SAP TechEd: SAP Cloud Platform aims to make SAP applications smarter

SAP has redefined the role of its SAP Cloud Platform (SCP): Its main objective is to integrate the various SAP applications, provide an environment to develop extensions and add-ons and to augment solutions with machine learning and predictive analytics.

As a leading vendor of business applications SAP has to provide a modern platform. While it was our impression that in the past SAP's intention was to compete with other platforms such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, SAP now seems to be pushing SAP Cloud Platform as an environment to make SAP solutions smarter.

SAP Cloud Platform is positioned as the de facto standard for integrating third-party apps into SAP solutions. SAP Cloud Platform Open Connectors provides connectors for about 150 different applications. As of today, SAP Cloud Platform is used by around 5,000 customers for integration purposes.

Also, SAP declares SAP Cloud Platform the tool for customizing ERP, based on the idea to "keep the core clean" from customizations. The preferred way of doing so is to write code on SCP and connect it to the core ERP app. From the vendor’s point of view, this is an absolutely reasonable approach, easing management of the core application's code, in this case SAP S/4HANA. However, it remains to be seen how this will resonate with existing customers, as they, like SAP's partners, will have to learn new tricks.

For me, one of the most important aspects of SAP Cloud Platform is its ability to augment SAP applications with new technologies such as analytics or machine learning. SAP is increasingly embedding such features in its various applications, including SAP S/4HANA, SAP C/4HANA and SuccessFactors. This offers users of those applications more opportunities to leverage the apps' inherent data, to improve and optimize processes in finance, supply chain management, sales & marketing as well as procurement. Thus, companies can discover what value lies in their data and use it for advanced analytics, forecasting and automation.

Overall, the combination of artificial intelligence and applications will become a key differentiator for vendors of enterprise solutions. Most of the key players, including Oracle, SAP, Microsoft, Workday and Salesforce, have started to develop such features; their success factor will be ease of use, openness, flexibility and extensibility. At the moment, it is too early to make out a clear leader in the race.