SAP will be forced to cannibalise its own customers by offering new software that is delivered over the Web as it adapts to a world irrevocably changed by Google, SAP's chairman said.
Hasso Plattner, a co-founder of the world's biggest maker of business software, said SAP's on-demand A1S software, slated for launch early next year, would be one of SAP's best-ever products but would compete with its current way of doing business.
This model will compete with our current model, and 99 percent of our installations are on site, Plattner told an audience at his Hasso Plattner Institute on Tuesday.
Companies must adapt, however, as the technology that businesses need can now be had over the Internet regardless of time and location, he added.
But if people can work overnight somewhere else in the world to solve a problem, probably at different cost and probably with different empathy, they will win out over the ones who say: 'This software is as good as it gets,' he said.
SAP's software contains powerful tools for analysing and synchronising data and running business processes for large companies, but it is often criticised for being unwieldy and not user-friendly.
Plattner said search engine Google had changed the game by achieving something he had thought impossible a decade ago in delivering what users want over the Web without needing to customise its offering.
Millions of computers linked up and working together in harmony -- that, today, is state of the art, he said.
NEED FOR A RETHINK
Google has changed the world, and we all have to learn, and if we don't learn quickly enough and redesign our thinking ... then we might not be as successful as we were in the past.
Speaking at the launch of a school for design thinking at his institute, Plattner railed against software designed by blinkered engineers without consideration for the people who would have to use it -- as he said most business software is.
It's the most hated product currently on the market, he said. There's a surfeit of technology, but we have no clue how to develop user-centric products.
SAP now recognises that good design runs deeper than appearance, he said. Design is not putting lipstick on a pig. Design is not just how things look and feel. Design is how things work, he said.
Plattner said A1S was being developed differently, with testers involved at a much earlier stage.
This is now on its seventh user-interface version, and thanks to our colleagues in India, there will probably an eighth, a ninth and a tenth version, he said.
I believe it's one of the best products we have designed in the last 30 years, but it goes completely against the direction of the last 30 years.
A1S will also have analytical applications on demand for the first time, capable of analysing 36 million lines of accounting, which is the amount a typical medium-sized company acquires over five years, Plattner said.
By the end of the year, we'll be able to answer any question we can articulate properly in 1.1 seconds, he said.
But Plattner, a former chief executive of SAP, admitted there was a limit to what he could do in his role as supervisory board chairman, despite being chief software architect.
There's only so much you can do as a chairman, he said.