I have been busy digesting the SAPPHIRE Reimagined content and trying to figure out what it means for the average SAP customer. In some ways it was the most boring SAPPHIRE in a long time with little in the way of new announcements. I don't think that is necessarily a bad thing as it shows some longer term commitments to a strategy and less hyperbole about the latest acquisition and how it is going to be yet another "game changer".
So for the average SAP customer three key items are worth noting and rolling into your SAP strategy and roadmap.
1. (Integrated) Intelligent Suite - Finally ?
SAP has (finally) recognised that the average SAP customer expects them to deliver software that works well together out of the box. Many purchased R/3 years ago on the promise of having ONE system that was FULLY integrated - and they still want that today. The ONE system part is obviously a dream shattered by acquisitions of the past. However, I got the impression that Christian Klein is personally committed to delivering a suite of products that at least look like they come from the same vendor and which is FULLY integrated across the products. The promise of this has been made before. But it now seems to have real support from the SAP board - which makes me think that it might happen this time. Juergen Mueller quoted that it was 30% complete today and would be 90% complete by the end if 2020 (that 10% worried me). The plans go further than just the frontend and integration with SAP highlighting seven qualities they would harmonise to create the Intelligent Suite. These are :-
• Seamless User Experience
• Consistent Security / Identify Management
• Aligned Domain Models
• Cross Product Analytics
• One Workflow Inbox
• Coordinated Lifecycle Management
• End 2 End Process Definition
No small job but with all of the products in the Intelligent Suite available as SaaS offerings it should become easier for SAP to offer up these products as end to end business processes as they have greater control over the piece parts.
This is great news for new customers or someone who is going to start again with a Greenfield project, but this doesn't represents the majority of average SAP customers.
For those average SAP customers who continue to run on-premise versions of SAP software things are going to be more difficult. Many will have invested significant time and money in creating integrations between SAP and non-SAP products and they will face reworking those integrations, which will involve upgrades to some on-premise components and /or switching to cloud alternatives.
The average SAP customer could choose to continue with their own efforts to achieve the seven qualities but this means they are not going to benefit from the lower claimed TCO that those qualities promise out of the box.
2. Industry Cloud
For a number of years SAP has been putting the word CLOUD after products - I'm assuming this is to make sure that everyone knows they are super committed to the cloud. This year, it was the turn of the word INDUSTRY to get the CLOUD word added to it.
This is significant for the average SAP customer because until very recently you got most of your industry functionality built right into the core ERP system and a quick look at the Feature Scope Definition for S/4HANA shows that plenty of industry specific features are delivered in the core. With the announcement of the Industry Cloud we can see that over time SAP will try to deliver industry capability as a series of add-on applications that use standard APIs to communicate to the Intelligent Suite. This idea has been about for many years (anyone remember X-Apps) but is now feasible at a technical level especially once SAP delivers on the seven qualities of the intelligent suite.
For the average SAP customer it means that moving forward they will end up having to use components from the Business Technology Platform as this is what SAP will use to build these next generation industry add-ons. It is interesting to note that this is very similar to the way SAP drove the adoption of SAP NetWeaver. Those who remember that will have fond memories (sic.)
3. Business Technology Platform (aka SAP Cloud Platform ++)
After some head scratching I figured out that the Business Technology Platform is a blanket term for any cloud based solution from SAP that isn't a business application - so basically BTP = NetWeaver "Cloud". BTP has all of the services from SAP Cloud Platform, plus the cloud data centric offering (Data Warehouse, Data Intelligence and HANA Cloud) - as noted above these will be used by SAP and partners to create industry and micro vertical solutions - and SAP wants to encourage customers to use them to create their own extensions to keep the Intelligent Suite clean.
As I have noted before in my article on the Embrace Project with Microsoft, I believe this is the weakest part of the 3 offerings and many average SAP customers will choose to do this extension using the native components of their preferred hyper-scaler.
It will be interesting to see if SAP can make the synergies between the Industry Cloud and customer specific extensions attractive enough to making adoption of the BTP make sense.
The final thing for the average SAP customer to note was the thing that was not mentioned at SAPPHIRE (or not in the sessions I watched) - and that was SAP NetWeaver. The reason this is important is that many average SAP customers still have quite a bit of SAP NetWeaver doing important tasks in their enterprises. While most of this is supported until 2027 it isn't going to be getting much in the way of development budget with all the other priorities SAP has to deliver out of items 1, 2 and 3 above.
This means that all SAP architects at average SAP customers need to consider not only how ECC is going to evolve into S/4HANA and the Intelligent Enterprise but how all of the SAP NetWeaver landscape is going to move to the cloud alternatives available. This is no small task and one that I would recommend all average SAP customers undertake as soon as possible to avoid being left in an unintelligent world.