The ASUG community, numbering 200+, convened in Pennsylvania’s Newtown Square last week as SAP North American headquarters hosted the first ASUG & SAP Business Technology Platform (BTP) Summit.

With a robust set of sessions designed to help decision-makers understand SAP BTP benefits and take a deeper dive into the platform, day one of the two-day event put innovation and integration in the spotlight.

Speaking to an at-capacity auditorium, Kerri Tenbrunsel, SVP and GM, SAP BTP North America, pressed the need for digital transformation in her introductory keynote, “Activate the Power of SAP BTP to Accelerate Innovation." Tenbrunsel invited attendees to play an active role in pushing their organizations forward, especially in periods of global disruption and uncertainty.

Citing a Forrester study finding that firms with a flexible technology foundation and a business operating model that can change quickly grow nearly three times faster than their industry average, Tenbrunsel reiterated SAP’s core goal and purpose “to help the world run better and improve people’s lives” and pointed to BTP as the company’s “north star”.

“We cannot miss this moment,” Tenbrunsel said. “It’s a pivotal moment, one in which you must ask yourself as a company: can you be flexible? Can you pivot? And to add another layer, is what you’re doing sustainable?”

Call to Action

In her call to action, Tenbrunsel delighted attendees by sharing insights on Coldplay’s carbon-offsetting world tour, one recent instance in which BTP enabled sustainable change. SAP collaborated with the band to develop and release the Coldplay Music of the Spheres World Tour app, which combined interactive, augmented-reality experiences with features that enabled fans to make more environmentally friendly decisions around their travel. “All of this, powered by SAP BTP and other tools in our portfolio,” she said. “You probably have no idea the power you hold in your hands.”

Stefan Kneis, SAP Chief Customer Officer, SAP Cloud Platform/ BTP, ASUG CEO Geoff Scott, and Kelly Dowling, ASUG Content Strategy Director, welcomed event attendees and noted the need for and importance of BTP within the SAP product ecosystem, calling it “the bedrock and the foundation of how SAP thinks about their software going forward.”

The platform’s prominence within SAP was a major theme throughout the conference’s first day, with Michael Golz, SVP and CIO North America SAP, even leading a session on SAP internal use of the technology.

“SAP is going through its own massive transformation,” Golz explained, discussing SAP move to the cloud and embrace of new business models and technology.

Scalable Enterprise Architecture

Throughout this period of innovation and optimization, he said, BTP has been critical in providing SAP with a clear and scalable enterprise architecture. Golz addressed the challenges SAP faces, from handling the increasing demand for integrations in a hybrid landscape to establishing accessible integration guidelines for customers and offering stability and support for integration platforms.

He discussed solutions such as introducing the concept of integration landscapes in Information Extraction Service (IES), enabling highly scalable and agile integration teams, and offering RUN/Operation support with stable service level agreements (SLAs) for all integrations on all integration products.

Four customers leveraging BTP solutions to solve business challenges, discussed their digital transformation journeys with SAP technology and the personalized experiences it has allowed them to create across their business processes. Change is a constant, Kneis said in introducing them, and BTP embraces that philosophy. “We keep innovating,” Kneis said. “The BTP story in six months from now will be a different one than it is today.”

More Accuracy for Customers

Otis Smith, Enterprise Architect, Advanced Analytics and Automation at Florida Crystals, spoke about leveraging SAP Data Intelligence as an initial entrance into BTP. This enabled the cane sugar refining company, part of American Sugar Refining (ASR) and best known for Domino Sugar products, to calculate freight rates six to nine months out. In turn, its sales department can provide more accurate quotes to its customers.

“We used that tool to demonstrate what is possible by transforming data into insight,” Smith said. “We were only restricted by our own imagination in terms of what we were able to do with the platform.”

Robert Walker, Senior Director, Supply Chain and Finance Solutions at Tapestry, has long been focused on “unlocking value” across the fashion juggernaut’s three brands, Coach, Kate Spade, and Stuart Weitzman, and across its three primary channels of wholesale, retail, and eCommerce. All three of the company’s brands are now unified on one SAP platform, with SAP S/4HANA used for fashion and vertical business in concert with solutions from SAP SuccessFactors, SAP Concur, SAP Ariba, SAP CAR (Customer Activity Repository), and SAP Business Planning and Consolidation (BPC).

Educating both IT and business around BTP’s capabilities has been essential for Tapestry, Walker said. “We still need to educate our business community on all it’s capable of,” he added.

