How Accurate Was Computerworld on Run Simple and S/4HANA?

Executive Summary

  • Computerworld carried SAP’s message on Run Simple.
  • We evaluate how accurate Computerworld was in their coverage.


The SAP Run Simple is a widely derided joke in SAP circles. In this article, we question how much ComputerWorld got right regarding Run Simple.


“Nothing has earned a reputation for head-banging complexity among IT professionals more than ERP, but as enterprise-resource planning leader SAP tries to recast its image with the slogan “Run simple,” there’s no guarantee that customers will buy it.

SAP hammered the simplicity mantra home in virtually every keynote, conversation and bit of signage at its annual Sapphire user conference last week. Still, the fact remains that enterprise platforms like SAP’s are anything but simple, and neither are their customers. SAP sells to large, multifaceted enterprises, and implementations are a big deal, often requiring outside help.”

At this point, the article makes it seem that it is going to head down a truthful path. The Run Simple program was in exact opposition to how SAP’s software actually works.

“Most organizations don’t buy SAP because they have simple problems to solve,” said Geoff Scott, CEO of the Americas’ SAP Users’ Group (ASUG). “You purchase it because you’re a complex organization with complex business processes.”

ASUG’s Independent from SAP?

ASUG is in SAP’s pocket, and this is an idiotic justification why SAP’s software is co complicated to use and so expensive to implement. It is false because there are many things related to SAP’s complexity that has nothing to do with the organizations that buy SAP, but instead to SAP’s design. However, ASUG only makes statements that are designed to defend SAP.

“It is nice to see that SAP acknowledged that it hasn’t always been a poster child for simplicity, and that clients have struggled in navigating the many offerings and resources available in this huge company,” said Monique Hesseling, a partner with Strategy Meets Action. But it will take time and effort for SAP to overcome the perception that it’s big, complicated, and sometimes difficult to work with, she added.

SAP did not acknowledge this with their Run Simple marketing program. Rather, they stated that customers could run more “simple” with SAP than with competing solutions. This seems to be a projection on the part of Monique Hesseling.

“She does see signs of progress, though, particularly in SAP’s delivery to insurance clients, which are the focus of her firm. Maintenance and service tickets get escalated and dealt with significantly faster than in the past, she said.”

SAP’s Support

This is false. SAP’s support has been in long-term decline as we covered in the article What to Do About SAP’s Declining Support. 

“SAP also responds faster and more accurately to requests for proposals, and she has found greater openness and interest in understanding the customer within the company at all levels.”

It is difficult to know what this means.

“Some of the credit for the pared-down approach goes to SAP’s new S4/Hana in-memory platform, which has simplified much of the technological foundation. By eliminating fixed database aggregates and redundancy, for example, the new system can reduce a company’s data footprint by a factor of 10, SAP says.”

This has nothing to do with the previous statement. One is a statement about being open and understanding the customer, and the transition is to a statement about a technology, which then launches into a nonsensical term called “in memory” which we covered in the article How to Understand Why In-Memory Computing is a Myth.

The Data Footprint Reduction?

The claims of data footprint reduction are also false as we cover in the article The Secret to Not Talking About The Cost of SAP HANA.

“By performing both transactional and analytic processing in the same system, the technology promises throughput that’s between three and seven times faster than the traditional SAP implementation. Analytics can be as much as 1,800 times faster.”

This is not what benchmarking on HANA indicates, as covered in the article HANA as a Mismatch for S/4HANA and ERP. SAP has no benchmarking or other data points to support the claim of analytics being 1,800 faster.

“Overall, SAP cofounder and chairman Hasso Plattner said in a keynote at the conference, the goal is to enable the “boardroom of the future,” where an entire corporation can be run from a smart watch or phone.”

We have already covered this as a “pants on fire” inaccuracy in the article Did Fiori and S/4HANA Actually Run on a SmartWatch?

What Compression?

“You’ve taken a 20TB database and compressed it to 10TB or 5TB — I get that,” he said. “But to us, simple is also about faster and easier configuration, getting people up to speed faster and getting changes into production super fast.”

What is SAP’s obsession with compressing databases? The answer is that HANA is priced per GB. But overall the topic of database compression is not very relevant to non-HANA databases. Oracle 12c and IBM DB2 have no size limit. Database compression does not translate to business value.

“That’s where I want to hold their proverbial feet to the fire,” Scott said. “SAP, if you can deliver on that promise, wow.”

Scott works for ASUG, which is a proxy for SAP. Scott will not be holding SAP’s feet to the fire on any claim.

“SAP needs to make software easier to buy and consume, with modernized deployment options, and it also needs to transform the services market so that software is faster to configure, without as much need for specialist consultants, agreed John Appleby, global head of SAP Hana at Bluefin Solutions.”

This has been proposed for decades, but nothing SAP has introduced, from ASAP to RDS has changed the complexity, implementation duration or cost of SAP implementations. For multiple articles on previous items that were presented to accomplish these objectives see the Brightwork research list A Study Into the Accuracy of SAP.

