End-to-end processes took center stage at SAP TechEd Barcelona 2018. Where many Business Executives and Enterprise Architects today prefer business capability maps over end-to-end processes, the term was used more than ever before during the TechEd keynote. But it was for a good reason.
Key theme: making the Enterprise more Intelligent
As opposed to last year’s hype-hype-hurray tenor, this year the TechEd tune was more down to earth with a focus on end-to-end business process optimization across the entire business ecosystem by means of digital technologies. Making the Enterprise more Intelligent, SAP calls it. Interesting customer cases presented include S/4HANA extended with Machine Learning to retrieve, from a picture, the article number of the material shown on the picture; or the creation of a purchase order based on a conversation the purchase requestor had with a chat bot.
However, make no mistake. Should you want to launch a disruptive new business model and need to build IT systems for that, no matter if it has to do with Blockchain, IoT, VR/AR, etcetera, SAP offers platforms and tools for building it. This does not yet really resonate in the market, in my humble opinion, and Enterprise Architects should be more open to evaluating SAP technology beyond business systems.
A little less arrogant SAP
Good news is that SAP finally understands they’re not alone in the universe and have dropped the not-invented-here stance. SAP Cloud Platform Integration (CPI) for instance hosts some 150 open connectors, pre-built connectors to third-party cloud applications that work out of the box. On top of that there’s Machine Learning features that suggest you data mappings.
Integration-in-the-box thus is succeeded by out-of-the-box integration. SAP API Management on top of that make the picture complete. Another example is the SAP Data Hub that brings together cross-silo data from SAP and non-SAP sources. Note that when it comes to an API Management Platform the first questions to ask are Why API’s, Which API’s, and For Whom? Not Which API Management platform? Or What Features Do We Need? API makers should check out the API Business Hub on sapjam.com.
SAP will need to repeat this message about interoperability over and over again because quite a few Business Executives and Enterprise Architects I know still are convinced SAP systems are not open at all. Or, even worse, believe SAP is synonymous to ERP.
SAP HANA Data Management Suite
Architects in general love clustering but there should be a good reason behind it. The reason why SAP clustered four of their products under the name SAP HANA Data Management Suite is not instantly clear to me. This Suite comprises of SAP HANA, SAP Data Hub, SAP Enterprise Architecture Designer, and Big Data Services from SAP. But SAP Master Data Governance (MDG) is not there, just to name one. And why is an EA tool in?
Anyway, some highlights. SAP HANA can now be used as a JSON document store, to build applications that require schema flexibility and it can do real-time anonymization as well as dynamic masking to hide and protect sensitive data.
The SAP Data Hub is comparable to the control tower for all data flows across the business ecosystem including streaming data, social data, or transactions flowing into a data lake. The main features of SAP Data Hub are meta-data management, orchestration & monitoring, pipelining & processing, and ingestion & integration. It comes with many connectors, open just as well as native, to for example SAP API Business Hub, SAP Cloud Platform Integration, or the SAP Event Bus.
I had a sneak preview of the SAP Enterprise Architecture Designer in Walldorf (DE) back in March ’18 and I remember it looked quite promising. A full-blown EA tool giving business strategy, business capabilities, business processes, data models, IT artifacts, and so on, a place to live. Surprisingly the TechEd hands-on session was limited to producing a canonical data model. But even that may already be quite an improvement for some SAP customers.
SAP Cloud Platform Big Data Services provide a fully managed Big Data framework running in the SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud (HEC) that includes Spark, Hadoop, and Hive. Features include ingestion of data using open source solutions such as Apache Kafka and DistCp (Distributed Copy) or SAP solutions such as SAP Data Services, transforming and loading data into the Hive warehouse using open source solutions such as Spark, Pig, and Oozie, and running Spark-based machine learning algorithms using a Jupyter Notebook.
User Experience from GUI to UI5
There was a time when SAP GUI was the one and only UI technology available for accessing SAP applications. Today there’s ten UI technologies, many of which come with a set of tools. No worries, the SAP GUI is still amongst them, 7.60 is GA in 1Q19. The strategic way forward for SAP user experience though is still the same as last year and called Fiori. Nothing new here, just confirmation.
SAP Fiori can be implemented through various UI technologies and platforms. SAPUI5 is the leading UI technology for Fiori. It is an HTML5 framework designed to build cross-platform applications. Major parts of the framework are open source. Maintenance by SAP of version 1.38 ends December 2018, version 1.60 is GA 1Q19.
Current version is 1809 and even though the Roadmap does not mention further version numbers, there’s loads of innovations planned for the Web IDE to become the place to develop once, deploy to multiple SAP environments: SAP Cloud Platform, ABAP platform, SAP Mobile Platform, and the SAP Enterprise Portal. Yep, ABAP is there now in the SAP Cloud Platform and you can store and manage ABAP code on GitHub. Have you ever. No reason whatsoever anymore to not keep your core clean!
Architectural challenges of fast evolving Hybrid Landscapes
Oil and Gas company Shell just as well as the Dutch eCommerce logistics services provider PostNL and other companies have adopted a cloud-only strategy and have a hybrid landscape while transitioning. Even laggard companies have some form of cloud solutions in useand thus al have a hybrid landscape. So, Enterprise Architects everywhere are confronted with having to redefine the integration strategy for their organization. How to blueprint a hybrid integration platform for my organization? When to use what integration technology or service?
SAP provides help here by means of a methodology and reference architecture called the Integration Solution Advisory Methodology (ISA-M). Via high-level scoping of integration areas in a hybrid landscape the integration styles and use case patterns need to be determined. To do this, ISA-M holds a technology-agnostic library of integration use cases: Process Integration, Data Integration, User Integration, Thing Integration, and combinations of the previous. Once defined, ISA-M points you SAP integration technologies. Good help but proper architecting I believe would be to map it to integration technology alternatives, not directly jump to conclusions.
If integration is your thing you’d want to check out the CIO Guide For Integration.
SAP Analytics Cloud is SAP’s primary strategic solution
The SAP Analytics strategy is hybrid but SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC) is SAP’s primary strategic solution moving forward. SAC is interoperable with BusinessObjectsBI (BOE) and it supports remote data connections so your on-premise data can stay resident on-premise. The SAP Analytics Hub is the single front end for all Analytics content, dive into this if you haven’t already.
SAP Hybrid Analytics implies you can deploy Analytics solutions on premise or in the cloud under one license and one contract, giving ultimate flexibility. SAP offers a conversion program called the Cloud Extension Policy to allow for a partial termination of on-premise maintenance when replaced with a new cloud contract.
SAP continues to invest in the on-premise BI Suite and plans to release the next version of the BI suite by Q4 2019. This release, currently referred to as 4.3, will then become generally available in Q2 2020. Mainstream maintenance will be extended to 2026 at a minimum. SAP will continue to deliver innovations in new versions of the core BI on-premise products: BI platform, Lumira Server, Web Intelligence, Crystal Reports, Lumira Designer, and Analysis for Office.
Do you as an Executive or Enterprise Architect want to further discuss any SAP-related topics? Let’s talk!
MENDEL KOERTS is the author of Jeff’s Journey To A Digital Business. He has specialized in business-impact-driven Enterprise Architecture with a specific focus on Enterprise Applications and Digital Transformation. Mendel joined Ernst & Young Consulting in 1996 after graduating from both Business Administration and Computing Science. He founded ENSEAD Advisory in 2011.