The problem with aligning technology to business outcomes is grounded in an overabundance of ways in which technology can impact business outcomes and technologies available to do so. The problem grows as organizations implement new and emerging technology while simultaneously seeking to improve existing business outcomes and pursue new opportunities.
Customers in the SAP ecosystem who want to use the latest in artificial intelligence, machine learning, IoT, analytics, and other technologies have a daunting task in deciding whether they should turn to SAP or the myriad of vendors offering similar functionality. Even if the task is merely the continued development of functionality to help differentiate a company’s existing business practices—as opposed to a new, exciting initiative—tool and approach choices can be challenging.
The Right Choice?
SAP offers the Business Technology Platform (BTP) as a single source for these numerous requirements. But is BTP the right choice, particularly in a market where hyperscalers and other vendors (including SAP partners and competitors) have solutions that promise similar results?
This is an especially important dilemma right now in the SAP ecosystem. The concept of off-the-shelf, one-size-fits-all enterprise software, exemplified by SAP’s S/4HANA and its Intelligent Enterprise initiative, runs headlong into the enormous variety of industries, micro-verticals, geographies, and specialized business models that make up the SAP customer base. Complicating matters is the customer base’s never-ending quest to differentiate in an increasingly complex global market.
The SAP approach to solving these problems is to offer the greatest possible choice when it comes to its core S/4HANA system: on-premise, fit-to-standard public cloud, and a configurable private cloud. SAP also comes to the table with industry specific functionality in its Industry Cloud offering as well as a comprehensive set of cloud-based solutions, such as SAP SuccessFactors, SAP Ariba, and Concur.
Bridging the Gap
While the SAP portfolio is comprehensive, the gap between what is needed and what can be realized from off-the-shelf software can be significantly hard to bridge, even as it becomes increasingly imperative to do so or lose competitive advantage. Customer-specific requirements for process improvement; data access and governance; application integration; machine intelligence; and analytics, among others, need to be part of the software and business infrastructure as well. Too much is on the line to do otherwise.
For SAP customers, one of the most important bridges they should explore is BTP. This combination of technology and services, running on either SAP Cloud or a hyperscaler partner’s cloud, is designed to fill in the gaps that inhibit the ultimate realization of enterprise software’s business value. With that goal in mind, BTP offers the ability to manage complex, heterogeneous data sources; deploy technologies such AI, ML, IoT, and robotic process automation (RPA); use advanced analytics to make sense of customers’ increasingly dense sea of data; and, perhaps most importantly, create cloud-based extensions that support customer-specific functionality, much the way customizations did in the on-premise past.
Yes, all that, and more.
The fact that BTP offers this broad range of capabilities makes it an important resource for SAP customers, even though the breadth of its functionality makes it difficult to understand its full range of possibilities. Discerning how to use BTP can be daunting but it’s essential work for enterprises to ensure they get the most out of their investments in SAP software and services.
Too Many Technology Options?
Adding to the complexity of understanding BTP’s potential is the fact that varying degrees of functionality provided by the platform can nominally be found elsewhere. All the major hyperscalers provide tools that mimic key elements of BTP, as do many SAP partners. Companies that deploy applications that compete with SAP also potentially have at their disposal proprietary toolsets that support many of these capabilities.
This means there’s another gap to bridge: the choice overload gap. Being able to make the best choice of what solution to use for what purpose is critical for any SAP customers’ success. While SAP has over 15,000 customers that use BTP in one way or another, many are not using it to full advantage, at least not yet.
For some, that’s because BTP basically came pre-installed within an SAP S/4HANA implementation or is running an Industry Cloud extension, which means its considerable capabilities are hidden from view. Other customers are either just beginning to roll out S/4HANA and other SAP Intelligent Enterprise elements and may be at work on the kinds of technical problems that BTP can resolve. And, of course, prospective customers looking at the broad selection of SAP deployment models and hyperscaler partners have their work set out for them to ensure they make the best technology platform choices, for now and the foreseeable future.
That’s why the ASUG-SAP Business Technology Platform (BTP) Summit https://www.asug.com/events/asug-sap-business-technology-platform-btp-summit
arrives at the right time, offering a blend of leadership views, subject matter expertise, and voices from customer experience. BTP is complex precisely because the opportunities it targets are also complex, broad, and deep. There are plenty of bridges to build, to understand, use, and fill leverage BTP across technology gaps and envisioned business outcomes.
Joshua Greenbaum is Principal at Enterprise Application Consulting.