How Accurate Was ComputerWorld on SAP’s Simplicity Push Is Not So Simple?

Executive Summary

  • ComputerWorld, which takes income from SAP wrote an article about how simple SAP’s simplicity push was.
  • We analyze the accuracy of this article.


On August 25, 2014 ComputerWorld published the article SAP’s Simplicity Push Is Not So Simple.

In this article, we will review the article for accuracy.

Article Quotations

“SAP has long grappled with the side effects of its software being perceived as both sophisticated enough to meet the specific needs of almost any company but also complex, expensive and unwieldy.”

SAP’s Complexity is Merely a Perception

The beginning of this article is a problem because it implies that the software is perceived. However, this is not a perception. SAP being not only complex but unnecessarily complex. This pushes the article towards probably pushing SAP’s marketing message that SAP’s obvious complexity is simply a perception. ComputerWorld has some type of financial relationship with SAP that means ComputerWorld normally acts as simply a passive marketing channel for SAP.

HANA is Attached to Everything SAP Does?

“Under CEO Bill McDermott, SAP is pledging to make both its software and its customer-interaction processes simpler. At the Sapphire conference in June, McDermott unveiled Simple Finance, one of a planned series of Hana-powered ERP applications that use the Hana in-memory computing platform and other technologies to slim down the code base and make the user interface more appealing and productive.

Hana is attached to everything we have, McDermott said in a recent interview.”

Bill McDermott is an unreliable source of information on SAP. He is a lifelong salesman with a yearly compensation of $50 million. Previous statements made by Bill McDermott have mostly proven to be untrue. Once again, he is proven wrong when he says HANA is attached to everything SAP does. Six years after its introduction, it only works with a minority of SAP applications and only has penetration into one application for implementation, which is the SAP BW.

Oracle and SAP as Big Cloud Companies?

Like rival Oracle, SAP is in a transition period as its customers, who traditionally bought perpetual licenses for on-premise deployments, look to adopt cloud-based software that is sold by subscription.

Oracle also receives the vast majority of its revenues from on premises software. Oracle over-reports a number of sales that come from the cloud, but it not very difficult to look under the covers to find out the reality.

SAP’s Run Simple Campaign Must be Fine Tuned?

SAP may need to fine-tune its pledge for more simplicity, says independent analyst Jon Reed. SAP used to sell so much software based on its completeness of functionality, Reed says.

This is a political way of saying that SAP has overstated the “Run Simple” marketing program. Jon Reed is framing it in positive terms, implying that SAP’s complexity is necessary because SAP’s functionality is so complete.

  1. SAP does not have completeness of functionality. SAP lacks functionality where other vendors do have functionality — process industry manufacturing is just one example, and secondly, some of SAP’s functionality that is in the release notes, does not work properly.
  2. Even if a company has “completeness of functionality,” which itself more a term of propaganda rather than a real statement (a more accurate statement would be that an application has a wide breadth of functionality), it does not necessarily follow that this means a great deal of complexity. For example, the vendor Arena Solutions has a wide breadth of functionality for BOM management but is software is easy to use.

One would have to really know close to nothing about SAP to actually believe that SAP is not all of a sudden simple. The entire Run Simple campaign is simply an example of counter marketing. That is attempting to counter a valid negative perception by asserting the opposite.

It is not declared, but Reed is a co-founder of Diginomica, which counts SAP as a funding entity. Therefore, ComputerWorld, which receives funding from SAP and does not declare this, is obtaining a quote from what appears to be an independent source, in this case, Jon Reed, but there is also not declared of Jon Reed’s relationship to SAP. (Diginomica does declare SAP’s sponsorship on the Diginomica website.) But overall this article has both a biased publisher and then employed biased sources.

But a products sheer depth of features is declining in importance as enterprise software buyers adopt newer, more specialized cloud applications.

This is an interesting observation from Jon Reed. But what this means is that SAP is losing its grip on customers. This is consistent with our primary observation of the SAP market, which is covered at [Brightwork Research & Analysis.]

Customers Tell Jon Reed that SAP is Simple to Use?

The more crucial task for SAP is to make doing business with it easier, and that work is far from done, Reed says. SAP at Sapphire put out simplicity as a leadership mantra: Were going to lead you to a simple future, he says. Its a challenge for SAP to live up to. When I hear customers tell me how simple and easy it is to deal with SAP, Ill get on board.

It is hard to fathom who is telling Jon Reed that it’s simple to use SAP. I am a long term SAP consultant going back to 1997, and to do anything in SAP is always more difficult and complex than doing that same thing in any other competing application.

This is covered in the article [Is SAP’s Run Run Simple Real?]

DSAG on the Simple Story

“SAPs message of simplicity is a good story for customers, says Marco Lenck, chairman of DSAG, a German SAP user group. This is the right direction for customers, but it takes investment in terms of time, knowledge and money to get there.”

