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How does SAP IBP fit into the Middle Platform strategy during digital transformation

In this blog, I will introduce the Middle Platform – a new architecture concept that has been fast growing in recent years. And I will show you how SAP Integrated Business Planning for Supply Chain solution can fit into this architecture.

What is Middle Platform?

Middle platform is an application architecture to organize re-usable business services in order to satisfy volatile user scenarios. The concept and the term of middle platform were originated from a leading Chinese e-commerce and technology company Alibaba (NYSE: BABA) since 2015 and is becoming more and more noticeable among CIOs and technical leaders in Chinese market.

Why you need Middle Platform?

In the old days, the business applications are used to build on a 2-tier structure – the front-end and the back-end. The front-end applications are playing the role of user interfaces, receiving the user’s input, communicating information with the back-end, and presenting the results. The back-end applications take the responsibility of performing transactions, under predefined business logic against certain processes, and manipulating with the data layer. The advantages of the 2-tier structure including the clear responsibility for each front-end role and back-end role, which can be easily designed.


However, when you enter the era of VUCA (abbreviation for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity), things have changed. The pre-defined processes and business transactional logic are not sufficient to meet the fast-changing environments. Besides you can leverage the help of the agile approach and user stories, is there any possible or alternative ways to optimize the approach from the application architecture perspective?


Middle platform is one of the answers. Unlike the pre-defined business processes and not-fast changing user scenarios that are developed for each 2-tier structure applications, now you would like to abstract the core business capability and organize them into one unified platform – the middle platform. These core business capabilities only process the core functions in the context of a certain business area and can be easily re-used and called by other applications. These core capabilities are like building blocks, and front-end applications can combine them to build different use cases flexibly.

How SAP IBP fit into the role of Middle Platform?

In our recent SAP Integrated Business Planning implementation for a customer in the consumer industry, the customer was trying to leverage SAP IBP’s abilities to form their own middle platform application architecture.

SAP IBP for Supply Chain can take the role of Middle Platform from the following aspects:

  1. Integration across multiple applications
    SAP IBP can connect different supply chain applications with out-of-box integration tools, such as ERP, order management system, supplier collaboration applications, etc. SAP IBP can help the customer to build a unified platform to hold end-to-end supply chain data. This is also the basis to build the middle platform. The across application integration can provide a solid connection for both front-end and back-end applications.
  2. Offer re-useable supply chain functions
    The supply chain planning in SAP IBP provides benefits across the enterprise. It collaborates with different departments from sales, operation, and financial areas. If the planning functions like inventory levels and order response plans are interested in another department, they can be easily packaged as an interface of services and called via the cloud integration tools.
  3. The ability of what-if analysis
    SAP IBP can provide simulation planning and what-if analysis for different business cases. This can satisfy various front-end scenarios and quickly respond to changing business situations. This is a distinguished ability comparing with other middle platform applications.

Conclusion

SAP IBP can provide the abilities to be positioned as the middle platform in a customer’s application architecture. It helps with the abilities of across application integration, easily re-usable supply chain functions, and simulative analysis.

Do you have similar use cases where the middle platform can apply? Welcome to share your thoughts!

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