This week I was in Dubai for the latest edition of the SAP Partner Innovation Meeting. My role was to talk about the trends and opportunities for 2023, for customers, SAP, and our partners. I believe there are three interlinked areas that will provide the biggest opportunities for the year to come.
First, everybody wants to innovate faster, to be more agile, to be able to react quickly to changes in today’s uncertain business environments.
But how do they do that? All the industry analysts have a similar vision of what that agile future of business looks like. IDC calls it the Future Enterprise, Forrester talks about Future Fit organizations, and Gartner explains the benefits of the Composable Enterprise.
In every case, it involves having a solid information foundation that enables fast and flexible creation of what Gartner calls Composable Applications that allow you to create new applications and workflows by bringing together modular components. And it’s not just a technology vision — it’s also about how organizations have to rethink how they optimize business processes, business capabilities, and the business ecosystem.
And of course this is exactly what we are delivering with SAP. We want to help our customers to the SAP S/4HANA in the cloud with the RISE with SAP program that bundles the applications, platforms, tools, and services customers need to adopt continuous business innovation offered by the cloud.
And then on top of that foundation, we offer the SAP Business Technology Platform. It has everything you need to accelerate innovation and unlock your business potential. And, tightly aligned with that analyst vision, it’s not just a technology toolbox. It’s a unified, modular platform focused on end-to-end business processes across multiple cloud environments.
And it’s not just an add-on layer for customers — it’s also the underlying foundation for SAP’s own innovation. It’s what we’re using to build our next generation of solutions and applications, and a key part of our strategic vision.
According to IDC, such platforms are THE fastest growth area of the software market, and we’re seeing 50% growth for SAP BTP around the world. And this year I think things are really going to accelerate. Let’s look at some of the new opportunities.
Business Process Optimization. With the acquisition of Signavio, we can now offer customers powerful business process intelligence. It’s a bit like having an X ray machine that you can shine into your organization to find out what’s going wrong. And I’ve found that the Signavio solutions are a great way to help build the ROI case for innovation. You can show skeptical business people exactly what’s going wrong today, in a format they really understand, and show them how they compare to their peers. Then you can paint the picture of the benefits they’ll get with the best practices available in S/4HANA, or with new applications built on SAP BTP. If you haven’t already done so, I really encourage you to dig into the new opportunities.
Sustainability. This year, with the increasing number of carbon footprint taxes and plastic taxes, I’ve seen many more companies realize sustainability isn’t just a nice-to-have, it’s a required, auditable part of modern business.
The good news is that the vast majority of the world’s most mission-critical and resource-intensive processes go through SAP systems, so small changes can make a big differences to the planet. Talking to customers, I find they’re really impressed by how powerful and mature our sustainability solutions are. It’s about helping our customers make sustainability profitable and profitability sustainable.
Business Content. The next big opportunity is to provide more packaged solutions. One of SAP’s biggest advantages is that we leverage our 50 years of experience to provide business content, not just technology – best practices, templates, predefined automations, and so on.
According to IDC, while revenue from IT services continues to grow, it’s steadily decreasing as a percentage of the overall market, because everything is easier and quicker in the cloud. The real future revenue opportunity is to accelerate customer innovation by providing more prepackaged content and solutions. We would like to work with SAP partners to move away from one-off customizations for each customer, and instead leverage their expertise to create modular, reusable content that can be sold via the SAP store, and used as part of composable applications.
Empowering business people
Second, e have an amazing opportunity to accelerate innovation by letting business people do more of it themselves, in their area of expertise, without IT and technology being a bottleneck.
Gartner believes that business technologists are the future of innovation. These are people that weren’t hired for their IT skills but they end up using technology as part of their role—and Gartner says that they will be building the vast majority of innovation inside organizations in the near future.
What changed? Well, there have always been power users, of course. But new cloud-based low-code and no-code products have become easier to use and more powerful. Business people can now create their own full end-to-end workflows, their own composable applications.
