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SAP co-CEOs to prioritize product development, delivery

Bill McDermott and Jim Hagemann Snabe feel the need for speed. Faster innovation and time-to-market will be the new SAP co-CEOs' top priority, as agile development will prevail.

Customers can look forward to getting new products and getting more value from their existing SAP installations much faster, Jim Hagemann Snabe and Bill McDermott said at CeBIT today.

Speaking for the first time together as SAP's new co-CEOs, they said SAP needs to improve on its execution and needs to bring products to market more rapidly. CeBIT, a major industry tradeshow, is being held in Germany this week.

"On the strategic direction, we are very firm. The major change is one of speed," Hagemann Snabe said. "[We will] accelerate the speed at which we act and at which we deliver solutions to the market and value to customers."

McDermott said: "I do believe we are moving at a radically different pace. We're very focused on execution and getting the job done."

Speed of innovation and delivery has been a constant complaint of SAP customers. It's most visible with SAP's Business ByDesign product, the on-demand suite that debuted two years ago but has yet to be released to the general market. Customers also complain that SAP has had a slow turnaround on product development by industry, leaving them to customize and fill the gaps on their own.

"The great projects today aren't just on-time, and they aren't just on-budget. They're on value," McDermott said. "It's much more than just software and stacks."

To that end, agile software development will be SAP's major method of developing products going forward. Teams of 10 engineers will work with a group of customers on developing new working iterations of software every four weeks instead of at the end of a long software development process. The team works off a proprietary backlog of features. SAP's 12sprints product was developed in this manner.

Agile development should bring significant improvements in efficient software delivery, Hagemann Snabe said. In turn, it will enable better innovation on the part of engineers because they're in closer contact with customers, and they are more motivated because they can quickly see their direct impact on the product.

SAP has rolled out this process to 20% of its software development and will scale it to its 12,000 engineers.

"Innovation is in the core of a company like SAP," Hagemann Snabe said. "We have an ambition to continue to drive the innovation agenda."

He reiterated that -- as part of this innovation agenda -- delivering SAP on-demand software is the top priority. The embattled Business ByDesign suite is due out in the middle of the year, he said, and line-of-business applications for larger companies will also emerge this year.

In turn, delivering software "on-device" will be a priority. To that end, SAP announced yesterday that customers can now access SAP CRM software on iPhones and Windows Mobile devices, as well as select SAP business processes through familiar email inboxes like Gmail and Outlook. It's part of a partnership announced last year with Sybase.

SAP will also continue its focus on incorporating in-memory databases into software development.

McDermott made it clear that SAP needs to be a more "fun" place. He said that the company needs to be more approachable, and there needs to be less bureaucracy, more customer focus and more employee focus.

McDermott concluded: "We think the best days of SAP are in front of us."

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