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Coupling Intelligence with Imagination – Innovating with SAP S/4HANA

David Lowson

I am David Lowson, Head of European SAP Practice and Center of Excellence at Capgemini. Alex Bulat, SAP innovation lead for Europe, recently sat down with me to discuss the many ways in which the value of SAP S/4HANA is changing the very business fundamentals.  Alex noticed that customers and competitors are not fully aware of the breadth of SAP capabilities. They build their storyline around business process efficiency, lose themselves in the marketing of SAP S/4HANA, and redo everything they did in the days of R3 / ECC. To Alex, this illustrated a need to provide a clearer value of SAP S/4HANA. With the evolution of a transforming SAP, how could we change the perception towards SAP S/4HANA implementations and support with the European SAP Center of Excellence (CoE)? So, he asked me how my SAP practices and the CoE were tackling this challenge?

I believe, the benefits of moving to SAP S/4HANA aren’t only from the business processes but from the platform it provides for the future. My teams are already building innovative SAP Leonardo enhancements to SAP processes, such as AI in invoice management, blockchain with logistics, predictive maintenance, etc. My directive to Alex and the CoE is clear – “Do not rely on SAP alone to provide innovation!” SAP recognizes this aspect and hence is playing the ‘coopetition’ game well – opening its ecosystem and platforms alongside Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Open-Source players, etc.

I recently had an opportunity to attend a Fortune 500 company event. This event witnessed large software vendors to small SMEs as attendees. All attendees presented their views on the future direction of their solutions and the ability to enable digital transformation. The presentations were slick, coherent, and valuable but confirmed the expected direction – nothing ‘unusual’. With this kind of conformity, how does one truly differentiate? Is digital transformation a commodity play where companies must reflect how they approach clients and their own workforce? Perhaps yes, because one small SME stood out at the show. They used a collaborative communication software to get people to respond to questions, collate and score the feedback, and finally use AI to summarize the responses. Voila! It addressed an issue that several companies need to deal with, captured the imagination of clients attending the event, and in the process of implementing this solution, paved the way for the migration to SAP S/4HANA in the next months.

My feeling is that the integration, responsiveness, and openness required to fully integrate were not available until the advent of SAP S/4HANA. So, the new possibilities depend on SAP S/4HANA as a platform, but the innovations need not come from SAP alone. Alex foresees the future when most SAP systems are SAP S/4HANA and are implemented with a standard digital core with all customizations in the API/microservices layer connected through a hybrid integration platform. With “API-fication” rising on the agenda of the CTO, I place my bets on innovations coming from the market and SAP being responsive to these innovations. SAP is going all guns blazing to present an open collaborative platform play to win this digital transformation war.

The pace of technology innovations has already accelerated to generate new opportunities. We’re noticing new business-driven innovations and business models, even with incumbents such as Volvo with their Care by Volvo model. It’s increasingly clear that more will come from the areas where change is greatest – clients/staff/equipment manufacturers/partner organizations/start-ups, etc. I want to ensure that my team builds the SAP solutions to take full advantage of the various scenarios. And this is my open challenge to Alex’s team – build an army of SAP accelerators, assets, solutions, and offerings. Think beyond the existing buzz created, understand the concept and build solutions which take clients in new directions setting them apart from the ‘nothing unusual’. Would the “connected vehicle” drive itself for a service? Will you even need a service? Will the garage parking be automatic and call the car automatically when needed? Would it be shared between households? Would you pay per journey? The possibilities are enormous, and this change will be driven not by SAP but by the manufacturers and market gaps.

Alex and my teams are building SAP accelerators to cater for all options at the API, microservices, and hybrid platform-integration layer. SAP is not a constraint to innovation but a strong enabler. SAP has the strength to industrialize and if recent news is any indication, we know they aren’t shy at acquisitions in order to gain market share and provide more innovation options.

To learn more on how the SAP Center of Excellence within Capgemini is opening innovation, building new channels and markets, or if you want to share ideas for a rapid prototyping – contact me or Alex Bulat.