Technology Vision 2030

Three years ago, I published an “innovation radar” here. With a new decade ahead, I thought it’s time to talk about my view about the technology trends of the upcoming years again. And perhaps to look a little further into the future.

This time, I have taken the three time horizons a little wider than in the past. On the one hand, to be not too optimistic (what I usually am), and on the other hand, because it corresponds more to the “3 horizons” model and time frames that e.g. Martin Wezowski of SAP’s ICN also uses.

innovation_radar_2020

The time frames are not meant to tell when the corresponding technology will be mature, but rather when the topics will be relevant for a “typical” SAP customer – in my opinion. Some more explanations:

  • In the outer horizon you can find topics that are perhaps still somewhat unclear, but which should be observed/evaluated (“assessed”). For topics like 5G, quantum computing, VR and blockchain, it is perhaps not yet possible to predict exactly how this will affect companies and business processes.
  • In the middle circle there are topics that we should at least try out today (“trial”). Automation, especially in the area of “knowledge work”, is a topic that SAP is driving forward strongly at the moment with their “Intelligent RPA” platform. Not less important will be the “democratization” of access to technology, as Gartner calls it: no-code/low-code tools allow applications to be developed without profound programming skills, and thanks to Auto ML, suitable machine learning models for a problem can be found and trained without having to consult a data scientist. The interaction with IT systems via voice will perhaps become more important in the near future than we first thought: recently, I read about the term “augmented audio”: we probably won’t all have data glasses on our heads anytime soon, but smart headphones (e.g. AirPods) are already being used by many people. And the technology of progressive web apps (PWA) could make the development of cross-platform mobile apps (including offline-capable ones) much easier.
  • The inner circle contains topics that should, or at least could, play a role in SAP projects in the short term (“adopt”). Service providers and system integrators should have few or no “question marks” around AI (with “Data Intelligence” as SAP’s new core platform), chatbots or conversational UIs (which also includes SAP’s digital assistant CoPilot) today. Fiori 3 and the concept of a central launchpad in the cloud is something you won’t be able to get past if you work with SAP anyway.

From the decade of the cloud to the decade of AI

The start of a new decade is probably a good opportunity to look back and forward a little bit further…

As far as the past decade is concerned, I would say it was mainly determined by the “cloud”, technology-wise (besides maybe the topic of mobile devices). Looking ahead to the next 10 years, I don’t think you have to be a great visionary to realize, that artificial intelligence (AI) will be the dominant topic. This includes also bots and digital assistants, that are based on AI. Thanks to AI we will experience an increasing automation (Gartner calls it “hyperautomation”), especially in knowledge and office work. Even for business decisions, people may rely on the advice of AI in the near future. And some people also say that only this will be “real digitalization”, as opposed to the pure “electrification of forms and processes” that we see today.

In addition, I would expect that mixed reality solutions will find their way into our everyday (professional and private) life in the next 10 years. Data glasses like Google Glass were one of the biggest flops of the past decade – in the years to come, however, hardware and use cases should become more relevant, more suitable for everyday use, and more mature (at the latest when Apple brings it’s “Apple Glass”). Many experts also say blockchain will be one of the most important fundamental technologies, for many areas. I guess that is true, but IMHO it will take some time until we see the technology as foundation of a big amount of business processes, apart from the prototypes and pilot implementations available today.

What do you think about the technology trends mentioned? Please feel free to comment and discuss…

SAP Technology/Innovation Radar 2017

During the last few years, the most relevant technologies in the SAP-area have been quite clear: HANA, HANA, HANA, cloud, mobile. But today a few more topics appear on the horizon again, that I have put together in the form of an “innovation radar”:

The inner circle contains technologies that are relevant for customers and projects in a broader scale in this year in my opinion, the topics of the middle circle may become relevant in 1 or 2 years, and the outer circle contains future technologies and topics. “Hot topics” are orange.

The top IT trends for 2017

These are exciting times in the IT industry, as the “digital transformation” leads to the fact that technology is increasingly interwoven with every single process in enterprises, and with more and more areas of our personal lives. In 2017, some more or less new topics will be on our agendas:

  • AI / Machine Learning: machine learning and neural networks will be the basis for systems that understand, learn, predict, and perhaps make their own decisions in the future. This slide from last year’s SAP TechEd shows very curtly what machine learning is all about:
    Machine Learning
  • Bot Frameworks: “bots are the new apps”, and speech recognition combined with machine learning will make “conversational systems” possible, which will be an additional option for human-machine-interaction (but not the only one). SAP does the first steps in this direction with it’s digital assistant “CoPilot“.
  • Virtual Reality: VR has some use-cases also in enterprise applications, e.g. in logistics, as this demonstration during last year’s  congress of the German SAP user-group (DSAG) shows:
  • Blockchain: this technology could be the foundation for the “next generation internet”, and possibly disrupt several industries like banking, retail and media. Maybe not in 2017, but I guess this year we will hear more about it. And SAP is also doing active research on this topic.
    The following TED-talk of Don Tapscott give’s a good overview of the basic idea behind the blockchain and possible use-cases:

SAP TechEd 2016 in Barcelona: HANA 2 and Machine Learning

For the second year in a row, the European edition of SAP’s TechEd took place in Barcelona. New bigger announcements of new products have been made this year, currently it’s more about stabilizing the “digital core” with HANA and the HANA cloud platform for SAP.