The Reliability of Jon Appleby?

“S/4Hana is a big step in the right direction,” Appleby said. “The user experience is modern and user-centric, the functional configuration is guided and therefore much faster, and deployment options are varied and meet the needs of modern businesses.

Appleby believes that most customers would embrace the paradigms of S/4Hana if they could, but some may have found their decision delayed by business events or other IT operational issues.”

Jon Appleby is one of the least reliable sources on SAP. He not only has repeatedly been found to provide highly inaccurate information on SAP products, How John Appleby Was So Wrong About His HANA Predictions, but he is Hasso Plattner’s “goto” guy to make massively exaggerated claims about SAP products.

The Reliability of Steve Lucas?

“Steve Lucas, global president of the SAP Platform Solutions Group, acknowledges the challenges associated with promising simplicity in a highly complex technological landscape.

“What we learned after 40 years of building apps is that the stack for building apps had become unreasonably complex,” he said.”

In 2015 Steve Lucas had worked for SAP for a short time, and he came to SAP through an acquisition. Therefore, this quotation seems a bit deceptive. But like Appleby, Steve Lucas has a long history of making inaccurate statements as we covered in the article Analysis of Steve Lucas’ Article on What Oracle Won’t Tell You About HANA.

In our analysis, Steve Lucas not only misleads listeners but does not understand many of the topics on which he speaks.

Advice on Enjoying the HANA Quiz

To see the full screen just select the lower right-hand corner and expand. Trust us, expanding makes the experience a whole lot more fun.



This article receives a score of 3 out of 10, for the acknowledgment that SAP’s applications are complex. However, as with nearly all IT media, ComputerWorld counts SAP as a customer. ComputerWorld is owned by IDG and IDG receives significant income from SAP, a point that IDG does not disclose to readers.

Financial Disclosure

Financial Bias Disclosure

Neither this article nor any other article on the Brightwork website is paid for by a software vendor, including Oracle, SAP or their competitors. As part of our commitment to publishing independent, unbiased research; no paid media placements, commissions or incentives of any nature are allowed.

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What is the Real Story with SAP’s Run Simple?

Executive Summary

  • The Run Simple marketing program by SAP has been quite popular.
  • In this article, we review the accuracy of the Run Simple campaign.


For several years now, SAP has been using the term simple in its marketing and sales. There is Simple Finance, Simple Logistics, the name “Running Simple,” or “Run Simple,” which is used in many SAP presentations. So what does all this simple stuff mean? In this article, I will cover what is behind it and how the concept should be interpreted by buyers and those that study SAP.

I will begin by analyzing some of the statements I was able to find about simplicity from SAP and determine the accuracy of these statements to come to a general conclusion about running simple.

The Effort Put Behind SAP Run Simple

At SAP conferences, SAP and partners drove the concept of SAP Run Simple into the ground. Each partner seemed to have simply worked into their catchphrase, “Run Simple with E&Y.” “Let IBM Show You How to Run Simple.”

For a while, there everything was “SAP Run Simple” and a lot of people who had never worked with the software, or had but had forgotten how it worked, were running around saying how simple everything was going to be. SAP Run Simple was the catchphrase that was on SAP marketing literature, and SAP Run Simple was woven into many different areas of SAP messaging. Of course, the SAP partners picked up SAP Run Simple with an uncountable number of consulting companies using different takes on SAP Run Simple to co-promote with SAP. With SAP Run Simple, everything was supposed to now be simple in SAP.

In his book SAP Nation, Vinnie Mirchandani does an extensive job of covering the history of SAP’s use of the term simple or proposing they will simplify going back to the 1990s.

The High-Level Concept of SAP Run Simple

At the high level, SAP has been fighting the perception that it’s hard to use and that it is expensive. Problems are challenging those perceptions, as they are both true.

  • Is SAP is Difficult to Use?: If you want to produce a forecast, approve a PO, check on inventory, it will be more difficult than in other applications. SAP is known as the most complex enterprise software applications. I say this complexity is a perception — however, as a long time SAP consultant, I can say that it is true. One example of this is how long it takes to get things done in the user interface or the SAPGUI. Another example is how SAP makes integration more difficult than other vendors by preventing the direct interrogation of its database. They are still the only vendor I know of that uses an intermediate document, a relic from the hierarchical data formats of the mainframe era for application integration. Now one might say the complexity is worth it. Whether something is worth its inherent complexity is a separate discussion from whether something is complicated.
  • Interestingly, much of the marketing by SAP that promotes S/4 HANA is how much it simplifies what were complicated things in SAP. The problem though, is that it relies upon simplistic platitudes regarding a simplified data model and on the use of Fiori. However, Fiori is not a user interface. It is a series of apps with a very hazy future. I cover this in the article What is in the Fiori Box? Also, is SAP agreeing that their software is very sophisticated right now?
  • Implementation Costs: SAP has the highest cost implementations in nearly any software category that you want to compare. I know this from working on many SAP projects and comparing them to non-SAP projects. Full TCO calculators on SAP and non-SAP applications show this research and allow people to calculate the TCO for their projects. It is precisely why so many consulting companies recommend SAP. No consulting company suggests lower cost SaaS solutions, which they can’t make the most money on.

