Looking for a great way to gain a better understanding of the services available within the SAP Cloud Platform (SCP)? Join like minded technology focused people in the monthly SCP Garage virtual workshop—hosted by yours truly—to learn how and when these Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) capabilities can and should be used. Our first four workshops touched on Integration, Workflow, API management, and the Portal Service. Observing participants grasp the value of these services when used ‘out of the box’ has been very satisfying and I’d like to share these insights with a broader audience.
Let’s start first with ‘out of the box’—a rather ambiguous term that I believe is best explained with Legos. When you buy a hundred piece box of Legos, what your son or daughter creates after an hour of concentrated play might be very different from what my child creates after sixty minutes with the same box of Legos. In the same vein, a wide range of solutions can be created using a product right ‘out of the box.’ If you’ll excuse the extension of the Lego analogy, the true ‘out of the box’ value is the consistent manner in which the pieces snap together.
The workshop on Integration—our first session—focused on activating ‘out of the box’ content with very little configuration. Using available SAP content that directs Twitter feeds to the Hybris Sentiment Analysis module, this 30 minute hands-on activity produced a functioning Twitter feed sentiment analysis solution. This ‘out of the box’ content is not a one off. Hundreds of content packages, with a sole purpose to make integration easier, are available to SAP enterprise customers for seamless connections between their SAP and non-SAP solutions. And stay tuned for….SAP TechEd spoiler alert ahead…announcements this week about our latest integration partnership with Cloud Connectors.
API (Application Programming Interface) management—the focus for the second virtual workshop—with its ability to take a service/function from a backend provider and make it available as an API has so many potential use cases. I approach the use case potential from a simple perspective. With the core business processes of the SAP digital core (ECC/S4) represented by hundreds of millions lines of code, these services ultimately form the digital Lego block foundation of any enterprise transformation. These highly reusable API components drive innovation both within and outside of an organization.
One could argue that the core of these services has been available for many years via BAPIs, and to some extent I would agree. However, the difference here is that once an API is exposed, it is readily available and simplified for internal and external consumption.
Consider the following scenario: What if the next time you walked into your favorite restaurant, you could smell the food cooking in the kitchen, but there was no menu and no waitstaff? Wouldn’t it be a little frustrating to know that there was amazing food out there waiting for you but, with no means to order and consume that food, it remained just out of reach? Let’s say that somebody took the step to provide a menu but the restaurant offered no standard way to actually purchase the food, no common currency or credit card machine?
These are the frustrating scenarios that APIs help customers avoid. Why have thousands of business processes if they are not readily available, easy to find and use? Using API management, ECC core functions/processes can be exposed in a standard way for easy consumption. Any student coming out of a reputable IT program will understand how to consume REST services, and there is enormous value in that. Even an entry level IT employee has ability to turn ECC/S4 into a black box containing thousands of high value services…think customer, material, work orders, product, etc….think digital Lego blocks.
Our third Garage session focused on Workflow. I believe this service, once it’s fully understood by the community, will become highly utilized. The Workflow service exposes its own APIs, and at its very core is essentially this: a piece of software designed to orchestrate the consumption of other APIs/services while using other ‘Legos’ to get the job done.
At the heart of any workflow engine there must be an inbox for those workflows that require human interaction. In this case, SAP has made the awesome decision to use the Fiori Inbox. If a user interaction is required to take action on a workflow, the user will employ the Fiori Inbox.This is relevant to enterprise customers because any customer moving to S/4 will be very familiar with the Fiori paradigm, and specifically the Fiori Inbox. In my humble opinion, having someone else provide a container for these inbox items is quite valuable because SAP have the responsibility to make sure the inbox works on all device types. The only requirement of the customer is to send the item in question via a Rest Call, and it will automatically show up in the Fiori Launchpad. In this case, the project team does not have to worry about building the inbox, ensuring it works on different devices, exposing the API—they simply call the API, and voilá, item created and sent to inbox. Workflow plus Fiori Inbox is a treasure trove of value just waiting to be unlocked. Think about your own enterprise scenarios and how many of them typically require some sort of user interaction—aka Workflow!
Last but certainly not least, our final session covered the Portal Service, another service that is getting traction and where the notion of reusablility is starting to be understood and appreciated. For example, wouldn’t it be interesting if you could ‘re-use’ S/4 Fiori transactions directly within the Portal Service? Well, you can. Wouldn’t it be interesting if SAP provided a portal template for the API Development Portal so that customers could easily create their own API Portals and have a starting point? Well, you can. Wouldn’t it be interesting if you could create Portal UI widgets based on standard UI5 applications? Well, you can. Wouldn’t it be extremely valuable if SAP provided a portal template for the Fiori Launchpad (FLP) so that customers looking to get started with the FLP could ‘re-use’ this ‘out of the box’ template and have their own FLP working in about fifteen minutes with a minimal configuration? Well, you can, and if you think it’s not possible, watch our portal focused Garage Series because that is exactly what we did. We created a portal site based on the FLP that re-used one of the applications we built for the Workflow service.
I hope you are beginning to see—like our workshop participants did—that when it comes to reusable components, within the SAP Cloud Platform, the whole is definitely greater than the sum of the parts. The various SCP services are becoming more accessible and available and the time to value when using the services is becoming shorter and shorter. We at SAP still have work to do to make sure all of our customers can maximize the benefits of reusable components, and this work continues with bi-weekly releases of many of new services.
NA COE SAP Cloud Platform