By Dr. Karsten Kötter, cbs Corporate Business Solutions
Some say that only the transition to S/4HANA truly prepares companies for the digital age. But is that really the case? No! cbs Enterprise Garage offers a proven and targeted way to increase your innovation speed using agile methods.
“Agile” is the buzzword of the day, but has this concept actually arrived in real-world settings? It has at cbs! To give you some examples of specific projects, we’ve developed a solution for expense report verification based on machine learning, an app that helps end consumers identify counterfeit products, and a blockchain application for managing contracts involving multiple partners. And let’s not forget our service technician app, which automatically identifies the status of machines by means of neural networks.
Many IT managers think that making the transition to S/4 and building a digital core is the only path to speeding up the pace of innovation and implementing digital solutions in short cycles. In reality, things are quite different. “Digital Now” is the right motto to follow – but how? After all, many companies’ on-premise SAP landscapes are patchworks that have grown over a number of years. The modernization of these IT systems is being hampered by hundreds of custom developments.
Co-creation, design thinking, trial and error
Why don’t we simply separate these two areas? The on-premise world is following its own path by ensuring the stability of core processes and fulfilling the quality standards of Six Sigma. New solutions that expand on core functions are developed in other environments – including cbs Enterprise Garage. Since our sandbox of choice is SAP Cloud Platform, we have something of a hybrid solution in which the cloud serves as a “platform as a service” (PaaS). This is where we offer new technologies in a service format. Forget about having to carry out complex installations and worry about licensing software components as you would in the on-premise world; on our cloud platform, you can try out the latest technologies when and where you need them. It’s also possible to brainstorm new technical possibilities based on existing processes in cooperation with the relevant user departments, which presents ideal opportunities for co-creation, design thinking, and applications of Google’s project methodology. Speaking of the cloud, we’re generally talking about multi-cloud architectures: Thanks to the openness of the PaaS approach, you’re free to choose and combine the platforms (such as Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, or Azure) that meet your particular needs.
Meanwhile, implementations like these take place based not on the conventional cascading model, but agile iterations. This typically results in a minimum viable product (MVP) that’s ready to use in a matter of just weeks. If the corresponding user department gives the green light, it’s possible to go live with the solution in short order. And if the innovation turns out to be a resounding success? Great – with the platforms in question, scaling up operations isn’t a problem. User feedback can continue to be incorporated during this process, which will enable the solution to keep maturing in real-world settings.
Be brave enough to fail!
One of our customers, a German chemical corporation with billions in revenue, has already put itself on the fast track to becoming an intelligent enterprise through this approach. What’s more, it hasn’t had to wait around for the plodding world of on-premise installations to catch up. The key lies in ensuring that the two realms – a stable back end and cutting-edge technologies – work hand in hand. After all, it’s not about developing apps for a small group of hip, esoteric users. The goal is much more to expand or augment the business processes of the industry’s global players – or to rethink them from the ground up. In some cases, it’s even possible to come up with entirely new business models. This is what we mean when we talk about cbs Enterprise Garage. Areas like these are where SAP Cloud Platform has proven its worth in customer projects, as it really comes into its own when used in tandem with an SAP system landscape.
But what if a freshly developed application unexpectedly gets a thumbs-down from the respective user department? Not a problem. The investment you’ve made is manageable, and the services in question can be canceled anytime. In this context, a conscious effort is made to factor in potential failures. Or, to echo the motto of the private American aerospace company SpaceX: “Failure is an option here. If you don’t fail, you don’t innovate hard enough!”