I am bringing up this information above as a simple background as to why SAP is motivated to present their systems as easier to use.

The “simple” campaign is part of changing the perception.

Understanding the Marketing of SAP Run Simple

Let us take a look at some of the marketing statements on Running Simple. Here is one that caught my eye.

If we simplify everything, we can do anything. SAP helps you streamline your processes, so you have the agility to create new growth opportunities for your business with the world’s most innovative platform.

There are a lot of statements like this on the SAP website. The first part of the paragraph is a platitude or a nursery rhyme. Much like the phrase “if you don’t stand for anything, you will go far for everything,” or “if the glove does not fit, you must acquit.” It is a sentence designed to appeal to our reptilian brains. The last part of the paragraph is entirely untrue.

SAP is not the world’s most innovative platform. Also, SAP is not a platform. Every single area of functionality that SAP internally developed it has copied from someplace else (I speak only of the applications SAP developed. I don’t know the acquired applications well enough to make that claim — but those are not SAP applications). That is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as it is credited, but saying you are the most innovative platform does not acknowledge where you obtained these ideas. Like Microsoft, SAP can say that it is big. It can say that it is successful. It can claim enormous monopoly power, that it has the most highly compensated consultants in IT.

However, it cannot claim innovation.

I can list of vendor after vendor that has participated in true innovation. I don’t want to just list them here, but I point out innovative functionality in software vendors at SCM Focus. Let us show some respect for the true innovators. This reminds me of a tension-filled interaction between Tywin Lannister and Joeffry on Game of Thrones. At one point Jeoffry, to establish his authority, states, “I am King!” Tywin Lanister responds, “Any King who has to say, “I am King!” is no true king.”

It is amusing. See the clip below:

[tube][/tube] Wouldn’t Tywin say the same thing to SAP for saying they are the most innovative platform in enterprise software? I think he would.

In an article on the topic of making things simple by Frank Scavo, he presented the following areas where SAP was proposing it was more simple with its newer products.

  1. A Simpler Code Base
  2. A Simpler User Interface
  3. Simpler to Implement
  4. Cloud Deployment Simplifying Ongoing Support
  5. Making SAP Simple to Deal With

Let’s go through each of the quotations individually, and then analyze whether the information provided by SAP in each area is true or likely to be true.

A Simpler Code Base

Under HANA the applications can now simply record transactions and not have to create any summarized data fields for later reporting. With HANA, reporting always goes back to the source data in memory to build aggregated data fields on the fly. This shrinks the size of the programs, greatly reducing the number of lines of code, making them less error-prone and easier to debug. It also means that users can now drill down from summary data to details in any way they choose, without having to write special reports or customize the code.

True or False?: Some aspects of column based databases are more simple than row-based databases (what HANA proposes to replace). However, nothing definitive can be said either way. I cover this in Does S/4 HANA Have a Simplified Data Model? SAP has been like a dog with a bone on this one, and they are entirely mistaken on this topic.

These are a second point that the code in the application layer has been cut down and simplified. This has repeatedly been referred to by SAP. However, this comment by an architect in the book SAP Nation 2.0 makes me question this proposal.

“What SAP has done with S/4 is simplify the underlying structure through database views in HANA. So it’s another layer on top of the database that compounds very granular underlying database tables into logical business constructs; something that has always been done by the application logic in SAP (the data in SAP is dumb — all the intelligence is in the logic) And since that SAP logic is all process driven in the “order to cash” or “procure to pay” themes, making business sense of that data can be a real bitch. What it is NOT is a material reduction in tables or a simplification of the data structure. Buy definition, it can’t be because those hundreds of million lines of ABAP code all point to those original tables in some way; so until the code is rewritten, the tables still need to exist. And that includes all the customer customizations…”

Additionally, I find this quotation very confusing because my understanding was that all the ECC tables had been converted into columnar tables, and all the code in S/4 in the application layer had been rewritten to address those column based tables.

This quotation calls this into question.

“It’s another layer on top of the layers that already exist. It is additive. And the more layers, the more issues with context and integrity — and the more challenges in maintaining relationships when the underlying tables change. Also, though the views are great for getting things out, but they really can’t put  things back. So it’s really analytics only. To put it back in SAP, you have to follow the old rules and it has to go to the original tables.”

If this architect is correct, then I was misled by several people from SAP that pitched S/4 HANA to a broader group over a year ago and me. Of course, they were just repeating a message they were told to repeat and probably did not know themselves.

