SAP featured in WSJ

Two recent articles about SAP in the WSJ – neither particularly complimentary.  First there was this front page story on Friday (Shai Agassi features prominently)

SAP’s Plan to Globalize Hits Cultural Barriers

Then there was an interview by Lee Gomes with Hasso Plattner, CEO of SAP.

How to Build a Better Program?  First, a Designer Has to  Hate It.

The interview is about software usability – and I find it really revealing – particularly about the struggle enterprise software vendors have in the HCM space.

“Hasso Plattner, the company’s co-founder and chairman of its supervisor board, has in recent years been interested in the issues of software design, and how programs can be made friendlier. “

He attributes SAP’s bad reputation for software design to their success.  Because they are so big and serve so many complex clients, of course their software is complex and hard to use.  Seems to me that if SAP were more interested in usability earlier, they would have acheived it.

He also says that programmers always choose to do more complicated things – rather than simpler things – but that is a cultural bias.  Some companies put design and usability on equal footing with function.  And their products reflect this.

Then he gets to the core of the problem.  He says that SAP does not work with the end users.  SAP sells to and works with IT – not the departments (operations, finance, HR) that use their software.  And I think this is the fatal flaw.

In the HCM software space (where I work) we LIVE with the departments.  IT is an afterthought.  This  forces us to have a different perspective on software design, implementation and support.  Our software will used by everyone from the employee to the manager, to the HR Department to the HRIS team.  This forces us to have good design, b/c you simply cannot train all of these people.



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