​Making connections: SAP’s platform for the future

By Stuart Dickinson, Managing Director/General Manager on

The great thing about attending Sapphire NOW, SAP’s global showcase attended by customers, partner and employees, is that it gives you key insights into SAP’s strategic thinking. This year was no exception. The big agenda setting announcement was SAP’s commitment to becoming the leading enterprise platform for business.

SAP has firmly set its sights on this goal. It believes, and most technology commentators would agree, that the platform approach – in SAP’s case, providing customers with a digital core of services, dedicated business networks and easy connection points to integrate other technologies – is the way ahead. In recent years SAP has done a lot of work integrating its existing line-of-business applications.

Now it is providing APIs and access into its own eco-system, and actively partnering with other technology providers to collaborate on solutions that make business easier to understand, execute and predict for customers.

It’s a sensible strategy. Traditionally SAP has been an application provider with all its enterprise data contained within its own environment. But the silo approach has some disadvantages; chiefly it reduces the ease and ability to integrate data from external sources.

Cloud technology and its increasing popularity has impacted SAP’s thinking as it has created a thirst amongst organisations for more data connectivity. Xero is a good example. It is a fully cloud-enabled product that accepts data feeds from other application providers, and encourages an open partner eco-system, giving users the ability to do a lot more than just compliance accounting.

SAP has the same platform ambition. It wants to make use of other data sources to complement its own, and in doing so, become the de-facto platform for enterprise business.

A practical example of this approach, demonstrated at Sapphire NOW, is a collaboration currently underway with Google. SAP is working on a marketing application that will allow advertisers to gauge exactly how much media exposure their brand sponsorship is attracting – an important measure that determines marketing costs between advertisers and event organisers.

Using Google’s image recognition software an advertiser will be able to ingest and analyse, in real time, all the footage of an event to decipher the amount of media exposure a brand attracts. It is an example of an Internet of Things application that uses machine learning algorithms to extract data from video footage. This data is then digested and analysed by SAP’s Hybris business platform, allowing the advertiser to measure and quantify the business value of its advertising spend.

As a partner, SAP’s platform approach will create interesting opportunities. We will be required to think about a much bigger story; not just solve business problems using SAP applications, but find ways in which we can drive greater insights for customers, using a wider array of technologies. It will no longer be enough to simply be SAP functional experts, we will need to provide advice and services across a range of key platform areas – including cloud, data and application integration.

The opportunities afforded by SAP’s collaborative approach – the ability to help more customers solve a broader range of business problems – outweighs the disadvantages. While SAP may experience more customer churn by opening up its eco-system to other providers, it realises that technology is advancing quickly on many different fronts.

To try and satisfy all its customers’ technology appetites on its own would be a foolhardy undertaking in terms of cost and speed of delivery. Better to position itself as the digital platform of choice and invite other leading technology providers to come to the party – leveraging, supplementing and augmenting its own offering to give customers access to a richer array of solutions – including its own cutting-edge SAP Leonardo application suite. More of which you can read about in Carl McGowan’s blog here.