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The second half of the chess board

September 30, 2020

Exponential change is real but not easy to grasp. We’re in the middle of it in many ways and the COVID-19 pandemic that has engulfed the world so quickly is a proof of that. “the second half of the chessboard” is a vivid metaphor for the ripple effects of ever-accelerating change in our daily life and in business. Businesses are still struggling to understand the nature of the impact of the change that it will have on business models and capability. Applying the same yardstick that worked yesterday won’t be sufficient if they’re to survive and thrive in this new paradigm. This is exactly where many miss the point in questioning the justification behind new technology, transformation that SAP S/4HANA brings. SAP S/4HANA and the ecosystem it provides, equip businesses with the essential capabilities to be in the game on the latter part of the chessboard. Pair that with the approach, methodology, and architecture that Capgemini brings with Digital Core with SAP S/4HANA, Renewable Enterprise and MPSA: you’ll get the right combination to help you be ready for the game.

The king said, “Name your reward!” and the wise man had but a simple wish: “Oh my lord, give me grain of rice for each square in the chess board starting with one for the first square and doubling for every next square till all 64 squares are completed”

We all know this story attributed to different origins but most popular being the story of ancient Indian King and his wise man who invented chess. More importantly, we know how the story ends – the king goes bankrupt in keeping his promise and the astronomical amount of rice needed.

This is the power of exponential growth. We’ve become very well aware of exponential growth being played out in the world as far as the spread of COVID-19 is concerned. The quick fire spread of COVID-19 and its infection around the world in a very short time is a stark reminder that ability to deal with runaway growth is essential in the world we live in.

There is no denying that in this digital age we’re all surrounded by exponential change – growth of the internet, data, connected IoT devices and sensors all follow the same trajectory. Enterprises need to respond quickly by reimagining business models, leveraging new technology capabilities, digitalizing business processes to survive and thrive in the face of accelerating change.

Take the case of Philips LiFI, which is a form of servitization i.e. an example of how any product can be transformed as a service (XaaS). This has ripple effect in all the applications and systems that make it happen – millions of additional data points about equipment need to be captured, gathered, processed, stored, mined, analyzed, visualized, archived, and deleted. The system needs to process a one-line quote for hardware, software, and service together in minutes, not weeks and also turn out a contract quickly with only a few pages instead of a lengthy hundred-page document.

As a result, order volume increases as it come in from multiple channels and millions of additional price points need to be generated to service many possible options and configurations that a customer may choose to activate. For example, for one security software company, price points increased to eight million.

No prizes for guessing where I’m leading to – we need new applications with newer, faster underlying database capabilities to process such huge data volumes, transactions, with a user-friendly front end including capabilities of near instant response to queries and providing intelligent insights to help answer the most pressing problems of the day for the business. Enter SAP S/4HANA – the platform for the post-modern ERP, the essential survival toolkit to navigate the second half of the chessboard.

In his 2000, “The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence,” Kurzweil avers that though exponentiality is explained with the chessboard analogy, it’s in the second half of the chessboard that the impact of exponential growth reaches gargantuan scale to go beyond common human understanding. In my view, when businesses are skeptical of the value of SAP S/4HANA it’s because the business or the industry is still not able grasp the impending wave and so we keep applying the measures of the first half of the chessboard.

In my view what we’ve only seen a trailer of the things to come. The differences would be as great as between the second half of the chessboard and the first. Just look at the challenge that COVID-19 has forced us in a matter of few weeks – meet worldwide demand for of billions of face masks, PPE, sanitizer from almost every corner of the globe coming at the same time. So how does anybody who wants to play the second half of the chessboard get there? The good news is that all the right ingredients are available now! You have all the elements at your disposal – database, hyperscaler, S/4, platform as a service, connected internet of everything, AI/ML, blockchain, AR/VR, 5G …

You now need the right playbook to make it happen and make it work – the methodology and the architecture. In the second half of the chessboard, you need to be agile, flexible, and resilient. You need, not just your queens, bishops and rooks, but you also need to be lightning fast in your game to keep pace with exponential nature of growth and fast response time. In Capgemini’s perspective, we’ve built an architecture framework around SAP S/4 and any PaaS. The obvious choice of PaaS would be SAP Cloud Platform (SCP) but enterprises get the freedom to choose any PaaS that fits their need.  This approach offers distinct advantages to the enterprises, the S/4HANA digital core can be kept as an out-of-the-box solution and at the same time you can be as fast as a rapid chess game on the loosely coupled pillar/platform, quickly building very specific applications. As a result, you can cater to novel situations and differentiate yourself in the market. Take a recent case, in order to deal with disruption caused by Covid, one of our retail customers asked us to build voice-activated no touch transactions for warehouse operators in SAP. We could do this because the customer had built its architectural framework around SAP S/4 and PaaS(SCP), which we call Multi-Pillar S/4 Architecture (MPSA). We built voice apps in SCP in two months without disrupting any of the core process set up in the S/4HANA Digital Core.

Enterprises can keep growing, evolving, reimagining, and the application stack also accompanies you without any of the traditional time-consuming, effort draining projects. In short, you can keep renewing yourself in SAP S/4HANA. That’s how you become a “Renewable Enterprise.”

Now the tough part. How do you put together all the ingredients in a way that fits your situation? You will have so many questions: Are we doing the right thing with our ECC estate? Where do we start? This is easier said than done of course. You need a partner who has the vision and the execution power. That’s why we’ve put together a bouquet of services to help customers embark on this journey. We’ll be the coach to get you ready to play the second half of the chessboard. My personal take is that we’ll reach that stage of the game by second half of this decade.

So where do you want to be then? SAP has extended 2025 deadline by a few years … you may think this has bought you a few more years. But life won’t wait, as this pandemic has proved beyond doubt. Resilience and recovery is key in the current situation to survive this period but smart leaders across industries are utilizing the crisis to rip open the band aid! I advise businesses to start your preparations now in order to be ready with your own version of Renewable Enterprise. In fact, you can already start to deploy a MPSA like PaaS pillar in your existing SAP ECC landscape! Need help? We’re there with our advisory and assessment services to create a compelling case targeted to your needs and goals.

After all, like the wise man, you would understand the power unleashed when the game reaches the second half of the chessboard.