SAP Gives ERP A Facelift

SAP CEO says beautiful, consumer-grade look and feel is top priority for Fiori, SAP's new collection of 25 HTML5 applications.

Doug Henschen, Executive Editor, Enterprise Apps

May 15, 2013

5 Min Read

5 Big Wishes For Big Data Deployments

5 Big Wishes For Big Data Deployments

5 Big Wishes For Big Data Deployments(click image for larger view and for slideshow)

SAP has redefined itself as a business-to-business-to-consumer company, co-CEO Bill McDermott declared on Tuesday at the company's annual Sapphire Conference. So it's now a "number-one priority" for the enterprise applications vendor to deliver "beautiful," consumer-grade user interfaces, he said.

McDermott's B2B2C message was wrapped in warnings about the dangers of failing to keep up with cloud, social, mobile and real-time expectations. These expectations are being set, he said, by the Millennial generation: 18- to 33-year-olds that are now "the biggest target market on earth" and "the driving force behind technology innovation," both as consumers and, increasingly, as employees.

On Wednesday the company was set to announce SAP Fiori, a collection of 25 HTML5 applications designed for desktop, tablet and smartphone interaction. Fiori means "to flower" or "blossom" in Italian, and it's meant to symbolize the renewal of SAP's core applications with clean, touch-friendly interfaces that look more like screens you'd see on Facebook or

The list of Fiori apps is said to cover common workflow, lookup and self-service interactions with SAP's core apps, including approve-leave requests, travel expenses approvals, timesheets, paystub lookups, create sales orders, customer invoices and purchase-order tracking.

[ Want more on SAP's latest cloud service? Read SAP Cloud Push Starts With Hana. ]

The lightweight Fiori apps, which are available immediately and said by SAP to be easy to deploy, were selected and co-developed with input from customers, and customers including Colgate-Palmolive and Valero were early beta testers.

SAP's plans for interface upgrades were telegraphed last week by SAP Chairman Hasso Plattner, who mentioned the initiative during a press conference on the just-launched Hana Enterprise Cloud service. SAP isn't the only enterprise software vendor putting a fresh face on old ERP apps. Infor last month introduced a battery of new interfaces billed as having the look and feel of popular consumer websites.

McDermott didn't elaborate on the interfaces, but he covered all of SAP's usual bases during his keynote -- the company's "winning" innovation strategy, the ability of the Hana in-memory database to deliver "intelligent data at the speed of thought," SAP's "always open" partner ecosystem and so on. He also formally announced that the world of sports and entertainment is now a 25th vertical industry addressed by SAP.

That sports news prompted a panel discussion between McDermott and SAP customers Adam Silver, deputy commissioner of the NBA, Jed York, CEO of the San Francisco 49ers, Kevin Plank, founder and CEO of sports clothing manufacturer Under Armour, and moderator James Brown, host of the TV show "The NFL Today."

Sports fits the B2B2C model well, McDermott said, because teams and leagues are digitizing their relationships with the fans. Silver explained that the NBA is using SAP Hana to power, a site that he said is generating twice the level of traffic since it was relaunched with 60 years of historical stats and the query capabilities of the in-memory database.

The 49ers co-developed a talent-scouting application with SAP, and York said the team is also working with SAP to design consumer-friendly "ticketless and cashless" transactions at its new stadium under construction and set to open in 2014. McDermott demonstrated how the scouting app will be recast as an HR talent review app for mainstream businesses.

Echoing SAP's strategy to innovate with software and let customers choose hardware, York said the 49ers decided against investing $60 million in a state-of-the-art scoreboard that would "inevitably become antiquated within five years." Instead it's investing in mobile apps and leveraging the investments of Bay area fans, "who spend more than $1,000 every 18 months on smartphones," he explained.

Under Armour CEO Plank explained the clothing manufacturer's 2006 choice of SAP as a move to a platform the company would "never outgrow." Since that time the company has grown from $300 million to more than $1.8 billion in annual sales. It recently upgraded to SAP Hana because crucial sales allocation reports were taking so long that shipments were being delayed.

"Today we're running 91% faster and we get goods to the consumer in a timely way, because there's nothing more expensive for us than an empty retail store fixture," Plank said.

In other announcements at Sapphire, SAP outlined a unified strategy and rebranding of its cloud portfolio as the SAP Hana Cloud Platform, but it wasn't clear what changed beyond the naming of cloud assets.

The company also announced SAP Mobile Secure, an expansion of the Afaria enterprise mobility management system available on-premises or as a cloud-based service. The broader platform ensures "enterprise-grade" security for devices, apps and content, according to SAP. New app security capabilities are provided by partner Mocana, which offers app-wrapping technology that reportedly secures corporate and third-party applications without having to write code.

It's not like consumers will suddenly be approving requisitions and purchase orders. But if SAP's internal-facing interfaces can be as clean and simple as, the thinking is that it will become that much easier to use mobile development tools to dream up pleasing self-service applications for customers.

About the Author(s)

Doug Henschen

Executive Editor, Enterprise Apps

Doug Henschen is Executive Editor of InformationWeek, where he covers the intersection of enterprise applications with information management, business intelligence, big data and analytics. He previously served as editor in chief of Intelligent Enterprise, editor in chief of Transform Magazine, and Executive Editor at DM News. He has covered IT and data-driven marketing for more than 15 years.

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