Avoiding Chaos

Rajarashi Majumdar, ERP Architect, Strategy and Architecture at Kansas City Southern Railway, said that various SAP systems support the KCS landscape while seamlessly integrating its business between the United States and Mexico. “Our business is increasingly diverse,” Majumdar said, “and we need to support it with a homogenous system architecture.”

Golz spoke to “the orderly democratization of development” as an end-goal that BTP can bring about for organizations, including SAP, which requires such democratization to effectively run a $35 billion business in cloud, software, and services for 400,000 customers in more than 150 countries. “It can’t be chaos,” he said.

All four panelists reflected on the challenges they’ve faced while leveraging SAP solutions, including, in Smith’s words, “making your own path” with BTP. Referring to Antonio Machado’s poem ‘[Traveler, your footprints]’ in saying, “Your footprints are the only road, nothing else,” Smith discussed challenges with BTP.

“In the beginning, you’re forging your own path through your culture, your processes,” he said. “In your early idea phase, you’re merging your culture, your ideas, with BTP, and that establishes your footprint on the platform.” Through the platform’s flexibility, Smith added that BTP unlocked greater speed-to-market, organizational simplicity, and cost efficiency for Florida Crystals.

Majumdar added that the story of transformation through BTP must be shared across a business, rather than concentrated in the hands of a few.

Enterprise Ambition

“Any huge transformation requires huge collaboration,” he said. “You have to build a bigger ecosystem, and so you have to know what you are trying to achieve and who you’re embarking with. Your ambition should translate to your entire ecosystem, and then your transformation will be truly transformational.”

The panelists also discussed the challenges of clean core amid moving to S/4HANA, a subject expanded upon in an afternoon session by SAP’s Vikas Lodha, Chief Solution Advisor, Customer Office BTP Core, and Ashok Kumar Murugesan, Solution Architect, SAP America Inc.

Lodha and Murugesan used the analogy of moving between houses and deciding which items to take with you leave behind, or to rebuild as part of your new system architecture. Lodha and Murugesan advised attendees to mitigate clutter by leveraging BTP and SAP fit-to-standard process, applying a zero-modification policy, eliminating enhancements that are redundant to standard code or cloned, using released APIs for communication between systems, decoupling extensions, leveraging extensibility patterns, and building extensions in a modern cloud architecture way.

Lodha and Murugesan suggested custom code analysis using BTP’s Custom Code Migration tool as one way for companies to prepare for such transformations. “You always have to define the scope and analyze the complexity,” Lodha explained. “Once you’ve analyzed the complexity, you can either remove unnecessary and obsolete code, move it to the new core environment as is, or relocate it back to BTP.”

Discussing BTP as an agile application development environment and an integrated data management framework, the speakers encouraged attendees to view it as “one, continuous journey” that can greatly empower their organizations. Lodha added that the goal of keeping one’s core clean is to enrich and differentiate your business with cross-applications and cross-technology across the enterprise.

Clean Core Philosophy

The pair also discussed SAP S/4HANA Cloud ABAP Environment (Embedded Steampunk), SAP BTP Process Automation, key-user extensibility functions within SAP S/4HANA, and the viability of pre-made content and predefined integrations for keeping one’s core clean.

“Clean core is not a one-time action,” Lodha said. “It’s a philosophy that requires governance, extensions guidelines, and ongoing custom code analysis and assessment.”

As the conferences progressed, a focus on BTP’s big picture, customer stories, and networking shifted toward more in-depth sessions on BTP’s capabilities, hands-on sessions, and meet-the-expert panels.

Among the day-one panels was a hotly attended hands-on introduction to UI5, focused on the core principles of this web development framework. SAP Developer Advocates Thomas Jung, Josh Bentley, and Mamikee Kanneh explained how attendees can build apps that follow Fiori design guidelines. Walking attendees step-by-step through UI5, the presenters used the 95-minute session to demonstrate the creation of a bookshop app. Later, these same panelists introduced attendees to the SAP BTP ABAP Environment (aka Steampunk) and the ABAP RESTful Application Programming Model, in another hands-on session.

In their session, “Understand Overall SAP Integration Strategy and Its Roadmap,” SAP Labs Sr. Product Manager Tushar Pradhan and SAP Product Manager Elijah Martinez gave a presentation on how SAP approaches integration governance as an organization while specifically discussing the tool-based Integration Assessment approach for the SAP Integration Solution Advisory Methodology (ISA-M).

