In computer science, the technical term “real-time” is precisely defined. Thus, the term “real-time enterprise” coined by Hasso Plattner is clearly definable, while SAP’s Intelligent Enterprise tells us very little about its proclaimed goal.
Real-time is the state when a system provides answers exactly when they are expected by the user. Real-time therefore does not mean that everything has to happen immediately. If a process takes an hour for reasons out of the system’s or the user’s control, it is perfectly sufficient if the ERP system also provides answers after an hour. In the past, however, it often took much longer. The process was completed, but the ERP system still did not give any feedback. Consequently, Plattner developed the Hana database system to enable the ERP system to respond in a timely manner – in real-time.
What SAP has made of this idea in the past ten years is disappointing and shameful. Instead of taking a self-critical approach, SAP executives and partners only sang praises for Hana and later S/4 – even cloud computing was welcomed without criticism. SAP and its partners substitute critical thinking with blind love. Plattner’s once brilliant idea was thus betrayed and watered down: the real-time enterprise became an Intelligent Enterprise, of which no one can say what it is actually supposed to represent.