SAP is best-known for its on-premises ERP applications, which businesses around the world use to run their operations. During the past few years, SAP has been focusing its software development efforts on Hana, an in-memory computing platform, and investing heavily in software as a service.\n\nThe Pitch\nSAP 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.\n\nUnder 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.\n\nHana \u201cis attached to everything we have,\u201d McDermott said in a recent interview.\n\nLike 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.\n\nThe Catch\nSAP may need to fine-tune its pledge for more simplicity, says independent analyst Jon Reed. \u201cSAP used to sell so much software based on its completeness of functionality,\u201d Reed says. But a product\u2019s sheer depth of features is declining in importance as enterprise software buyers adopt newer, more specialized cloud applications. Nevertheless, SAP customers still want the company to cater to their specific industry needs.\n\nThe more crucial task for SAP is to make doing business with it easier, and that work is far from done, Reed says. \u201cSAP at Sapphire put out simplicity as a leadership mantra: We\u2019re going to lead you to a simple future,\u201d he says. \u201cIt\u2019s a challenge for SAP to live up to. When I hear customers tell me how simple and easy it is to deal with SAP, I\u2019ll get on board.\u201d\n\nSAP\u2019s message of simplicity \u201cis a good story for customers,\u201d says Marco Lenck, chairman of DSAG, a German SAP user group. \u201cThis is the right direction for customers, but it takes investment in terms of time, knowledge and money to get there.\u201d\n\nOne CIO of an SAP shop agrees. \u201cSimple is really hard,\u201d says David Wascom, CIO of Summit Electric Supply and a board member of the Americas\u2019 SAP Users Group, \u201cbecause all the steps that have to take place in your business don\u2019t go away.\u201d\n\nThe Score\nWascom says that he is seeing some signs of improvement lately from SAP, but he\u2019s hoping for more. \u201cOne of the biggest challenges I have as a business executive is not how to get SAP to give me some particular piece of functionality,\u201d he says. \u201cThe challenge is managing the risk of my SAP investment.\u201d To that end, SAP should improve customers\u2019 visibility into its product road maps, Wascom says.\n\nWhile committed to SAP technology, Wascom offered cautionary advice to any fellow CIOs who are considering the company\u2019s products.\n\n\u201cThe big message is that SAP, among the platforms I\u2019ve looked at, is the most powerful and most flexible to meet whatever your business needs are,\u201d he says. \u201cBut with great power comes great complexity. It\u2019s not like installing Microsoft Word.\u201d\n\nSAP would benefit from having \u201csimplicity ombudspeople\u201d who would guide customers through difficult software migrations and improve the entire customer experience, says independent analyst China Martens.