SapphireNow 2017: Intelligent Apps – Beginning of an Inflection Point?

Bill McNee Research Alerts

What is Happening?

Earlier this week, ISG Insights attended SAP’s annual SapphireNow conference in Orlando, Florida, along with 30,000 other senior executives, partners and ecosystem players.  Front and center during the opening-day keynote by CEO Bill McDermott was SAP Leonardo, SAP’s new / updated brand that is becoming its de facto next-generation platform and toolkit for building intelligent applications. SAP Leonardo integrates not only SAPs emerging Internet-of-Things (IoT) positioning, but likewise incorporates a design-thinking methodology that leverages machine learning and blockchain technologies, and a range of business analytics functionality.

Why is it Happening?

A key theme that McDermott emphasized was that data is the new “gold” in the digital revolution – a theme further emphasized by Hasso Plattner, Chairman of the Advisory Board, in the Day 2 keynote. In fact, Plattner’s emphasized two key new directions for the firm – the need to be faster and better at rapid application prototyping (emphasizing the role of the UI in this endeavor), and his vision to make all applications intelligent.

In this regard, Leonardo is SAP’s next big thing – and central to the way it will help customers build and deploy next-gen style applications and the services that will surround them. Long an advocate for in-memory approaches and architectures that deliver a single version of the truth, Plattner led SAP to its current “no-aggregates” framework as S/4 HANA evolved over the past few years. In this regard, Leonardo is the next crank of the wheel, and the foundation for the building of a new class of intelligent application layered on top of the SAP Cloud Platform, inclusive of its emerging IoT, AI and machine learning capabilities.

While an event as large and broad as SapphireNow can’t be covered in a single research piece, other key moves by SAP included:

  • SAP Digital Twin, providing digital inspection for the Leonardo IoT platform (leveraging sensors to create real-time digital representations of physical assets). Interesting case studies shared in these regards.
  • SAP Cloud Platform to now run on AWS and Cloud Foundry, as it ups its game to further support a multi-cloud environment.
  • SAP Machine Learning (ML) now available now only as part of Leonardo platform but SAP is launching its own ML technology on a digital platform, called SAP Machine Learning Foundation. A host of SAP offerings are also getting machine learning updates, including SAP 2/4 HANA Cloud for Finance.
  • Significant upgrades to a range of analytic offerings, including SAP Analytics Cloud (formerly Business Objects), SAP Digital Boardroom, SAP Predictive Analytics, among others.
  • SAP Ariba and IBM are partnering together to transform procurement with SAP Leonardo and IBM Watson

Market Impact

As shared in my Lens 360 blog post recap published May 18 on Workday’s recent Tech Summit, it is clear that the major ERP players are dramatically upping their games and advancing strategies that go well beyond their historical strength in developing and delivering core systems of record. In the case of both SAP and Workday, layering in advanced analytics, AI and IoT technologies that access real-time financial and non-financial data, combined with other internal and external information, is significantly extending the value-proposition of both providers – whether rank and file managers, all the way up to the boardroom.

While SAP’s various cloud-based offerings were emphasized throughout the event – front and center was a vision of SAP delivering a next-generation of intelligent apps that have the potential to enable enterprise to better navigate their digital transformations and journey. No doubt that we are early in this journey, but the knee may be in the curve where the emphasis will be less on core systems of record and more on data and executive intelligence as the cornerstones of tomorrows ERP.

While no doubt SAP has a compelling next-generation vision, a big question is how many S/4 HANA customers are far enough along in their journey to take advantage of the new capabilities – and how rapidly will SAP lay out some very actionable, compelling, and high-value ML-based solutions around specific process or executive leadership issues, to accelerate adoption?

But what is clear is SAP is thinking out of the box, as it moves to go beyond its initial S/4 HANA application vision – and sets its sights on helping clients advance their digital journeys. We like that SAP is setting new frontiers and challenges in front of itself.

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