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Do you ever watch the movie “Highlander” from late eighties? Definitely one of my favorites when I was younger, ha. Unforgettable the seamless flow of scenes between past and present. Very innovative at that point in time and it took you a second to realize if you were in a present or past scenery.

When I thought about the hybrid nature of the cloud, this came up to my mind again and again. Having a seamless flow between the cloud application and backend processes is crucial like the scene flow in highlander. It is done well if the business user does not even recognize “the stack” he is in – I would argue he does not even are, he should not care. Modern web-service based architecture perfectly enables to design a call into an external (on premise or cloud) system for the business user, represented by something as simple as an intuitive button on the screen. Though maybe we have here Connor McCloud instead of Connor McLeod travelling through the centuries and fighting back the bad ones…

An application downloaded from or used on the web as on demand solution must be self-explaining, easy to use and intuitive – and must generate instant value. And we’re talking minutes, maybe hours, not days. This creates the perfect user experience.

This is often different from the experience provided by classical enterprise solutions – but to be fair they have been designed around processes, mostly for expert users – running critical businesses. Unfortunately when they got popular and got more users – user experience did not catch up. The 90´s were the decade of the IT, not the one of business user´s. The solution architecture as well as tools to describe processes do allow high complexity and strong, tailored individual processes. This process centric approach allows visualizing and executing unlimited complexity and individuality. It helped and will help enterprise organizations to execute processes in best manner and with highest efficiency for the corporate organization.

In a hybrid world cloud enterprise solutions need to deliver nothing less than a 1st class user experience combined with a backend orchestration to ensure enterprise integrity of data and processes. This challenge is much more than a mobile interface or analytics for a classical enterprise. Experiencing a cloud solution starts with a test drive – and again decisions are made quick: Like it, keep it; not like it – toss it. Next is a fast onboarding experience: an simple URL and login to start, minimal configuration effort even if connected to the backend ERP (and not a next 3rdparty service provider starting a project) is key to invite a new customer into the cloud.

Once using the solution, the user needs to experience it in a different way – what is in for me? So a people centric approach is the key to adoption. Some call it social – we think it is people centric and solutions tailored around a dedicated problem of an end user. And talking to our customer we also learned something important: If SAP is on the label, the “integration” expectation is on a different level than at any other company in the world. Our brand expectation from past 40 years is Reliability, Delivery and Business Continuity. And we do deliver. Try to get a ROI study of a pure cloud vendor for more than 3 years – latest then integration kicks in.

Recently attending a #BITKOM event and listening to the CIO of #KHS talking about “mystification of the cloud” and the “cloud as the bad bank of the IT infrastructure” we thought about what does it mean in this context?

Listening to cloud marketing statements, you can get the impression that you can simply throw a complex process, which you can barely solve on premise, into the cloud where somebody will fix it for you. Well, sorry to say, but a complex process stays complex also in the cloud. You can ask if you need the complexity or are able to streamline the process. But nobody will perform magic and solve it all for you. And it is important to stay with the design principles of cloud. If you mix up high complex processes with a high complex end user interface, something went terribly wrong. The end user design approach in mind is the paradigm shift we are performing for exponential adoption rates.

And we are talking here real native cloud build applications, not virtualization. I like how #RAADclassified this recently during #CeBIT2012. There is a “under the week cloud” – Virtualization, which is already reality and there is a “weekend cloud”, native build cloud application, which is only partly reality today…” Though I would argue you can definitely count 15+ million #SuccessFactorsbusiness user as cloud reality.

From virtualization to a real business cloud it is a way. But one thing for sure, there is nothing wrong with virtualization: but not all customers will end at the final destination of cloud applications already tomorrow. So looking at TCO, virtualization is a perfect topic – in fact at SAP itself 25.000 of the over 40.000 business systems are already virtualized, 6000 in the public cloud. No reason why you should not run test and demo systems there already today.

Of course, cloud purist will shake their heads. Hey folks: No buying center of the world is a purist. They are all very pragmatic and want to run their business in best manner – and they are security, cost and time to value sensitive. We at SAP think we can offer this best – at the end the customer MUST win.

Let´s close it with the ultimate Highlander sound track from Queen “Is this a kind of magic?”. Maybe it is…

Bert Schulze (@BeSchulze) and Sven Denecken (@SDenecken

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