In TechnoVision 2017, within the building block “There is a Platform for That”, Ron Tolido explains that customers are no longer seduced by beautiful apps, but by platforms supporting attractive markets, markets that directly connect the producers and consumers of platforms and services.
In the past, I have referred to SAP as the mother of all apps. Not so much the applications that we find on our mobile phones and devices, but those that hold and integrate the processes we need to support our business and connect with outside third parties.
Recently, a completely different app play has emerged. It all started as a race for one app out of the 64 apps we (apparently) use to earn a spot on our mobile devices. This was a time when the attractiveness of an app made a difference in its success. SAP, while displaying the ambition to reach 1 billion users, encountered difficulties when faced with winning over the consumer as a result of their Abap UI legacy.
But now, the play is on platforms. To what extent can and will SAP enable new initiatives from their clients to form these platforms? Will they deliver a technology platform that will enable new business services? The richness of the platform is certainly there and their installed base certainly will help. But I think there will be a few additional things that will determine their success in this journey:
New functionalities vs. born in the Cloud: How can SAP keep up with simply adding new technical functionalities as the more “born in the cloud” platform partners seem to do? I see them competing with the likes of Azure and AWS in this place, but IBM has definitely been able to make the jump with their Bluemix platform.
How open will the software stack be? The history of SAP was in the power of integration. Fortunately, we have seen them open their platform and adopt open standards. How easy will it be for others to integrate and add value to the platform?
Tapping into the Developer community: The value of an open software stack lies not just in integration, but also in managing the “developer” community. AWS in particular has been able to capture a strong development community that has helped them break new ground, building new skills for Alexa, which has spurred the success of this particular platform. How can SAP connect to these “new developers”?
Incubating start-ups: Can SAP deliver a model for incubating start-ups? Not the incubation of new start-ups within their own company, but start-ups that build on top of their platform. If not, they will stay dependent on the large companies they already serve, becoming a soft target for disruption. Can they set up a model where start-ups build their new “market platform” models on the SAP technology stack?
The installed base of SAP is always a good starting point for new technology to be adopted by the larger companies. But we see that many of the platform players in the start-up world are building on open source software or the new platforms of AWS, Azure etc.
I’m curious to see if Sapphire 2017 will bring a different perspective on this platform thinking and perhaps surprise us with some start-up clients.