The most interesting news was the upcoming “HANA 2”: a new “version” (basically SP 13 of HANA), with new features like a machine learning-platform and a container architecture (to allow BYOL = bring your own language). HANA 2 will also be available for the HANA Express Edition, which you can run on laptops or virtual machines for free.

HANA 2

Speaking of machine learning: with AI and machine learning being one of the hottest topics in the IT industry today, it was clear SAP also had to come up with a solution in this area. Both HANA 2 and the HCP will offer a corresponding framework in the future, and one of the first business solutions will be “Brand Intelligence”, which analyzes the visibility of brands in videos and images. But what is “machine learning”? This slide shows it very well:

Machine Learning

There is also an openSAP-course on this topic.

2016 Will be the Year of the Cloud

…and here’s why I think so:
  • Salesforce, the world’s biggest SaaS-vendor, will be the event partner for this year’s CeBIT, and thus no one (also in the very conservative German IT market) will be able to ignore how mature and feature-rich cloud solutions have become today.
  • People forget quickly, so they will also soon forget what Edward Snowden revealed about what can happen to our data residing on cloud servers (or just being transferred via the internet).
  • “The normative power of the factual”: all big software vendors, including SAP, shift their development efforts towards cloud solutions, most of their new solutions are pure cloud solutions (or at least also available in a SaaS-model) – so soon companies will have no choice anyway, it get’s the de-facto standard.

SAP TechEd 2015 in Barcelona: On a Mission to Mars

The HANA Cloud Platform (HCP) was THE dominating topic at this year’s SAP TechEd in the sunny city of Barcelona. The “HANA” in it’s name may be a bit misleading, because although the HANA-database is of course part of the platform, the HCP is rather a collection of many different services for the development and the operation of all kinds of applications. Examples are services for building and operating SAPUI5-apps, gamification, mobile applications, document services, IoT services and so on, and so forth. As the HCP can also be used to adapt and extend existing OnPremise- and cloud-solutions of SAP, and is the basis for many new SAP solutions, maybe we could refer to it as the true successor of the NetWeaver platform.

If you want to get a good overview of what is possible today with help of the HANA cloud platform, and how the development of applications in the SAP-area will look like in a few years, you HAVE to watch the keynote of Björn Goerke here: http://events.sap.com/teched/en/session/26506. Not one of the usual keynotes with a sequence of buzzwords, but a one-hour “one-man-live-coding-demo-show”, around a story of “The Martian“.

keynote_martian.png

 

Other important topics:

  • Analytics and Big Data: SAP Cloud for Analytics (C4A), the new one-stop-shop for everything that has to do with analytics, planning and predictive, was already announced a few weeks before at the SAP TechEd in Las Vegas, and is also based on the HCP: http://www.sapcloudanalytics.com
  • Internet of Things: IoT surely is one of the key-trends in technology in the coming years. SAP has a “cloud-first” approach in this area, with again the HCP (and it’s IoT Services) being the central platform for it.
  • Fiori Cloud Edition: I participated in a workshop where I could see how easy it is to configure and even extend Fiori-applications, that are hosted in the HCP-based offering “Fiori Cloud Edition”. You can try it for yourself at https://www.sapfioritrial.com. General availability is planned for January 2016.
  • Fiori 2.0: many improvements and innovations of the upcoming Fiori-release have to do with the launchpad, and the possibilities for users to handle larger amounts of applications within it. The result looks like some sort of a mixture between Fiori Launchpad and NetWeaver Portal.

Finally some impressions of the event and the beautiful city of Barcelona:

New products announced at SAPPHIRE NOW in Orlando

From May 14th to 16th 2013 SAP’s annual customer conference “Sapphire Now” took place in Orlando. SAP announced many new products there, I would like to present you some of them.

SAP Fiori

“SAP Fiori” represent currently 25 very simple and intuitive HTML5-based “apps”, that can be used both on desktops and tablets, as well as on smart-phones. Under the slogan “keeping simple things simple” the applications cover the most used but least complex use cases of SAP ERP, e.g. workflow-approvals and self-service scenarios like leave requests. Those use cases affect 80% of the SAP-users and more than 45% of the SAP-usage at all.

The following video and the demos at https://experience.sap.com/fiori#demos give a first impression of “Fiori” (wich is Italian for “flowers”, btw):

You can find more detailed information at https://experience.sap.com/fiori and https://help.sap.com/fiori.

SAP Lumira

SAP brings their BI-tool “Visual Intelligence” to the cloud and calls it “Lumira”. Lumira is a self-service BI-tool that can be used to analyze and visualize data and share the results it with colleagues. The data can originate from HANA, relational databases, BO universes or Excel. There is a beta-version available at https://beta.saplumira.com, more information can be found at http://timoelliott.com/blog/2013/05/new-sap-lumira-see-the-light.html.

