In the meantime I am back from SAP TechEd Barcelona and looking back I must say: those days were pretty packed! I just counted the entries in my OneNote notebook created for TechEd (I added one for every talk I visited), and those sum up to over 26. Therefore I got a lot new input and now I need to figure out - together with the team - what this means for sovanta and our customers.
My agenda for TechEd focused around the key topics of the sovanta portfolio:
- User Experience
- SAP Cloud Platform and SAP Extensibility
- Conversational UIs
- Machine Learning
For us as a Qualtrics partner, the TechEd started out quite well. Experience Management has also arrived on the central TechEd Keynote slide and messaging:
Bild: SAP SE
Besides Qualtrics also some of the other messages of Jürgen Müllers’ keynote as SAP Executive - as well as the other talks - have effects on sovantas portfolio:
SAP Analytics Cloud is integrated into SuccessFactors / Custom Widgets available in Q4
SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC) is going to be integrated first into SuccessFactors, followed by SAP S/4 Cloud and all other core solutions. This makes SAC the strategic “go to Tooling” when it comes to Analytics. Besides analytical capabilities SAC will also support more and more planning functionalities.
The possibility for Custom Widgets is going to be available this year in Q4. This is of special interest for us as this gives us even more flexibility to support our customers in creating excellent Analytical Dashboards for their users.
Spotlight by SAP
Jürgen Müller shows a nice tooling which could help to identify where an improved User Experience could have the most impact within a customer's organization. SAP Spotlight brings transparency into the question, how the end users actually use the system. This is done by User behavior mining. Doing so, spotlight identifies the most used processes and compares their performance (e.g. average duration of transaction) to the industry average. This gives a nice overview of where to improve UX up to a point where automation could be of relevance.
Intelligent Robotic Process Automation
This brings me to the next point: Müller highlighted the combination of Spotlight and Robotic Process Automation (RPA), whereas Spotlight identifies processes in which RPA could help to automate.
So, what is it, first and foremost? Robotic Process Automation is part of the SAP portfolio based on a acquisition made in the end of 2018. RPA can help to automate mundane and recurring tasks, so that the users free up time for the important stuff.
Personally, I see a lot of potential in the technology, especially in the combination with Conversational User Interfaces (Chat and Voice Bots) and Machine Learning. RPA will be one building block in our vision of the Digital Assistant.
SAP Conversational AI and CoPilot
When talking about Digital Assistants in the SAP Context, I also have to mention SAP Conversational AI and SAP CoPilot. Overall the topic is still very hot. Whoever is not convinced should have a look into the positioning of the CoPilot in SAP’s newest update of their Design System "Fiori 3".
Bild: SAP SE
I had the feeling that the strategic decision to bring the two products closer together (SAP Conversational AI will be the base for SAP CoPilot) decelerated the overall developments a little bit. This is a natural thing, but in the long run, customers and partners will benefit from these decisions as it brings more transparency into the portfolio.
SAP Conversational AI is getting more and more features to make it enterprise-ready, e.g. SSO, Multi-Bot and features to support collaborative Bot-developments. Personally, I am looking forward to the Skill Marketplace, so that we can make our already existing and successful Business Bot skills more visible to the SAP community.
SAP Fiori 3
SAP Fiori 3 has a lot more to show than "just" a prominent positioning of the CoPilot. I visited several talks related to Fiori 3 and I have to say, the positive feeling when I first saw the concepts is still here (by the way, I share that positive feeling with my UX colleagues and they are the experts on this topic).
Why do I like it? Besides the personal taste (it simply looks good to me) it also offers a variety of things:
- Vision of a single entry point: Although still a vision, it goes into the right direction. Finally, a single Launchpad to access all apps and tools needed for the daily work.
- Homepages: Get an overview of what is relevant even without a deep dive into the applications.
- Web Components: SAP (finally) opens up also for the world beyond SAP. Web Components as well as Angular Libs for Fiori will simplify the development of Fiori Apps also for non-SAP developers. We no longer need to stick to proprietary SAP technology to fully comply with SAP.
- Rapid SAP Fiori Activation: Although not really a feature of Fiori 3, this one is rather important: Finally SAP simplifies the activation of Fiori and therefore allows customers to play around with Fiori apps without the need of an activation project.
As mentioned, a lot of interesting feature are still not available. Nevertheless, there are good reasons for us to help our customers already at that state to start the route to Fiori 3.
Low code and rapid developments are really hot topics at the moment. Mendix was all the time prominently positioned by SAP. SAP also offers their own low code approach: Fiori Elements. Fiori Elements is the basis for most standard SAP Fiori applications. It can also be used for Custom applications and therefore save development time.
Although by nature limited in its feature set, SAP claims that it can support up to 80% of the standard scenarios. This makes it a good addition to our technology portfolio when it comes to SAP Fiori developments. The following decision tree by SAP visualizes the different approaches to a SAP Fiori application in a good way.
Bild: SAP SE
Extension Factory / Kyma / CAP
Excellent User Experience cannot be achieved if you solely concentrate on the frontend. That is why customers sometimes need extensions and enhancements even for the backend. With Cloud products and the SAP Cloud platform, the way of extending SAP applications has changed in the last time. SAP continuous this way by simplifying and standardizing the way extensions can be written. In this context three topics are of special interest for us:
- SAP Cloud Platform Extension Factory: Can be considered as the brand around a collection of services aiming to simplify extension creation and management. Extension Factory can make use of several runtimes, one of which is:
- Kyma: An open source project which relies on Kubernetes to provide functionality to extend applications. Again, I especially like this topic as it could help non-SAP developers to more quickly onboard to SAP.
- CAP: The Cloud Application Programming Model is the programming model of choice within the Extension Factory. It radically simplifies and therefore speeds up the development of extensions and the provisioning of OData services (e.g. to use for Fiori Elements). I am really happy to see this model taking over such a central role as got the chance to give feedback to the SAP development team already at an early development state.
Bild: SAP SE
The sessions I visited at TechEd have clearly shown one thing: SAP wants its customers to get the solution they really need. Therefore provide a holistic technology suite and platform to support them on their way to get there. This set of technologies, from UI technologies to Extensions and AI Services is already helping us today in our efforts to simplify peoples work lifes with an improved User Experience.
I had the chance to also have a look into a lot of other interesting topics (SAP Data Intelligence, SAP Data Hub, SAP Hana Cloud, Spartacus project, SAP Graph, ...) that I have to leave out today in order to keep this article to an acceptable length.
If you want to learn more or start a discussion on one of the mentioned or related topics - feel free to approach me or one of my expert colleagues!
About the Author: Christian Heinrich, Product & Portfolio Management