By Todd Morrison

SAP and its CEO, Bill McDermott, made a big point of saying at this year’s Sapphire Now conference that the “new” SAP is focused on making enterprise software as simple as possible for customers, citing free Fiori apps and the new SAP Simple Finance applications as examples.

In a new blog post, Jayne Landry, global vice president and general manager of SAP business intelligence, spells out what that means for the SAP BI portfolio, as the company tries to address customers’ demands for fewer, more integrated tools in the BusinessObjects (BOBJ) toolshed. It’s an important read and covers the role that SAP BOBJ Design Studio and SAP Lumira will play going forward.

But how did SAP get to a point where it now has to do the hard work of consolidating these products? Shouldn’t SAP have started on this project sooner? Users feeling confused by the number of BI tools doesn’t seem like news.

When we spoke last week, Landry didn’t provide a clear answer to that, merely pointing to the fact that it takes time to gather input, and many users aren’t sure what they’re using. But she did point to the fact that the number of tools has exploded as needs — and the very nature of BI — have evolved and matured.

“Customers want operational reporting, as a very first step in leveraging the data they have within an organization. Those reports lead to next questions. What we normally see happen next is the IT department will be asked for a more an executive-level view, and that’s where we see the rise of dashboards within an organization,” Landry said. “Once the executives get their dashboard views, there’s always the next question, and that leads to more self-service and ad-hoc reporting, and BI use cases. There’s this natural progression and journey as companies mature in their adoption of business intelligence.”

SAP’s answer to that, Landry contends, is simplifying some of those tools according to users and roles — much in the same way it is trying to do with its other applications and UIs.

“We focus in on three key [user types],” Landry said. “The first is the business analyst. These are the ones getting the one-off questions from the business. If those [same questions are] coming up time and time again, the analyst will then work with a developer to turn it into a solution that can be consumed by a broader audience across the business. That’s the second persona, the developer. They’re not answering ad-hoc questions, they want to solve the problem systematically,” Landry said.

The third user type is the end users themselves. “They want not only the ability to consume the information that they’re given, but, increasingly, want to answer that next question by themselves without having to go back to an analyst, or IT.”

But as one analyst recently pointed out, running more simply isn’t only about products. It’s a lot of other things that relate to the customer experience, including pricing, which SAP says it is also trying to simplify and consolidate.

But running simply is also about names. SAP can and should do a better job of curtailing the ever-changing and ever-expanding list of product names that users have to track.

It will be interesting to see how well SAP executes on its strategy.

As one reader responded to Landry’s post: “Do a few things, and do them very well. The challenge now is making customers love these tools rather than cramming them down their throats.”