Chief Innovation Officer Adrian Simpson tells CBR why the user experience and app development are priorities for 2014.
Mobility and the cloud , in SAP HANA, are important sectors for you. What kind of innovations can we expect to see from SAP in those fields?
If you look at mobility then there is a huge demand for the way people interact with the systems has to be smarter than logging on and dialing through a VPN and being tied to a device. You want to be able to get data access on the move and have the choice of using a tablet or a phone. That’s been happening over the last couple of years and related to that is the consumerisation of IT where people’s expectations of what a system is like are much more demanding than traditional large ERP vendors have delivered in the past. It’s about the experience of what that feels like to use and how easy it is to use.
We have to get better at how we deliver that functionality because that’s how it’s going to be dealt with in the future. If you also bring in the other angle, that people now have been brought up on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, and they want to be able to see that kind of interface and giving them a screen full of grey is not going to do it for them. Those things come together to say we have to work on what the user experience could be like for what we will term the occasional user, who comes on every week or two, who isn’t going to want to have much complexity.
On the cloud side of things, end users don’t care [about looks]. This is all about getting the IT cost down, increasing the flexibility to deliver applications, and to be able to swap and change different aspects of an application as they want. So the cloud has an influence on how companies can run their whole infrastructure for the future.
How are we likely to see your analytics offerings develop in the near future?
Well of course last year we brought out 360 Customer, which is actually about pulling together what have been disparate parts of our technology, adding in some new technology to offer a 360 degree view of a customer all the way through from transaction history point of view, to their presence on social media, also to bringing in predictive technology that looks at what they are likely to do in future.
But we’re also looking at it from other angles, asking can we do the same thing for a supplier, can we do the same thing for other types of user you might have? You could take a very holistic view of your employees, which can tell you all sorts of things about your business and that is incredibly valuable.
How are customer needs shaping the future of the HANA in-memory database platform?
We recognise that new technologies need a platform of some kind; we’ve put our investment into basing ours around HANA. But actually the services that go around that are more important to make it a useful value platform.
So that includes things like around the data management aspect; where does data come from and how do you qualify and validate it; it comes from the development idea of how do you allow the man in the street to develop an application on this platform without having to go to five universities?
For us it’s about the ability to be able to expose of what we put within our applications out to new development methodologies, new toolkits, the new way of consuming it on mobile devices, how can we bring in a framework that allows people to do that that doesn’t throw away all the investment that’s gone into the existing SAP system.
We totally buy into the platform approach, the ecosystem approach where we do it with our partners, but equally we also want to do it for our customers as well so where customers do want to develop themselves, it’s the same toolkit.
A lot of what we do in terms of new technology comes from co-innovation. Working in conjunction with customers to build the right solution for the problem. It allows them to have the same tools as us to do that. It’s about not trying to say SAP knows the answer, we can provide a platform that enables that growth and innovation of new products to come out.
A lot of what we need to be doing is ediucating people about what is available on SAP. Sometimes customers don’t get a chance to ask what else is going on in the SAP world other than what they are using us for.
Startups must be interested in taking advantage of your technology to innovate.
There’s a couple of things we’re doing in this space. There’s a HANA startup programme we started last year aimed at new businesses that want to create a proposition that is based on SAP HANA’s platform. We have about 1,000 signed up to that. Others are adding value on top of SAP systems by bringing new technology into their startups to make a more useable experience, a more integrated experience, to differentiate their offering from what SAP does out of the box.
How much use do the startups get out of SAP’s experience?
We can do that as part of the startup programme, we also do it as part of the mentoring programme where our partners have signed up as mentors, to support customers or anyone around using aspects of the technology. This is all about collaboration. The more people connected, the more people have the ability to talk to other people and the knowledge is shared and people find answers to problems they couldn’t find on their own.
Is it fair to say the User Group has changed the way SAP is heading with regards to altering the company’s direction according to feedback?
Previously we have been fairly secretive about our roadmaps. In conjunction with working with the UG, not only in the UK but other countries as well, now we hear what they’re saying about wanting to see our roadmaps and we’ve made that public. It’s now totally public information. What’s really important for us in future roadmaps is working with the customers to see if we have the right idea, rather than putting something out there and saying ‘it’s going to be this, what do you mean it’s not relevant?’