Secondly, HANA will take longer to implement, and there is less in the way of skills to manage any HANA complexity compared to competing databases. This is because there are fewer HANA skills in the market than for the competing databases that could be used. This is similar to buying an uncommonly purchased car — it will mean less available mechanics to work on it.

So more likely than not, HANA is a more complex implementation than implementing without HANA. There may be some maintenance benefits from HANA versus more traditional databases, as there are fewer indexes (which I cover in several articles here). But again HANA has other complexities that come along with it. Here are why SAP’s comments on HANA are so unreliable:

  • SAP misstates both the origin and advantages of column-based databases. None of the technological underpinnings to HANA are exclusive to SAP, and in fact, none of them were invented by SAP.
  • SAP routinely lists the advantages of HANA without listing the disadvantages.

That means any statement by SAP on HANA must be put through a reality blender, to get a balanced final output.

The Verdict? Most Likely Untrue.

A Simpler User Interface:

SAP Fiori provides the user interface for Simple Finance. Fiori apps operate across desktop and mobile devices to provide a simplified user interface for SAP’s applications. They are not just a new presentation layer but in many cases combine SAP transactions into a single user process. For example, entering a manual payment in Accounts Payable can now be done in a single screen instead of the multiple screens it previously required in SAP. On a side note, after much push-back from customers, SAP announced that Fiori apps will now be delivered at no charge to customers under maintenance, removing one barrier to adoption of Simple Finance.

True or False?: Fiori cannot be the user interface for Simple Finance, or what is now just “Finance.” It can’t be the user interface for all of S/4 HANA when it is eventually released in what now looks like next year. I explain why this is the case in the article What is in the Fiori Box?

The user interface for S/4 HANA will be the same (outside of some Fiori apps here and there) will be SAPGUI. Companies that want to get a modern interface need to seek out third parties that are far better at modifying and representing the SAPGUI than SAP is.

The Verdict? Untrue.

Simpler to implement?:

Implementation tools and methodologies are built right into the application, based on SAP’s previous work with its Rapid Deployment Services. These include wizard-like tools to guide and configure the applications. There are data migration tools to map data from existing systems into Simple Finance—whether from previous versions of SAP or from other systems. Implementation testing is also managed within the system itself. In addition, Simple Finance is integrated with SAP’s collaboration system, Jam, to encourage knowledge exchange. If a user runs into problems, for example, he or she can reach out to other users for help.

True or False?: The Rapid Deployment Services of RDSs are a jumble of mostly already existing material that has been repackaged. For instance, it includes:

  • Best Practices documentation, which isn’t best practices. That is another topic that I cover in this article Evidence for SAP’s Best Practice Claims.
  • Configuration documentation
  • Some confusing flow charts
  • Various documents of different types depending upon the RDS in question.
  • Some demo data, again, very much depending upon the RDS in question.

A lot of this has been around for quite some time, and is just repackaged into “RDSs.”

I can’t speak to the proposed data migration tools mentioned in the quote. It’s hard to see how implementation testing could be performed in the application.

Jam is an unknown quantity at this point, and it is not enough to hang your hat on. Overall, one would have to see new SAP applications installed more quickly than older applications before anything definitive can be said.

On November 30, 2015, Hasso Plattner published How to Understand the Business Benefits of SAP S/4 HANA Better.

This article shows some clear frustration on the part of Hasso with the well documented fact that SAP’s customers are having a problem seeing the value in S/4 HANA.

Let’s understand each of Hasso’s observations and see how they stack up. You can first read Hasso’s article, which I have provided the link above, and then read this one as I have taken out what I think are the most important quotes. I have each of the quotes and my comments organized under the exact headings that are from Hasso’s article.

Hasso on The Reduction in Complexity from S/4 HANA

“For years our customers complained about the complexity of the business suite and asked for simplification. Now some fear they have to relearn a lot and that will cost time and money. The simplification of the UI is real and will save time with the first day of productive use. The business functionality of the transactions is still the same but comes in a much more efficient form.

The dramatic simplification of the data model, the fact that any field can be used as an index for selecting data and the unprecedented short response times are allowing for much faster development cycles of new applications. The deployment of extensions in SAP HANA Cloud Platform is an elegant way to enhance SAP S/4HANA systems or to build completely new applications. SAP S/4HANA combines the proven set of core business functionality, in many languages and for nearly all countries, with the ability to venture into completely new dimensions of applications. This capability is key when business processes are developing at an ever increasing speed and core enterprise systems cannot just be complemented by point solutions but have to also accommodate these changes.  This reduction in complexity also lowers the threshold for smaller companies to switch to SAP S/4HANA.”

Let’s look into the detail in each area brought up by Hasso.