Marco Lenck’s quotation here is golden. Marco very nice puts the simplicity story in a box, by calling it what it is. He then basically says that SAP has a lot of work to do in the area.

DSAG is really the only SAP user group that does anything close to its mission of representing user interests to SAP. The only one that has the courage to actually stand up to SAP.

Simple is So Hard!

“One CIO of an SAP shop agrees. Simple is really hard, says David Wascom, CIO of Summit Electric Supply and a board member of the Americas SAP Users Group, because all the steps that have to take place in your business dont go away.”

This is more justifying SAP’s unnecessary complexity. What do “all the steps that have to take place not going away” have to do with SAP’s complexity? Complexity is primarily a feature of software design, and SAP designs extremely complex software, but not because the problem it is solving is particularly complex. A good example of this is the SNP optimizer. The SNP optimizer has a bad design. Other optimizers are far easier to use while SNP’s is essentially useless. It seems that this article is commingling complexity with bad design. A good measure of software design is how something that is complex can be made simple to use. A good example of this is Airtable. Airtable makes relational databases almost as easy to use as a spreadsheet. The complexity is hidden from the user.

SAP Becoming More Simple?

“Wascom says that he is seeing some signs of improvement lately from SAP, but he’s hoping for more. One of the biggest challenges I have as a business executive is not how to get SAP to give me some particular piece of functionality, he says. The challenge is managing the risk of my SAP investment. To that end, SAP should improve customers visibility into its product road maps, Wascom says.”

This is actually a pretty severe dig at SAP, if you follow SAP. This is because SAP has probably the most confusing product roadmaps of any software vendor. The reason for this is SAP is constantly proposing things in their roadmaps that they are not able to deliver. They allow marketing to control the roadmap, and more or less tell development what they will do and when they will do it rather than the other way around. This is because at SAP sales and marketing is far more powerful than development.

But that is actually a slightly different issue from the complexity of the software itself.

Does this Quotation Qualify as a Big Message?

“While committed to SAP technology, Wascom offered cautionary advice to any fellow CIOs who are considering the company’s products.

The big message is that SAP, among the platforms I’ve looked at, is the most powerful and most flexible to meet whatever your business needs are, he says. But with great power comes great complexity. Its not like installing Microsoft Word.”

This is a strange comparison. Microsoft employs no one to install Word, it self-installs. SAP projects fund millions of consultants worldwide and SAP projects can go on for years. This is a major driver of revenues for major multinational consulting companies.

At this point, it seems reasonable to assume that people reading this article would know that SAP does not self-install. This quotation seems design to minimize the expense and complexity and SAP.

And once again, the statement is that complexity is a trade off for some virtue. But SAP is far too complicated for what it does, and its complexity is a hindrance to using it effectively. I can provide a long list of software vendors that cover the same areas as SAP, but which has far less complexity because they are simply better designed. The best software works this way.

SAP Needs Ombudspeople?

“SAP would benefit from having simplicity ombudspeople who would guide customers through difficult software migrations and improve the entire customer experience, says independent analyst China Martens.”

Isn’t that what large SAP consulting companies are supposed to do? Aren’t they supposed to be independent?

China Martens has to know that SAP gets very little revenue from consulting, and that SAP outsourced it’s consulting in return for being recommended decades ago. Secondly, the software must be designed better, putting consultants on the issue will really only do so much good. But secondly, SAP’s support has been greatly degraded, so now customers are far more frequently left to fend for themselves than in the past.

Also, SAP will never employ any person who supports the customer’s interests to SAP. That is not the way that SAP operates. Even the large consulting companies, who don’t technically report to SAP, behave as if they do, putting the interests of SAP ahead of those of their clients.


This is a ridiculous article that has ComputerWorld simply allowing a framework to be built up where SAP in a way is praised for trying to become less complex. Still, it contained insights from some of the quotations which showed clear frustrations with SAP, but were couched in a way so as not to seem too critical of SAP. ComputerWorld receives a 3.5 out of 10

ComputerWorld is not actually checking on anything provided to them. This is a very low-quality way to write an article.

Three years after this article was written, the Run Simple marketing campaign was canceled a while ago. It’s only impact was to be used by sales and marketing to try to deceive customers and prospects into thinking that SAP was something that it isn’t, which is simple.

Financial Disclosure

Financial Bias Disclosure

This article and no other article on the Brightwork website is paid for by a software vendor, including Oracle and SAP. Brightwork does offer competitive intelligence work to vendors as part of its business, but no published research or articles are written with any financial consideration. As part of Brightwork’s commitment to publishing independent, unbiased research, the company’s business model is driven by consulting services; no paid media placements are accepted.

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