In order to allow a broader set of people to access SAP's notoriously complex R/3 ERP (enterprise resource planning) applications, the German software company is embarking on a major initiative to improve the user interface of its business software, the company's top manager said recently.
"I want people to be able to use a portion of the system (R/3) with zero training," said Hasso Plattner, co-founder, co-chairman and chief executive officer of SAP, following a press conference preceding SAP's annual user conference that was held here last week.
Plattner, who by his own admission is no fan of the keyboard or the PC in its current form per se, mentioned games, touch screens and consumer applications - such as Intuit's Quicken personal finance software - as examples of the type of simplicity SAP is striving for as the company looks to change the design of R/3's user interface.
Under the marketing slogan EnjoySAP, using the newest technologies and a number of software experts, SAP wants to rally its user base and the software development community to find ways to make R/3 easier to use, operate and more adaptable to real-life work environments, Plattner said.
Releases of R/3 planned for 1999 - used by companies worldwide for managing almost all aspects of business, including human resources, financial and manufacturing tasks - are "dedicated to deliver" the objectives of the usability improvement campaign, SAP said.
As part of the campaign to redesign R/3 current windows and menu-driven user interface, SAP will send development teams to more than one hundred R/3 sites to gather data and knowledge about how users use SAP's software and how it can be improved.
Improving R/3's usability is part of SAP's two-pronged push towards delivering new applications in the coming years, which make the data and knowledge stored in an R/3 system more accessible to a broader set of people and simultaneously increase the functionality of R/3 with a focus on specific vertical industries.