SAP’s Leonardo shows how the company sees new technologies as ways to drive more value from S/4HANA. To keep up, we SAP consultants must be more agile than ever.
As SAP consultants our job really isn’t about helping companies implement SAP. Our job is to help them innovate. That’s an easy thing to forget in the day-to-day crush of deadlines and getting code to work correctly. But it’s nonetheless true: Our fundamental role is that of co-innovator alongside our clients so they stay competitive despite a constant onslaught of new threats and opportunities — no matter how seemingly remote from today’s business those threats and opportunities may first appear. That’s our role, a fact I was reminded of the other day when I read an article on the Recode website, titled “The next evolution in office working could be employees getting implanted with a microchip.”
The article talks about how micro-miniature RFID chips implanted under the skin could communicate with networked devices like coffee makers, speakers, and electronic door locks. It also mentions a new company Elon Musk started, called Neuralink, that will make implants that wirelessly connect the human brain to the network.
So what do chip implants have to do with SAP? Or how do they impact our role as co-innovators with our customers? Then again, why not ask the same questions about other connected things like, say, autonomous vehicles, power generators, and clothing labels? SAP executives probably did ask before they launched Leonardo, which is what SAP is calling its portfolio of Internet of Things initiatives. What makes the Recode article noteworthy is that it illustrates an extreme example of what consultants might be called upon next to integrate with SAP — just as Leonardo will now require them to integrate other things for the first time — like vehicles, power generators and clothing labels.
Who knows? Which is exactly the problem. As companies get more value from new technologies than they get from new software alone, consultants will need to respond in ways they and their customers can’t fully foresee until they see the software in action. That’s why SAP created the jump-start program as part of Leonardo — to get working software quickly into the hands of IoT adopters, bypassing complex implementations. And it’s why consultants have to be agile.
Leonardo — Like the Man
In naming its IoT portfolio after the famous renaissance inventor/artist SAP was obviously making a statement about rebirth, about creativity empowering technology, and about the value of an interdisciplinary approach. Leonardo de Vinci was also obviously not someone who saw himself as an implementer, but more as an enabler of change, of outcomes. That’s just like how SAP sees itself, according to Dr. Tanja Rueckert, executive vice president, Digital Assets and IoT, SAP:
“Moving from things to outcomes is about new business processes such as Industry 4.0, new business models and new ways for people to live and work. With SAP Leonardo, we connect ‘things’ with business processes that are instantaneous and proactive, and with people who can manage more effectively with augmented intelligence and autonomous systems. Our SAP Leonardo IoT portfolio delivers on SAP’s commitment to produce superior business value through enterprise IoT innovation.”
With IoT, SAP wants to give customers visibility into the operations side of the business just like it always has given them visibility into the “business side” of the business. That’s like saying that real growth will now only come from crossing technology and functional boundaries — i.e., an interdisciplinary approach. That’s true for SAP, its customers, and for SAP consultants. Nor is IoT likely to be the last new technology SAP will need to wrap into its ERP core in order to generate significant new value. Leonardo is not just a model for embracing IoT, but for embracing any new technology that customers will realize they need to orchestrate as part of a coherent business whole.
That's a wakeup call for SAP consultants. Project teams will need to be more interdisciplinary, smaller, and more focused on particular pieces of the solution. They’ll also need to communicate more clearly and more often with other teams that are working on other pieces. Storytelling will continue to grow in importance as stakeholder and consultant teams try to figure out new value propositions, often on the fly, supported by channels like Slack and Skype. Individual creativity and initiative will replace rote “painting by numbers” rule following.
Leonardo didn’t paint by numbers and we can’t either, not if we are truly co-innovators with our customers. We need to be agile. That’s where SAP is going, and so must we.