SAP as a prism
SAP unveiled its new face at TechED Barcelona in November 2017.
The different vertical industries are going through a transition (often enough caused by or related to digitization) - and so is SAP. This became evident again at TechED in Barcelona in Nov 2017. On the one hand, SAP has transitioned the ERP suite using HANA and S/4HANA, enabling new kinds of solution. However, these solutions are closely related to the core ERP system. On the other hand, a multitude of new technologies have emerged – such as blockchain, artificial intelligence, machine learning/deep learning, the Hyperledger project, IoT projects of various kinds – and SAP needs to find its position in the newly transitioned technical and business environments. For SAP customers it can certainly be difficult to see where SAP is heading and what strategy it is pursuing. In many cases, however, SAP may not have a ready-made, easy-to-digest strategic message. SAP is trying to embrace the new technologies, testing them, building showcases, technical demos and pilot projects in co-development mode with customers and partners.
This way, SAP is using a well-known management method to show customers that the company is familiarizing itself with new technologies, thereby leading by example, i.e. experimenting with different options and leaving the straight path and strategy set by the boundaries of classic ERP software. In this sense SAP can be seen as a prism. A white beam enters it, the light is broken and a spectrum of new colors comes out. One of the new colors is the classic ERP system, e.g., in the form of S/4HANA, another color may represent HANA, and large parts of the remaining colors currently stand for the Leonardo suite of experiments, products, pilots, co-development efforts, and alternative engagements.
Bottom line: SAP is transitioning into a new business environment characterized by many technical options, partnerships, collaborative options, and also pricing models. SAP customers are right to be pushing SAP, asking their former ERP vendor where the company is headed. However, they need to accept that SAP itself is going through a transition to find its new place in a fast changing technical and business environment. The Leonardo suite of products and offerings is the right place to start a new relationship with SAP and try new things, pushing one's own digitization agenda.