Three Things I Learned After Teaching 100+ Customers How to Use the SAP Cloud Platform
The SAP Cloud Platform presents an interesting conundrum—its solutions and services for the creation, extension and integration of applications are user-friendly and intuitive, but customers sometimes struggle to fully grasp the platform’s potential through traditional presentations and informational events. So, SAP took the structure of a typical presentation—where attendees spend 95% of the time passively listening and maybe 5% of the time asking questions—and turned it on its head to create SAP Technical Academies—TAs for short.
TAs have a simple but powerful structure—they’re not just about seeing the SAP Cloud Platform in action, they’re about hands-on engagement with the technology services and understanding what those services can do for your business. Participants spend the bulk of their time actively working with the software, asking questions, and interacting with each other.
Recently, I had the pleasure of leading five TA events. As the day progressed at each event, I loved to watch customers reach their “ah ha” moments and openly discuss their discoveries and the business problems they might solve. Sharing my knowledge during these interactive events was not only fulfilling but also gave me an opportunity to learn from the participants—here are my three key takeaways:
- The Rapid in Rapid Application Development is No Joke
We started our TAs this year with a brand-new solution extension—SAP Cloud Platform Rapid Application Development by Mendix—and an informal competition. How quickly could participants develop an application with this new service, we wondered? We allotted forty minutes for the challenge, but the record went to one participant in Toronto who took only nine and a half minutes to create a functioning application—emphasizing the “rapid” in rapid application development!
There is no shortage of ways to create applications within the SAP Cloud Platform. Many customers have had the chance to work with UI5, SAP’s enterprise grade toolkit for building and extending applications, but it’s clear you need a developer hat to make those applications sing. The new, low-code, model-based Mendix tooling is unique for first time users because anyone, even a user with zero coding experience, can develop an application and deploy it on the Cloud Platform by simply “modeling” their application.
A quick side note—during one session, I introduced the tool by dragging and dropping models on a form designer, and I could see some of the hard-core development folks roll their eyes. “Yeah sure,” I could practically hear them thinking, “you can build a real application without writing code…in your dreams.” But when we were finished, most of those skeptics were seriously impressed by what could be accomplished with Mendix Microflows without writing a line of code. Do you see any code in this image?
The real value of this rapid application development solution is the freedom it gives a company to deliver quickly on IT backlogs. It might not be a perfect fit for every application need, but consider the value if you can develop half of your IT backlog in half the time it would typically take—that’s a win-win.
- Customer-Facing Portals are All the Rage
With so many customers embarking on a digital transformation, providing an easy-to-access portal experience for employees, customers and partners is another hot topic that customers are eager to dig into. The latest and greatest portal technology from SAP is delivered on SAP Cloud Platform and is lightweight and responsive, which means it is perfect for delivering to different devices such as a phone, tablet, or a desktop.
Many vendors offer a portal product, but if your business processes are in an SAP backend, then what matters most is the ability to easily expose those business processes/applications on the portal. So, for the second exercise, we had the attendees build a basic customer-facing portal. All attendees managed to create a portal that included both structured data via a UI5 application and non-structured information like pictures, video, text, and more from non-SAP data stores via the included widgets.
Think about what is required to deliver a portal. Is it really just a portal? No, it’s not. It’s the creation of back-end services (aka APIs), it’s the use of a user interface framework that is enterprise class (aka UI5) that is responsive and adaptive, it’s the use of this UI5 framework and the ability to easily consume those APIs, it’s the easy deployment of the content into an environment where it can then easily be placed onto a portal page in a secure environment. Whatever environment you choose, needs to have end-2-end connected and pre-integrated development services….SAP CLoud Platform delivers on this requirement. Try it for yourself in the trial environment.
- Everyone is Trying to Figure Out Integration
Here are some typical questions I get from customers when we talk about integration: Why would I use integration in the cloud? What are the advantages? Does it really make sense?
In order for folks to get a better grasp of what we are doing in the cloud with respect to integration, we added an exercise that allows customers to explore our ground-to-cloud and cloud-to-cloud integration capabilities. We walked through three very simple exercises for a hands-on look at adapters and how they are connected to the cloud and introduced the idea of out-of-the-box content. Being able to see and explore the integration solutions first hand took away any lingering confusion and demonstrated just how effortless these services really are. If you are unfamiliar with our out of the box content, I would encourage you to investigate ASAP. If you hop over to https://api.sap.com, you will start to get an impression why it’s important to have the tools you need but more importantly the content to get you started.
As I discussed in my last blog post (https://blogs.sap.com/2018/04/03/demystifying-sap-cloud-platform-integration-services/) , integration as-a-service with SAP Cloud Platform is a no-brainer, especially if you are aiming to deliver a hybrid scenario. Think of it like this: you get a brand-new car, look at the built-in, pre-wired radio and think to yourself, “I’m going to rip that out and replace it with a best-of-breed radio; it will definitely be better.” Sure, you might get one or two additional features, but 99.9% of the features are the same as the original radio, and the other radio was pre-integrated, and now you have no warranty and scratch marks all over your dash from the new installation. SAP Cloud Platform’s integration as-a-service offers customers best-in-class features with no disruption to the existing on-premises or cloud-based mission critical applications.
What Do You Want to Learn?
The conversations I have every day with SAP customers—discovering what they’re excited about or curious to learn more about—are what inspired me to develop the content for these Tech Academy exercises. I look forward to seeing you at our next SAP Cloud Platform Technical Academy, but I also invite you to join me every month in the ‘SAP Cloud Platform Garage’ for our virtual workshops. You can register for these at this link where each month we will be showing/discussing/digging into a different topic with lots of discussion all aimed at making the community smarter around SCP services. https://event.on24.com/eventRegistration/EventLobbyServlet?target=reg20.jsp&partnerref=SD&referrer=&eventid=1757313&sessionid=1&key=409EFCD37FA19BF0BECF0132A02020CA®Tag=311279&sourcepage=register
Let me know what topics you’d like to see covered in our next physical or virtual events in the comments below. I’m already cooking up an IoT exercise and can’t wait to see what other SAP Cloud Platform tools and services you’d like to get your hands on!