  • For Years Our Customers Complained About the Complexity of the Business Suite (ECC): Yes, this is true. However, most of the complaints did not have to do with what HANA is improving. Many of the companies did have to do with the SAPGUI. However, again SAP buyers cannot expect Fiori to cover many of the ECC screens for some time. So Fiori will be used along the same old SAPGUI. Therefore, complaints will continue.
  • The Dramatic Simplification of the Data Model: I cover in Getting Clear on S/4 HANA, that it is debatable whether HANA simplifies the data model.
  • ..The Ability to Venture into Completely New Dimensions of Applications: It is hard to see how this is true. S/4 has a (partially) new UI. And Fiori can be customized much more easily than SAPGUI. However, it is still a lot of work, and there is not a consensus on Fiori yet in terms of whether it will stick longterm. The later part of this paragraph is a sort of fanciful sales talk, and its challenging to address what Hasso is describing.

The Verdict? Some Things are Untrue; Others are Unknown.

Cloud Deployment Simplifying Ongoing Support

SAP also wants run simple in how customers keep their applications up-to-date. Like most traditional on-premises vendors, the majority of SAP customers are not on the latest releases of its products. The reason is that applying new versions (in SAP lingo, “enhancement packs”) is often a labor-intensive activity—testing the new code, retrofitting any customizations, regression testing to be sure nothing gets broken, and migrating data. SAP’s solution is to take over these responsibilities by hosting customers’ systems in SAP’s HANA Enterprise Cloud (HEC). This program, already rolled out to some early SAP customers, is essentially a managed services offering in which SAP takes all responsibility for day to day operation of the system in SAP’s own data centers. Notably, SAP also takes responsibility for keeping the customer’s system up to date with the latest enhancement packs and bug fixes. It even supports systems with custom modifications.

True or False?: This one is pretty easy. This quote is several years old, and this has not happened. Some of this may be related to price, and some to simply SAP trying to be good at something that it does not have experience in. However, there is no momentum for this year after the HEC was introduced. Everything at the beginning of this quotation above is still the case today.

The Verdict? Untrue.

Making SAP Simple to Deal With

Bill McDermott is always good for some major whoppers. I question how good McDermott is a spokesman at this point for SAP because he has built up a history of saying things that turn out not to be true. It is probably a good time for him to take is stock options and for SAP to bring in a new fresh face to pitch this crazy stuff.

He (McDermott) continued: “For customers, we’re committed to a beautiful user experience. We will make it simple to do business with SAP: simple pricing, pay-as-you-go in the cloud, simple web experience.”

Those are big promises. Anyone who has negotiated an acquisition of SAP software knows that SAP contracts are incredibly complex.  Pricing is opaque, with many various types of named users defined for each product. SAP’s terms and conditions around indirect access (when other systems access information from an SAP system) are onerous.

The result is that it is nearly impossible for an SAP customer to be fully compliant. When SAP does an audit of a customer’s use of SAP products—which it has the right to do—it will find problem, if it looks hard enough.

Even finding the right person in SAP’s organization to deal with is not a simple matter. Whether it is the result of having a worldwide organization or peculiarities of German corporate governance, it is difficult to understand who reports to whom, or who is responsible for what.

True?: I don’t think I need to add anything to what Frank Scavo said.

The Verdict? Untrue.

SAP Run Simple

SAP has a huge media influence. The advantages of being big are real. SAP can simply reach out to most media outlets and find them compliant with most messages that SAP has to give them. SAP is a major advertiser, so that combined with being big goes a long way to getting their message out.

If a media outlet presents this information without commentary, which they often do, and if SAP does this through a lot of media outlets, then it can seem that the media outlet is endorsing SAP’s marketing machine, when that may not be their real intent. However, if SAP quotations are provided without objective commentary from the article author, then it is effortless to create an echo chamber. That is, a lot of pollyannish statements are made by SAP that becomes taken for granted.

Was SAP Run Simple Ever and Accurate Concept?

I have worked in SAP since 1997, and I don’t recall anything in SAP to be simple. SAP may be the standard and it may be robust. But it is not simple. I have noticed a strong correlation between people who propose SAP’s new simplicity and how far away they are from SAP applications, and i.e., how little they know. And of course, it’s much easier to believe something complex is simple — if you don’t have to do the work yourself to configure or setup said system.

Secondly, there was always a problem with using the term “simple” as part of a production name that SAP marketing never picked up on. The word “simple” is a superlative adjective, and adjectives don’t make a lot of sense as part of application names. And after a while, it makes more sense just to drop the identifier as it only becomes redundant. This would be like calling a system “handsome” or “fantastic.” Let us apply this to another application, say the SAS Forecast Server, would become the:

“SAS Outstanding Forecast Server”

See…it just does not work.

Secondly, S/4HANA is not simple. Parts of S/4 HANA can use the Fiori user interface, but quite a bit about S/4HANA is more complex. This includes all the changes that are a part of S/4HANA that need time to be understood and incorporated correctly into companies.

What Happened to Run Simple?

Then just as quickly as SAP Run Simple had arrived on the scene, the term was removed from the SAP marketing literature. Simple Finance was renamed to just Finance. Simple Logistics was renamed to several different items, but the word simple was no longer used. SAP Run Simple had run its course as a term to use.