SAP Afaria Cloud Edition

Afaria Cloud Edition is the cloud-version of the mobile devicement management solution Afaria, which SAP pushes to the market for the very competitive price of 1 Euro (or 1,11 $) per device and month. Besides the device-management itself, Afaria Cloud Edition also allows to protect the installed apps. For that, the “Mobile App Protection Solution” of the new partner Mocana is used.

Replays of the keynotes can be found here.

SAP Screen Personas

In my last post I already mentioned SAP Screen Personas as an impressing tool that allows to completely overhaul classical dynpros, without programming.

Now SAP Screen Personas is available, according to http://scn.sap.com/community/technology-innovation/blog/2012/12/12/sap-screen-personas-is-now-available.

This video replay from the Demo Jam at TechEd Las Vegas shows Screen Personas in action: http://www.sapvirtualevents.com/teched/sessiondetails.aspx?sId=3454

The following video on the other hand explains the technical backgrounds of Screen Personas. E.g. the ITS is used to read the screen definitions:

Finally, you can find more information on http://wiki.sdn.sap.com/wiki/display/Img/SAPScreenPersonas.

 

Update:

This demo from the SAP Imageneering team shows how to modify dynpros with Screen Personas:

 

TechEd and Sapphire 2012 Madrid – a recap

From November 13th to 15th I attended this year’s SAP TechEd in Madrid (it was already my 7th TechEd, by the way). With this post I want to give you a (maybe a little bit late) recap of the most important topics and announcements.

The three central pillars of SAP’s innovation- and product-strategy are still the same that we know for many years now – In-Memory (HANA), cloud and mobile. In his keynote Co-CEO Jim Hagemann-Snabe drew an interesting analogy to the music industry with MP3 (= HANA, due to the data compression), Napster (= cloud) and iPod (= mobile) to point out that there could come up a similar disruption in the world of business software:

Announcements and most important topics

With “SAP 360 Customer” SAP announced a new CRM-solution, which basically is a combination of several products around sales and customer management. This includes “SAP CRM powered by HANA”, an enhanced version of SAP CRM that is at the same time the first transactional system based on HANA, SAP Sales OnDemand, a cloud-solution with mobile apps for sales-people, SAP Social OnDemand for the integration with social media channels, and SAP Jam for the collaboration within the sales team. All together this is supposed to allow for a 360-degrees-view of the customer.

Within the cloud-solutions we see more and more single-purpose so called “LoB-solutions” (Line of Business), in addition to the complete ERP-suite Business ByDesign (which became more successful during the last months, as more and more bigger enterprises discover it as solution for their subsidiaries). The newest one is “Financials OnDemand“. The HR-solution of the acquired company SuccessFactors is strongly promoted by SAP and is supposed to be the standard solution for all HR-processes except the core payroll functions, i.e. for talent management, recruiting and so on. The corresponding solutions from SAP itself probably won’t be developed further.
Besides the business solutions SAP also presented “NetWeaver Cloud” as development platform in the clound (“PaaS”), and the “Cloud Portal“.

In the area of mobility we will see some modifications to the “SAP Mobile Platform” after the acquisition of Syclo, but this wasn’t a big topic at this year’s TechEd yet. But beside from that it also becomes increasingly easier to develop mobile applications for SAP with arbitrary technologies (see also http://scn.sap.com/community/developer-center/mobility-platform/blog/2012/04/10/developer-announcemnet-third-party-tools).

The biggest topic for SAP still is HANA. More and more products and solutions run on HANA, the newer cloud-based solutions anyway, but also classical OnPremise-solutions. Today you can run your BW-system on HANA and there are some “accelerators” that work with a replicated ERP-database. CRM will be the first transactional system running on HANA, as mentioned above, and next year the whole business suite is supposed to follow. Also next year the new AS ABAP 7.4 will be available, which will allow to write ABAP-code that is optimized for HANA as underlying database.
Today HANA is still a very expensive product if you want to use it in your landscape as you need an appliance, but with “HANA One” you can now also rent it as cloud-service, and soon it will also run in virtualized environments (VMWare).

Some other highlights

  • NetWeaver Gateway: the ABAP-based middleware exposes data from arbitrary SAP-systems in OData-format, which is SAP’s new preferred type of interface, especially for mobile applications, but also for others. As all systems and solutions of SAP will be OData-enabled in the future this concept will be very important for developers
  • SAPUI5: this HTML5-library is already generally available since a few months, but in the newest version it now also supports mobile and analytical applications
  • ABAP in Eclipse: since a few months SAP provides an Eclipse plugin which allows you to use Eclipse as source-code editor for SAP
  • SAP Screen Personas: an impressing tool with which you can completely re-design and re-arrange classical dynpros (no web-dynpros!), i.e. you can change colors and texts, add background images, hide fields, set default values for fields, and so on.
    You can find more information e.g. here, and this video explains the technical backgrounds.