Orlando — In town for enterprise solutions provider SAP’s 28th annual Sapphire Now conference, Fazal Husain likes what he hears so far.
As the enterprise solutions services director for the City of Toronto, Husain notes that the municipality relies on SAP products for business tasks as well as for driving its ambitious Smart Cities initiative.
Husain told ITWorldCanada.com that the city has been undergoing a “whirlwind of change” since Mayor John Tory came on board two years ago in terms of technology vision and business processes; the push towards Toronto as a “smart city” involves taking advantage of the emerging technologies citizens are using and asking for — mobile, the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing — to better manage the mounds of raw data it collects on a daily basis.
SAP has been making a host of announcements this week around the cloud and digital transformation and
Husain is paying attention. The city currently uses SAP products including ECC 6.0, and a “partially implemented” deployment of the company’s human capital management (HCM) software; Husain has been tasked with aligning business processes with technology to ensure the IT tools are used to their fullest potential.
“There’s a huge delta between the two. We’re building a roadmap to align the two, while keeping aware of
the fact we can’t keep going back to the business side with umpteen number of changes,” said Husain. “Structurally, we’re changing from how SAP was distributed on divisional levels, from SAP development configurations on the intake teams with HR, finance, payroll, purchasing and so on. And now that’s all under my umbrella for reporting.”
While there is always room for improvement, the city’s SAP implementation is “quite capable,” said Husain. “I think we can do a lot more than we have done in the past. The things that I’ve heard this week has been really impressive. Particularly (SAP CEO) Bill McDermott talking about actually setting up the implement stream of best practice. I think that’s essential. I wouldn’t say it’s long in coming, but it will be essential for the SAP implementation,” he said, adding that hearing that SAP is looking to be more responsive to understanding user concerns is a good thing.
Wednesday also saw SAP rebrand its Cloud for Analytics offering to SAP BusinessObjects Cloud. The new product merges business intelligence (BI) analytics capabilities into a single software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution; an on-premises offering, SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise, is also available in three new editions, premium, professional, and standard.
Going forward, all analytics solutions from SAP will fall under the SAP BusinessObjects portfolio, which includes new mobile, predictive, data visualization and big data analytics tools. This includes BI features around data wrangling and blending, trend analysis and linked stories, according to the company.
The “scalable and open platform” will support more than 200 data sources including including Hadoop and SAP HANA, and SAP BusinessObjects universe integration with Hadoop, SAP HANA and SAP BusinessObjects Cloud, the company said.
Speaking of HANA, SAP also announced updates to the SAP HANA cloud environment. This includes a range of features focused on helping enterprises both migrate to the cloud and prepare for “digital transformation” by extending SAP S/4HANA with new capabilities and new delivery methods to tablets and smartphones.
SAP’s CTO for SAP Global Customer Operations (GCO) Irfan Khan told ITWorldCanada.com that the evolution of the HANA platform is all about end-to-end capabilities, mobility and helping organizations transition to the cloud.
Customers are looking for more real-time, low latency capabilities and the S/4 HANA platform is about “the simplification of IT, accelerating insights and innovation for modern environments and applications,” Khan said. For example, the beta edition of SAP HANA Cloud Platform supports various Cloud Foundry buildpacks including MongoDB, Redis, PostgreSQL, RabbitMQ and Node.js.
The company also made the following announcements at the conference:
• On the first day of the conference, McDermott announced that machine learning will be key to improve business processes. The company’s Digital Boardroom, built on SAP’s BusinessObjects Cloud and SAP S/4 HANA platforms and first announced in 2015, is ever-evolving. Designed for displaying “data-driven insights” for live meeting and collaboration, the platform features new line-of-business use cases and industry-specific examples available for various verticals including finance, human resources, manufacturing, telecommunications, and more, the company said.
• The new cloud edition of SAP Fiori was introduced, enabling users have access to a full demo-to-production cloud environment to experience, extend and run SAP Fiori apps.
• SAP HANA Cloud Platform software development kit (SDK) is now available exclusively for iOS. Building off the recently announced partnership, the SDK is designed to provide businesses, designers and developers the tools to quickly and efficiently build their own iOS apps for iPhone and iPad, based the SAP HANA cloud.
• A partnership with IBM has resulted in IBM MobileFirst for iOS apps, which combine enterprise data, security and analytics with an “elegant” user experience created in IBM digital “garages,” and can integrate with SAP software systems using SAP HANA Cloud Platform.
• SAP also launched its SAP Digital Boardroom solution built on SAP BusinessObjects Cloud. The platform delivers a framework for industry-specific content and enhancements for live meetings and collaboration.
• With the aim of lowering healthcare costs — a passion project of CEO Dermott who recently suffered a major health scare — the company announced its SAP Connected Health platform designed to speed the development and delivery of patient-centered solutions; strategic partnership already include CancerLinQTM, Castlight Health and Dharma Platform.