ComputerWorld on SAP’s Run Simple

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

In this article, we will review the material 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 evident complexity is simply a perception. ComputerWorld has some type of financial relationship with SAP that means ComputerWorld acts typically as merely 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 several 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 favorable 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 correctly.
  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, vendor Arena Solutions has a wide breadth of functionality for BOM management, but its software is easy to use.

One would have to know close to nothing about SAP to 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 product’s 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 inspection 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 nicely 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 the only SAP user group that does anything close to its mission of representing user interests to SAP. The only one that dares to 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. An excellent example of this is the SNP optimizer. The SNP optimizer has a lousy design. Other optimizers are far easier to use, while SNP’s are mostly 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. An excellent 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 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 always 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 are far more powerful than development.

But that is 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 appears designed to minimize 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 like 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 only do so much good. But secondly, SAP’s support has been dramatically 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 in 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.

Advice on Enjoying the S/4HANA Quiz

To see the full screen, just select the lower right-hand corner and expand. Trust us, expanding makes the experience a whole lot more fun.



SAP Run Simple, which is supposed to apply to S/4HANA makes no sense. Particularly when SAP Run Simple is supposed to apply to just about everything from S/4 to Fiori to HANA when all of these items are new and will require years of burn in to reach the stability of the products they are replacing.

It is no easy feat keeping up with SAP’s S/4HANA terminology. SAP went through a period where they invested mightily in what was mainly a false marketing construct — that the new applications were somehow simple.

Basically, for all of SAP’s emphasis on their Simple program, it’s hard to find any substance to any of it. That is, there is no evidence that new SAP applications will be any simpler, in actually any dimension than previous applications.

  • SAP has made some proposals, but they are easily disproven and are designed to exploit those with little understanding of SAP.
  • Other proposals are unknown and depend upon seeing the results in the field. However, they are presented as if they are already proven. This is a consistent theme in SAP’s writing. Unproven conjecture and bragging are presented as if it is an academically researched and settled topic.

The “Run Simple” program was directed at people who are easily tricked. It was a major way that SAP sold HANA and S/4HANA as we cover in the article Does HANA Have a Simplified Data Model and Faster Reconciliation? However, within a few years, Run Simple was a dead marketing program at SAP.

Financial Disclosure

Financial Bias Disclosure

Neither this article nor any other article on the Brightwork website is paid for by a software vendor, including Oracle, SAP or their competitors. As part of our commitment to publishing independent, unbiased research; no paid media placements, commissions or incentives of any nature are allowed.

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I cover how to interpret risk for IT projects in the following book.

Does SAP S/4HANA Actually Have a Simplified Data Model & Faster Financial Reconciliation?

Executive Summary

  • SAP has proposed that HANA and S/4HANA has a simplified data model.
  • We validated these claims, including different account silos, faster reconciliation, understanding the performance of the columnar database.

Introduction: A Simplified Data Model?

SAP has been very consistent in pointing to the benefits of S/4HANA’s simplified data model and as part of its SAP Run Simple marketing program.

However, after listening to this sometimes, and reading on quite a bit of SAP marketing literature, I began to question this assertion of the SAP Run Simple program. In this article, you will learn whether S/4HANA has a simplified data model.

Interpreting SAP Run Simple Related to S/4HANA and HANA

When watching a presentation by SAP, or reading through documents related to S/4HANA and HANA generally, the proposed benefits “come at you” very fast.

It takes some time to sit down and look at each of the proposals individually to determine if they are either accurate or likely to be true.

Importance of Verifying the Simplified Data Model for SAP Run Simple

Understanding the concept of SAP’s proposal regarding a simplified data model is essential as it is used as a foundation on which to build an argument for other benefits, one of the most important beings that overall S/4HANA is more simple to use. However, the one I will use in this article is the proposed benefits of financial reconciliation.

The SAP states clearly regarding S/4HANA having a simplified data model for SAP Run Simple.

Jens Kruger from SAP has a video on S/4HANA, and he states that.

“S/4HANA offers a simplified data model.”

And that…

“All data is available without reconciliation, leaving financial departments to strategic tasks instead of just doing administrative functions. How can this be done? This is based upon a simplified data model. The simplified data model enables insights into financials data. “

He then goes on to say:

 “All of those silos required a reconciliation in order to get a consistent view on the data. And therefore getting instant insight into data across all silos is not possible. Therefore, the power of SAP HANA underneath the universal journal entry creates a single source of truth, and there is no reconciliation needed.”

 “Under a traditional close, it is consists of a lot of steps. They must be performed in a batch fashion since they are just running too long. With the SAP HANA platform we are now able to reduce this.”

And Jen also provides specific speed improvements.

Here is where the proposed speed improvements are declared by SAP. This is interesting because I had never heard that reconciliation was negatively impacting so many global FI/CO implementations, which is what Jens Kruger is proposing. 

