My almost-five-year-old son was recently invited to a birthday party. After the kids exerted all their energy on the trampoline, climbing wall, and other attractions, they were treated to pizza and a piece of seven-layer chocolate cake complete with a cherry on top. But most of the kids, including my son, ate the cherry and left the rest of the cake untouched. It was a huge miscalculation by the parents of the birthday boy, whose mother was nearly in tears for having all her efforts wasted and unappreciated by the kids. I wanted to help and finish the cake, but just like my son, I have certain preferences. I don’t like overly sweet icing or cream and tried to scrape it off the chocolate layers. While I was doing so, I was getting strange looks from the other parents, who were likely wondering: Why would anybody leave all that deliciousness on the plate? Why not enjoy the cake the way it was intended by combining the taste of the chocolate sponge, cream, ganache, and of course that cherry on top?
Later in the evening, I returned to my home office to work on a proposal for one of my clients. They have invested over $200,000 in BTP but are struggling to find any use for it other than a handful of low-value interfaces. This seems wasteful to me of a highly capable technology, and it made me think of that seven-layer chocolate cake with the cherry on top. Metaphorically speaking, it appears that the client ate only the cherry and is leaving the rest of the cake untouched.
I could not wait until the next morning to talk to our chief cloud architect, Jan Wahlin, to get his thoughts on the matter:
Jan, what do you think that a seven-layer chocolate cake and BTP might have in common?
Wahlin: Interesting question! I suppose that if I had to compare the two, I would simply say that they’re both more than just the sum of their parts—meaning that they are meant to be consumed in their entirety. The value comes from the whole. Imagine scraping the icing off and just eating the inside of the cake? I mean, who does that?
Actually, I do but I’ll keep it to myself from now on. Why do you think most clients struggle with leveraging the vast capabilities of cloud platforms and instead leave them largely unexplored and underutilized?
Wahlin: The great thing about a cloud platform is the immense opportunities for innovation. The drawback to a cloud platform is its enormity. While it provides a common mechanism to provision and manage applications and services, you still have to understand how it all works, and it admittedly can be overwhelming. But most customers are simply unaware of all of the capabilities SAP’s Business Technology Platform (BTP) offers.
What differentiates the platform is that it abstracts some of the more technical aspects and lets you focus on the business. Details of the infrastructure, for example, are abstracted. There is no need to know about the server running under the hood. No-code/low-code tools enable power users to create applications without the need for a developer.
Once customers are aware of the possibilities, they can truly take advantage of the platform.
How can we help our clients make money or save money by leveraging cloud platforms?
Wahlin: Through strategic consulting, not only do we help our clients understand how best to utilize the platform, we take a holistic approach in the process. When we first engage with a client, we try to understand what their cloud strategy is. Then when we design solutions, we make sure to align with that strategy. As part of this, we look for ways to leverage common platform services in order to drive economies of scale.
Ultimately, we encourage clients to use the platform to its fullest extent. After all, it was designed as a platform and it’s meant to be used that way.
What are some of the value-added scenarios our clients should explore?
Wahlin: While individual services fulfill an immediate need, they typically aren’t going to provide the kind of value you get from an entire platform. Consider the broader scope of capabilities your IT organization needs to provide to the business: integration, analytics, data management, application development, etc. For example, make your integrations smarter, use artificial intelligence for mappings, use workflow for approvals, reduce data quality issues before they hit the target system, and use prepackaged integrations wherever possible to increase time to market and ensure quality.
Another area to consider is Application Lifecycle Management (ALM). SAP provides a tool called SAP Cloud ALM at no extra cost (with an Enterprise support agreement), but many clients are unaware of it. SAP Cloud ALM helps ensure business continuity in your landscape through monitoring and alerting and can be used with other platform services such as Cloud Transport Management for moving content between systems. Best of all, it gets deployed into a client’s existing BTP Global Account, making it easier to manage their landscape.
Modern technologies like cloud platforms can be overwhelming for many companies. The lack of knowledge and skilled resources, the resistance to change, and the sense of pride and ownership of what was built on the old technology can generate a strong gravitational pull toward what they know best. However, the benefits of using all of the available capabilities of the cloud platform should outweigh the discomfort and initial fear.
Thanks for your insightful take, Jan! To sum things up, leveraging your trusted advisors can help your company uncover innovative scenarios and use the entire platform as a foundation for delivering value-based outcomes. This way, you can fully enjoy your seven-layer chocolate cake with a cherry on top the way it was intended.