The SAP Business Technology Platform (BTP) is the latest in a series of SAP offerings that seek to organize a disparate set of technologies and services into a single omnibus “product” that is supposed to make it easier to market and sell. Those who remember SAP NetWeaver know this strategy rarely succeeds as intended. Analysts like me spent a good deal of time working with customers and partners to decode NetWeaver’s different components and use cases.
The same is now true for BTP.
That’s because BTP offers up the same problem—and the same opportunities. It’s literally a kitchen sink of tools and services—data management, analytics, AI, ML, automation, application development, and integration—that also functions as a platform for deploying industry-specific processes and customizations. Assembling these different capabilities under a single rubric happens when an over-abundance of technological choices meets marketing’s desperation to over-simplify.
What BTP Is and Isn’t
So, once again, we go into the breach with an explainer of sorts about what BTP is and, in particular, why it’s called a business technology platform. It’s just a hodgepodge of tools and services, right? In most cases, BTP is no different than similar sets of tools and services offered by nearly all major enterprise software vendors and hyperscalers, right?
Right. But there are some very good reasons to examine BTP more closely, especially as many SAP customers already have some version of a BTP license that came with their SAP S/4HANA or RISE with SAP contract. Here are two of my top reasons why BTP is important to your organization’s business goals:
Industry-Specific Functionality Runs Only on BTP
For the last several decades, the true calling at SAP has been its depth of industry functionality: R/3 and ECC were distinguished and appreciated because of deep industry functionality. SAP has continued the tradition in two important ways. The first is that SAP S/4HANA has a fair amount of industry-specific functionality baked into its private and public cloud editions as part of its “clean core” capabilities. But not everything is in the core.
That’s where BTP plays an important, if largely unrecognized, role. SAP continues to add new industry-specific functionality, not in the S/4HANA clean core. Rather, many new industry-specific processes have been designed by SAP to run as extensions on BTP. No BTP, no advanced industry functionality.
The ability to be the platform for industry-specific extensions not built by SAP is the second way in which BTP will extend the SAP tradition and position as an industry-functionality leader. That role will be enhanced by partner- and customer-developed industry extensions. Those extensions will have a home running on BTP. Importantly, this includes supporting the migration of legacy processes to BTP that are too valuable to leave behind in a migration to SAP S/4HANA but for which no appropriate S/4HANA or partner replacement exists.
The ability of BTP to augment the clean core concepts behind SAP S/4HANA with industry-specific extensions, which are really next-generation customizations that work within the cloud SaaS model, is, unfortunately, an aspect of BTP sometimes missing in the BTP information flow and conversation.
BTP Manages Data and Integration
Managing data and integration may seem like not-too-exciting capabilities that every platform provides, and in many ways, they are. But for SAP’s nascent Business Networks initiative, these capabilities are paramount. SAP Business Network lets a company manage complex business interactions—supply chain, partner, pricing, asset, and logistics, among others—in a single, many-to-many networked environment. The Business Network functions as a portal for collaboration in near-real time with business partners, product track and trace functionality, the sharing of inventory availability, and other important requirements that can greatly benefit from the many-to-many interaction model of the network.
It also means that tasks like ESG compliance, which can be a huge burden for smaller companies that need to complete these qualifications for every business relationship, can be undertaken once, with the results made available to any company on the Business Network. Participation in the SAP Business Network will drive significant efficiencies and open up new business opportunities. Joining the Business Network should be on the radar for the majority of SAP customers.
Connected and Deeply Integrated Processes
What does this have to do with BTP? SAP’s Business Network works best when individual members’ disparate, disconnected internal processes have been engineered for deep integration. If, for example, a supplier wants to fulfill an order placed by a Network buyer, that supplier may need to provide the buyer visibility into the supplier’s supply chain and manufacturing capabilities to qualify for the job. Meeting those requirements mandates integrated processes and access to normalized data that can be used to report on these capabilities to partners.
That’s where BTP comes in. That BTP kitchen sink has a plethora of integration tools and APIs to apply to the integration side of the problem, as well as a vast array of data management tools needed to actually realize the kind of process integration that the Business Network is built to support. It’s possible to meet these requirements without BTP. But for SAP customers, and any customer of the Business Network, BTP has the requisite capabilities built-in and well-tuned to meet the Network’s requirements.
These are only a few of the many business-oriented capabilities within SAP BTP. ASUG members and the SAP community will expand their BTP knowledge and understanding at the upcoming ASUG Best Practices: SAP S/4HANA and Business Technology Platform (BTP) Conference. More event information can be found here, and you can register here.
Joshua Greenbaum is the Principal at Enterprise Application Consulting.