For many years, we in the SAP community discussed SAP’s monopoly. If IT development were linear, SAP would certainly have been condemned. However, because IT has a high disruption factor, the monolithic R/3 evolved into a heterogeneous and open S/4. The next stage will be a composable ERP, which will ultimately wrest sovereignty over the ERP architecture from SAP.
The system design of a future ERP may be based on SAP components, but its essence will be composite IT solutions. Composability will define upcoming ERP architectures. Platforms will become even more important because they represent homogeneity. As SAP customers, we have been closely observing the Business Technology Platform’s development over the past few months. Whether this platform or a hyperscaler platform will be the determining factor for ERP architectures in the future, cannot yet be ascertained.
However, constructs such as SAP Business Suite 7 and S/4 have had their day; their monolithic claim to leadership is no longer appropriate. As SAP customers, we are following SAP’s developments with great interest. Though SAP itself is driving said development forward, at the same time it threatens SAP’s very existence. SAP’s move toward open source, platforms, democratic programming models, AI, and machine learning will rapidly move us customers forward in our digital transformations, while at the same time rapidly reducing our dependence on SAP.
SAP CEO Christian Klein seems to be pulled in two directions. On the one hand, with the Business Technology Platform, Steampunk as Embedded Abap, AI collaborations with IBM, Microsoft and many others, SAP is achieving an unprecedented level of agility, transparency and openness. However, on the other hand, with the latest changes to SAP’s price list, the ERP world market leader is attempting to recoup any losses and recapture customers. (The 9000-Euro S/4 flat rate that SAP once offered has since been dropped, and without it there will be no product conversion when switching to S/4 in the future).
End of a monolithic era
Composable ERP also carries a bit of cybernetics. SAP’s loss of control results from the autonomous interaction of individual IT components on an adequate platform. It’s all about the interrelationships between components. A highly combinable system offers customers ERP components that can be put together in various combinations to meet user requirements. IT tools such as BTP, SAP Build, and Steampunk will also revolutionize the SAP partner landscape because any kind of dependency and monopoly will disappear.
The combination of recent SAP announcements like Datasphere, Build, BTP, Steampunk, and AI collaborations correspond to high degrees of freedom for customers. We will no longer be dependent on IT vendors and SAP partners’ developments and roadmaps, but can instead forge our own paths based on open source, generative AI, platforms and low-code/no-code. This time, however, our roadmaps will be agile, open, and transparent, and will not end in the chaos of a Z namespace with singular Abap modifications. Steampunk as Embedded Abap on the BTP offers a new concept of freedom.
Accordingly, a composable ERP does not mean that every SAP legacy customer will simply do as they please, but rather that there will be a common understanding of context within the SAP community. This composability will be a principle of ERP system design, and the community will own it. SAP and many other IT vendors will become tool suppliers. However, they will also lose their monolithic supremacy. This now seems to pave the way towards a post-S/4 era. The discourse on an ERP after S/4 will not be conducted at SAP, but by us customers in the community.
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