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Has SAP got the technology to provide business navigation software…and to become the TomTom of the B2B space?

Listening to the keynote speech given by Vishal Sikka, CTO of SAP at TECHED 2010, I was astounded by the technology now available within and outside SAP and therefore to the business community. I could not refrain from wandering to my distant past some 15 years ago as a System Architect designing satellite and missile navigation systems.


Here are some of the eye-popping facts I randomly picked up:

  • Server hardware now available: 2TB RAM, 64cores, 40Gps, 4+TB SSD Blades
  • Huge improvement in information processing speed within SAP Analytics to a large part enabled by SAP in-memory computing technology (e.g. SAP HANA…) and hardware constantly pushing the limits
  • Number of mobile devices worldwide: 4B mobile subscribers, 2B messages/Day, 1T so far
  • Number of sensors worldwide: 1B meters, 10Breaders, 1T sensors


Later that day, as I attended demonstrations of the product SAP BusinessObjects Event Insight or the project Slipstream 2.0: Business Activity Management for SAP NetWeaver BPM, Part 1 the message became clear to me, SAP has moved into Complex Event Processing (CEP). SAP BPM, alongside CEP is a cornerstone of this capability.


Business Process Management (BPM) as a practice has been around for a while. Many tools supporting this practice are being provided by various software vendors. From a few years ago, they have evolved from being simple process flow driven tools to what I would like to call “Business navigation tools”.  


Let me explain myself further by coming back to my analogy with navigation systems.


Satellite or missile navigation systems are very complex andrely on technologies and concepts usually made available to us “poor consumers”many years later: think for example of GPS or accelerometer sensors nowproduced economically to a large scale and embedded into our mobile phones.


Many sensors are embarked on satellites and used by an onboard model to control navigation in real-time.  As a simple example, look underneath at what is called the “Feedback loop” in System Dynamics theory and make the following substitutions in your mind:


  • Reference=> Business KPIs
  • Controller => Decision maker (manual or automated)
  • System => Business processes
  • Sensors => Events picked up from multiple sources (SAP or non SAP)


 SAP BPM alongside extensions like Slipstream, Event Insight orother Business Activity Management  (BAM)products have all it takes:

  • to pick up on events measured by various “sensors” in your system landscape
  • to compare this information to business KPIs for example with SAP BPM Analytics Dashboards
  • to help decision-making with independently managed business rules using SAP BRM
  • and finally to take corrective actions by pushing “tasks” to the various “actors” of your processes managed via BPM.


 Low Earth Orbit observation satellites can be as low as 160km above the earth. They travel at a speed of around 7.8 km per second. At this speed and considering all the external disturbances from space, pointing a satellite camera to its target whether it is a specific agricultural field or a national threat can be very challenging to say the least.


So what then? Is there a business environment with similar business dynamics? One I can quickly think of is the stock market. But that is not necessarily the only one. Some business environments are not comparable yet but could be soon.


Look at the overall business trends over the last 20 years: shortening product lifecycles, globalisation, increase in competition, explosion in available information from within and outside organisations….Business software has had to adapt to this environment and as a result the sort of software now being marketed is getting more and more complex while being affordable.


All is not necessarily dark science, just look at your smartphone and what it can do these days. I’m sure many of you have learned how to use this technology to your benefit by now….

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