SAP has a big differentiator has a big opportunity to help organizations combine the best of no-code and pro-code. IT can reuse all the business context that’s already in the SAP systems to create the “blocks” — predefined terms like “customer,” “invoice,” or “headcount”, or actions like “purchase product” or “ship to customer”. Then the business people can simply drag and drop those blocks to create flexible applications, without having to understand where the data is coming from or how it’s calculated, and IT can be reassured that everything is secure and compliant.
And this is where SAP Build comes in. It was recently launched at SAP TechED, and it brings together the ability to build applications, automate processes, and create user-oriented websites, all from a single integrated environment. And it’s not just for the business technologists – it also helps accelerate the work of pro-coders. For example, I recently talked to a customerthat gave Appgyver (now called SAP Build Apps) to their (design-thinking-trained) business people and said “go build the interface you want”, and then once that was done, they simply wired it into the right systems. It was fast, agile, and the ownership of the solution remained firmly where it should be: with the business teams.
Analysis to Action
The third big opportunity is to close the gap between analysis and action. Gartner says that data is a liability – after all, it costs you money to collect, and it has risks, the very definition of a liability. To turn it into an asset, you actually have to do something with the data, to change something in the way you do business. And that’s what often goes wrong. The challenge is to embed data and analytics into business results, to understand where and how to improve decision-making through the business moments where decisions take place.
The problem is that we’ve been doing analytics wrong for thirty years. Because of technology limitations, we have always had to start by ripping information from the business systems and moving it to a different platform—a data warehouse, data lake, data lakehouse, data cloud. But that’s like ripping a tree out of the forest and trying to get it to grow in a different environment. You lose the roots: the business context, the metadata, the connections, the hierarchies and security. It’s possible to do, but it takes huge amounts of time and effort to recreate all that from scratch.
Now, thanks to the cloud, there’s a better way. We can move the technology to the data rather than the other way around. We can leave the data as much as possible where it already is, and still provide powerful real-time analytics.
The analysts call this approach a data mesh strategy involving data fabric approaches. It’s a more federated approach to data and analytics: each domain area provides operational and analytic “data products,” often in the form of APIs that provide reliable information sources that can be combined on the fly as part of composable applications. So it’s about connecting to data rather than collecting it, and keeping end-to-end business processes at the heart of the strategy, rather data.
Because it’s all about business processes and metadata, this aligns well with SAP’s core advantages and solutions such as SAP Graph (a consistent set of APIs to connect to data across the SAP ecosystem), SAP Data Intelligence (data pipelines and data orchestration, SAP Data Warehouse (self-service data modeling to business people in governed environments). Using these solutions together helps provide better, more useable data to the business while minimizing complexity and wasteful duplication of data.
And the number one way that organizations turn analytics into action today is through planning processes. In an increasingly uncertain world, SAP Analytics Cloud makes it easy to project current circumstances into the future, and do powerful predictive, scenario-based planning, across finance, HR, logistics and other areas
The big opportunities for partner to help customers and earn revenue next year are faster innovation, empowering business people, and closing the gap between analysis and action.
And the biggest differentiators for SAP all come down to the “B” in SAP BTP. We’re focused on business outcomes, not technology:
- Business Process: It’s about putting business process improvement at the heart of innovation – it’s what business people really care about.
- Business Context: Leveraging existing investments in metadata across the business, so that organizations don’t have to recreate it all from scratch.
- Business Content: Accelerating innovation by providing more out of the box solutions for particular business needs, rather than just technology.
- Business Empowerment: freeing knowledge workers to identify problems and be able to fix it themselves, for faster and more flexible innovation.
Together, we would like for our partners to help us help our customers become intelligent, sustainable enterprises. In 2023, we have an amazing opportunity to create win-win-win situations, where we can improve customer outcomes, increase profits AND help make the world be a better place. It’s all about profits AND purpose.