SAP's McDermott pushes free Fiori, simplification to appease customers

The new sole CEO gave attendees a keynote full of flare, highlighted with news that Fiori would now be SAP's free UX. Live from SAP's Sapphire Now conference in Orlando.
Written by Natalie Gagliordi, Contributor

ORLANDO — SAP's newly minted sole CEO Bill McDermott practically danced onto the stage, arms waving in concert to the thumping music blasting behind him. The more than 25,000 attendees at the enterprise software giant's annual Sapphire Now conference cheered in an obvious share of enthusiasm, ready to hear what SAP's charismatic new leader had to say.

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McDermott was quick to focus the message of his opening keynote to one word – simplicity. Apparently the man really, really hates simplicity's evil antagonist, complexity, and likens it to a death sentence for the enterprise.

"The most intractable CEO challenge is complexity," McDermott said.

But before critics, pundits, analysts or members of the tech press even had a chance, he lodged his own critique of SAP's history with simplicity.

"There will be those of you that say we can't simplify, that SAP itself has been too complex."

Fair point … so now what?

Well for starters, McDermott said this is a new era for SAP, one that removes the shackles of convolution, both internally and within the company's suite of enterprise products — and it includes freebies.

Succumbing to pressure from customers and perhaps competitors, McDermott announced that Fiori and Screen Personas will now be included with SAP software licenses at no charge. SAP Screen Personas will also be integrated into SAP GUI for HTML.

"SAP is simple from now on."

Arguably SAP's biggest player on its current mission for simplicity and a redefined UX, Fiori is a collection of applications intended to serve as shortcuts to common business functions. Fiori launched during last year's Sapphire, but it reemerged centrally in this year's event with the new consumer-grade user interface and mobile optimization. 


As the new UX for SAP software across multiple devices, including tablets and smartphones, Fiori also represents SAP's play for Millennials. Enterprise software vendors such as SAP are quickly realizing the demand from customers to have business applications feel like a consumer experience, especially since the workforce is increasingly made up of the Gen Y demographic.

"Your digital native consumers are also you employees and they want their work processes to be as consumer oriented as their consumer experiences," he said. "Two clicks and done."

McDermott continued his case that the way forward is simple by focusing on employees. Instead of plopping employees into work processes that they have to learn to work around, give employees the simplest tools that enable them to do their work faster. 

"Show them the sex appeal of the higher purpose," he quipped.

McDermott's next announcement in the name of simplicity came with the introduction of SAP Simple Finance, a set of applications designed to help finance departments move processes to the cloud.

McDermott said the motivation behind Simple Finance came from SAP's own experiences with financial management, which he described as one of the most complex in the business world thanks to the company’s more the 67,000 employees. Simple Finance will aim to give enterprise companies access to real-time data in a searchable environment.

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After a brief on-screen cameo from eBay's John Donahoe (who announced a partnerhsip with SAP's Ariba Network) McDermott took time to talk cloud. 

McDermott stressed that SAP's cloud wasn't just any cloud — there's was integrated, which he said was critical to coming out on top of the competitive cloud landscape. He illustrated the importance with an equation: Cloud + SAP HANA = Simple. HANA not only simplifies the IT stack and the reduction of complexity, McDermott said, it embodies the company and everything it does.

"HANA is he soul of everything SAP does. We moved from responding to the past to predicting the future," he said. "That's the key, the integrated cloud, that is where it's all at."

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