Different Accounting Silos?

Jens identification of Financial Accounting Documents, Controlling Documents and Profitability Documents as separate silos are strange. These are all integrated transactions within the FI/CO module currently in ECC. However, his point seems to be that reconciliation times in ECC presently make them break into different silos.

This video from SAP also claims that financial reconciliation is much improved.

S/4HANA’s Data Model

Let us clarify what a data model is before we go through to validate the claim regarding its simplification.

A data model is the set of tables and the relationship between tables that are used — in this case — for the application to call upon. I have included just a small part of the data model in SAP ECC related to Work Centers, the Bill of Materials and the Production Version.

A simplified data model would mean that the tables and the relationships, as well as the primary versus secondary or supporting tables, are simplified. However, it can only partially say to be true of HANA. Here is why: 

  1. The Use of Columnar Tables
  2. Relationships Between the Tables
  3. Fewer Indices and Aggregation Tables

The Use of Columnar Tables

HANA uses columnar tables, which means that many tables are a single column. This, of course, significantly increases the number of necessary tables. Because the previous tables need to be emulated for people that need to see and work with the data, the data model is not simplified.

Relationships Between the Tables

SAP’s point is probably that they cleaned up the relationships, and having reviewed many previous SAP tables and modeled the tables in ERD diagrams, I can say that many of the tables and the relationships between the tables were indeed convoluted in their design.

When software development happens, the idea is that all the tables are laid out ahead of time. But the reality is that often the tables are added in a more holistic way, and much of ECC was written before more advanced data modeling tools were available.

Fewer Indices and Aggregation Tables

There are fewer database speeding mechanisms needed, like aggregates and indices, but this is not the actual data model. SAP may be using a shorthand here that when they refer to the term “data model” they mean all of the tables used in the database. I think that could be a fair point. Columnar databases indeed tend to need fewer supporting tables. However, HANA still uses aggregates, although they call it something else. It is right on the SAP HANA website. Aggregates are beneficial because they are precomputed combinations that are always reused.

What should be apparent from the bullet points above is that the “data model” simplification that is so breezily referred to by SAP is not definitive in any shape or form. With a columnar database, some areas become more simple, other areas more involved. Overall, there are also complexities involved with a new database, so I would predict that HANA will be more complicated than a company’s previous database installation. That is the issue with new products, and the more new, the more unpredictable outcomes.

I cover these types of risk interpretation topics in the book Rethinking Enterprise Software Risk: Controlling the Main Risk Factors on IT Projects. One of the issues I bring up in the book is if the software vendor has too much influence over the consulting company, the outcome can be highly risky projects being proposed.

SAP and SAP’s surrogates have pushed the idea that HANA provides simplification of an IT environment. For example, in an article on HANA, John Appleby (an SAP surrogate) made the following statement.

“Most organizations spend a substantial amount on BI projects, and with BW on HANA they will either spend less (fewer full time employees or consultants) or achieve more for the same, in a shorter elapsed time. Our benchmarking suggests that project build times are 20-30% less with BW on HANA, leading to an overall saving of 10-12% or more for capital projects.”

We analyzed SAP’s proposal that HANA’s data model is simplified in the article Does HANA Have a Simplified Data Model?

In this article, we will evaluate this proposal of simplification from another dimension.

Lack of Simplification to HANA

The following quotation is from a reliable and verified source that works in databases (but one who prefers to remain anonymous).

“On the overall topic of “simplification” from the database layer into application tier point of view currently HANA looks like anything but simplification forcing significant re-mapping of functionality between different, new modules, the deployment of the Universal journal, the 400 page HANA simplification guide, etc etc.”

These are, of course, the areas of HANA that customers tend to not find out about until after they have either engaged in a HANA POC or implemented HANA.

“In essence SAP have partially switched from the need to develop and regression test over multiple AnyDB choices to sustain the PAM / Client NetWeaver platform choice, to forced client migration of functionality between modules and cloud (SCM is a good example roughly half the function lands in S/4HANA, roughly half in the Cloud based IBP functionality) with multiple version / functional interdependencies.

Also, HANA appliance building block sizes are not very granular.

This to me simply looks switching one set of challenges for another, it’s not really simplification.”

Simplified Data Model = Faster Reconciliation as Part of SAP Run Simple?

Is it the simplified data model that speeds reconciliation and therefore creates a single version of the truth? As I just discussed, using a columnar database uses fewer assisting or secondary tables. But it also creates a lot more tables, with many more relationships, in addition to having to generate the views of the previous tables of ECC as it is illogical to work with just a bunch of columnar tables.

If you go into ECC on HANA, you will see all the same tables that you have seen before because they are emulated by HANA — so how much this is simpler depends upon your point of view.

Understanding the Performance of the Columnar Database

Secondly, a columnar database like HANA will underperform a standard row based (aka relational database) in transaction processing — and this includes year-end close (all other things being equal).

