some undisclosed time later this year, SAP will partner with Google to extend visualization capabilities between SAP Lumira and Google Docs. SAP's existing partnership with Google does something similar, as far as linking visualization capabilities, but it's limited to Google Sheets.

According to McDermott, the Google partnership is a way to "simplify work for people in the enterprise."

In other Lumira updates, the software was upgraded with a new in-memory engine designed to deliver better data insights, analytics and visualizations. SAP also bolstered Lumira with data discovery and wrangling with Hadoop.

Additional product announcements include the SAP IT Operations Analytics software, which offers real-time data center insights to help foresee critical events, and the SAP BusinessObject Design Studio, which offers self-service dashboards, geo-mapping, offline capabilities and integration with SAP Lumira.

The Sapphire event runs through Thursday, giving SAP a couple more days to give their "Roadmap to simple" a bit more color.

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