June 5th, 2014 by Sarah Sluis

SAP creates software for large enterprises, orchestrating incredibly intricate processes. But even SAP seems to be realizing it’s too complex, a fact that CEO Bill McDermott readily stated at the conference. “Complexity drives me crazy. The most intractable CEO issue of our time is complexity,” he told the crowd at Sapphire Now. While enterprise software is known for complexity, consumers thrive on simplicity. SAP’s conference tagline, “run simple,” alluded to the company’s effort to become what it calls a “B2B2C company.” One interpretation of that is improving the backend experience for companies, with the consumer benefiting. For example, SAP provides software that improves the driving experience for the end consumer. Another is the frontend for the user, which SAP is doing with its new user interface Fiori, which has over 300 apps designed to cover the most common uses of the software.

But what about other consumer-originating trends affecting the enterprise? In a talk given by Bill Briggs, CTO of Deloitte Consulting, he mentioned ten tech trends with implications for enterprise software. Here are the five that have the most effect on simplicity in the enterprise.

  1. Cognitive Analytics. This category includes machine learning and natural language processing. As anyone who reads our sister publication knows, this has been widely adopted in both enterprises and among consumers. In fact, I would say that this may be one of the trends that went in reverse. I was stating my name and intention in IVR far before I regularly called on the iPhone’s Siri to answer my search queries. The great unrealized potential of cognitive analytics comes from machine learning and tools like IBM’s Watson, which distill massive amounts of information into simple answers.
  2. Wearables. Briggs is anticipating “the enterprizification of wearables.” He mentioned uses like firefighters that might ingest a pill that would warn of heat stroke, or Allstate’s app that rewarded policyholders for good driving behavior. A technician on a cell phone tower could wear Google Glass and receive instructions, guidance, and look up information about part replacement hands-free. That same capability showed up in an on-stage demo that showed how wearables could help the technician of a complex medical device. Wearables will definitely be making their way into the workforce, and their potential to help and simplify activities is enormous.
  3. Technical Debt Reversal. Only a few people raised their hands during Briggs talk to say that their companies used the term “technical debt reversal,” which refers to the burden that legacy systems cause, either in loss of agility, high maintenance costs, or expensive, time-consuming integrations. Debt reversal refers to the process of actively trying to reverse the burden of old technology. Interestingly, there isn’t too much of a corollary in the consumer market. Sure, plenty of people have old, slow laptops, and upgrading to a new device is a pain, but it’s mainly the cost of a new device, not the time it takes to transfer content, which slows consumers down. Could the rise of the cloud and software-as-a-service turn enterprises more into consumers when it comes to upgrades?
  4. In-memory revolution. Consumers already have fast access to their data—laptop search buttons take seconds (most of the time), Google gives us results culled from billions of webpages in milliseconds, and cloud services like Dropbox make it easy to access and share data. In-memory databases will lend power to the enterprise that will bring up the speed at which people can research and find results—just like consumers, and the younger generation of millennial workers, expects.
  5. Social Activation. “This is not just social listening, or looking at sentiment. It’s more active, creating sustained campaigns to shape behavior of the individual,” Briggs explained. Externally, that means things like thinking about social across every part of CRM. Internally, that can mean using social media in order to find people across silos who might be helpful for a project or put you in touch with a sales lead. It’s fair to say that consumers have an edge over businesses in how they use social. Consumers are engaging only with their friends, so they naturally have a one-to-one relationship in these channels. Businesses, speaking to the masses, have more work to do before they get there. As SAP tries to make its software “run simple,” the interplay between consumer and enterprise-facing experiences will only increase. Technology like wearables, social media, and cognitive analytics will have to be embraced by both worlds in tandem, not with the enterprise lagging behind.


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