‘Sky-Rocketing Expectations’

“The aftermath of digitalization is sky-rocketing expectations,” Pradhan said, speaking to continuous integration in the cloud as a key pillar of SAP’s strategy and essential for accelerating any company’s intelligent-enterprise transformation. “Intelligent enterprises are integrated enterprises,” he said.

Both Pradhan and Martinez agreed that current ERP implementations are already outdated, and SAP Integration Suite offers myriad solutions for achieving seamless business processes, accelerating connectivity, and modernizing integration in such a fast-moving sphere. Described by Pradhan as “a harmonious bundling of all the integrations you would need,” the suite’s current capabilities include open connectors, trading partner management, integration advisor, integration assessment, API management, and cloud integration, with potentially more coming.

BTP also enables integration with and extends connectivity to non-SAP applications, which has been a repeated misunderstanding by certain customers. “This is a holistic integration platform,” Pradhan said.

Pradhan also addressed integration packs for intelligent enterprise business scenarios, including pre-built SAP S/4HANA integrations with SAP and third-party applications. Offered for free to its users, over 2500 pre-built integrations and over 220 business events are fully maintained and updated by SAP. Pradhan referred to SAP API Business Hub as a “one-stop shop” for accelerating both standard and custom-built integrations, even demonstrating to attendees how to copy and deploy a standard SAP Commerce Cloud integration with SAP S/4HANA Cloud.

This year’s summit hosted one of Philadelphia’s enduring sports legends on Monday, as former Philadelphia Eagles linebacker and broadcaster Seth Joyner discussed his time in the NFL with former NFL linebacker, Andy Mulumba, Director, SAP North American BTP Center-of-Excellence (CoE).

Lessons from the NFL

If Tuesday’s morning and afternoon sessions constitute the BTP Summit’s first two quarters, its closing session, “Greatness Requires Preparation: Lessons from the NFL to SAP on Effective Digital Transformation,” represented a “halftime show” for the event in more ways than one, with Kneis even taking the stage in an Eagles jersey to introduce the guest speakers. In a 25-minute dialogue, Mulumba asked Joyner to discuss his preparation process in the NFL and how the lessons he learned can be applied in business.

Joyner was drafted to the Philadelphia Eagles in 1986, by then-head coach Buddy Ryan. Selected in the eighth round of a 12-round draft, Joyner, then a linebacker from the University of Texas El Paso, knew that he’d have to fight to prove his worth. Then, Joyner was cut after his first training camp, only to be re-signed later in the first season. He said watching NFL games from his mother’s couch could have been internalized as a defeat. Instead, he sees it as “the best thing that ever happened to me,” on account of the drive it awakened within him to rise above.

“Whatever I could do, the more I could do, I did, just for the opportunity to show these coaches what they’d missed out on the first time,” Joyner said. “I created a contract with myself: I’m not leaving this building again.” The athlete expressed that similar resilience is essential for success in any enterprise.

Performing his own data analytics in addition to extensive athletic training, Joyner charted every single play made by potential rival teams, running through every permutation of defensive or offensive strategy he might later play. “When I stepped on that field, I was already ready,” he said. “And from that point, I never stepped off the field. I was a starter for the rest of my career.”

Advocating for the importance of great leaders, who can establish resiliency within their companies, Joyner added that remaining versatile in the face of setbacks is essential for any successful individual or organization.

“As business owners, you know the best-laid plans rarely finish the way you planned them out,” Joyner said. “There are obstacles, roadblocks, and different things that force you to adjust. How you deal with those roadblocks, those trials, will speak volumes to your company.”

The wide-ranging conversation addressed tactics for continuing education (“The information you really need to retain, write it down”); the legacy of Buddy Ryan, who died in 2016 (“Buddy believed in a rite of passage, and you had to prove to him that you could be the player he needed you to be”); and the current state of the NFL.

“I always think there’s an overkill when you talk about change,” Joyner said, discussing changes in the NFL around safety. “In my opinion, you might as well put flags on the guys, the way they play now. Nobody tackles. You hit somebody too hard, it’s an automatic penalty. Whether it’s a legal hit or not, if you hit the guy and he’s on the ground, writhing in pain, guess what? You’re going to get 15 yards. And I think that’s wrong.”

Joyner added: “I don’t think any one of us went into the game not knowing there were occupational hazards that went along with it. You know you could possibly be trading future health for the rewards and benefits of playing the game you love today. You’re playing the game for a king’s ransom.”

Consistently, the conversation turned back to preparation as a strategy for success in football and business. “There’s a lot of communication, a lot of processing, and it all comes back to preparation,” Joyner said. “The more prepared you are, the easier everything is.”

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