When HANA is proposed to be universally virtuous in performance in all situations, remember that a columnar database only outperforms relational databases for analytical applications. However, S/4HANA is intended to sit only on HANA (although I see this exclusivity changing in the future). But HANA uses much more expensive and higher speed hardware, so the increase in speed, in this apparent non-analytical application, will come from more costly and higher speed hardware only.

Therefore, the statement that HANA’s “simplified data model” will lead to faster reconciliation is not valid.

Why Faster Hardware is Actually What Will Lead to Faster Reconciliation

However, if we give it some consideration, this faster settlement will be equally available, a company that would simply port its current ECC system to faster hardware.

Multiple Versions of the Truth?

It seems that SAP is changing the previous story on ECC to make points for S/4HANA. I don’t think that SAP would be talking about how slow its reconciliation and period closing is in ECC if they were not trying to sell S/4HANA (call me cynical). If this is all true about reconciliation latency, then the question is do other software vendors face this issue.

To find out, I reached out to two financial vendors, Intacct and FinancialForce, two accomplished vendors in the area of financial applications, to determine if they have similar reconciliation problems. Neither of them uses an in-memory database. Neither of them seemed to have heard of the difficulties with reconciliation and period closing that is described by SAP. When I spoke to FinancialForce, they had the following to say about reconciliation and period closing in their system:

“You need to do all the things to setup the year end, and we have an automated button that performs all of the reconciliation. The a button is hit and the journals are created for you. This is not even a batch job process — in that it may take 30 minutes to 2 hours, with 2 hours being on the very long side.”

Therefore, what amounts to a quarterly or yearly process takes, in most cases, roughly 45 minutes. So if we take SAP’s proposal, S/4HANA will cause save 420 hours on the quarterly close. If that is the number of hours saved, how many total hours are present ECC systems taking exactly? That just sounds terrible.

Something which is not being adequately explained by SAP is that there are things to check before reconciliation is performed.

Reconciliation Speed Issues?

ECC’s hardware, not the data model of ECC versus S/4HANA, is what is attributed to reconciliation speed changes. But secondly, two financial vendors are unaware of the batch problems in their systems that SAP has attributed to ECC.

Here are some important things to consider when interpreting the message of reconciliation and period closing, as described by SAP:

  • It should be remembered quarterly closing is only a small portion of the activities performed within FI/CO.
  • Finance is not an area that requires a lot of computing power, and SAP is stretching here to find something that can help sell S/4 Simple Finance.

Advice on Enjoying the S/4HANA Quiz

To see the full screen, just select the lower right-hand corner and expand. Trust us, expanding makes the experience a whole lot more fun.



The information provided by SAP on this topic is convoluted, and once broken down into its constituent pieces, it does not add up. Jens Kruger of SAP is commingling several different topics to make a case for S/4HANA Simple Finance, but the items that he attributes to HANA are not related to what he calls out. All of this is part of the attempt to fit into the SAP Run Simple marketing program. However, SAP Run Simple has little to do with reality. SAP Run Simple is nothing more than a marketing construct.

There is also appears to be an exaggeration on the part of SAP as to the impact of quarterly closes. This is not the first time I have seen this type of proposal from SAP. SAP also uses the example of long run times for MRP used to justify Simple Logistics. Why these issues have not been brought up more on articles on S/4HANA is a concern. However, I suppose that allows me to provide some outstanding value to my readers and my clients. But it brings up a lot of issues regarding either the knowledge level or the independence of many of the media outlets that carry stories and are supposed to analyze SAP. For software buyers, if you have a consulting company that is proposing to you that the SAP S/4HANA data model is simplified, that would bear an explanation on their part as to why that is. If they are just blindly agreeing with SAP on everything, then they will be limited in how much they can help you.


My recommendation is that the time required for reconciliation and quarterly closes be benchmarked in the client’s current ECC system to determine whether or not this is an issue. Statements about the reconciliation and quarterly close time should not be looked at in a separate matter but checked against what other software vendors in the area have to say on the topic.

Curious about the reality of S/4HANA implementations? See our The S/4HANA Implementation Study, for real story and details on actual S/4HANA implementations.

Financial Disclosure

Financial Bias Disclosure

Neither this article nor any other article on the Brightwork website is paid for by a software vendor, including Oracle, SAP or their competitors. As part of our commitment to publishing independent, unbiased research; no paid media placements, commissions or incentives of any nature are allowed.

What We Do and Research Access

Using the Diagram

Hover over each bullet or plus sign to see more explanation. To move to a different bullet point, just “hover off” and then hover over the new bullet.


Research Access

  • Do You Need to Access Research in this Area?

    Put our independent analysis to work for you to improve your spend.


Marketing constructs like SAP Run Simple and simplified data models that have nothing do do with reality detract from implementing beneficial programs. I cover how to interpret risk for IT projects in the following book.