The traditional recipe for concrete consists of aggregate, cement, water with the possible addition of gravel, limestone, rocks and/or sand.
It has been this way for a while.
According to SAP, the contemporary recipe for concrete could now include aggregate, cement, water, mobile, social, cloud and business intelligence (BI) technologies as businesses at every level "go digital" in the new business 2.0 economy.
Speaking at the firm's Sapphire and TechEd 2012 conference in Madrid this week SAP Co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe described his conversation with a concrete producer and how the firm didn't understand the relevance of the in-memory Hana database appliance to its 'bricks and mortar'-level business model.
"They had been making concrete the same way for years, so they said 'we don't need Hana, what could Hana possibly do for us?', which was natural enough," said Snabe in a breakout session with press.
Snabe then described how the firm looked at its delivery schedules, its challenges with traffic routes, its supplier pipeline and its total operational mechanics and how all of this data could be fed into an analytics engine that makes sense to a concrete producer and, ultimately, could bring about more profitable business agility.
From concrete to handbags
SAP is pushing further in this vein and has this week announced its SAP Customer 360 transactional system which the firm says is being used by fashion retailer Burberry to analyse customer buying behaviour and provide on the floor sales staff with access to big data analytics on mobile devices. This "immediate information" is then (in theory) available to help these same staff personalise fashion advice to customers.
Do we really want this amount of technology in our lives?
SAP's other Co-CEO Bill McDermott has predicted that by 2030 there will be an additional two billion consumers on the planet by 2030 and ... "They want to purchase in the digital world," he said.
SAP 360 Customer provides its real-time analytics using Hana to accelerate transaction processing, which will lead to the faster response times needed to use this technology in both the concrete and the handbags business.
Customer experience differentiation
SAP's matra here specifies that in today's highly competitive business climate, "customer experience" becomes the new competitive differentiation for organisations. Does that sound cheesy? It might do, but there is a lot of truth here and we are demanding increasingly personalised "experiences" (there's that word again) on a day to day basis it seems.
"This is a game-changing solution that will help companies market better, sell better, service better and truly create remarkable experiences for their customers," said McDermott. "With SAP 360 Customer powered by SAP HANA, companies gain true 360-degree customer insight that is real-time, actionable and available anywhere."
The firm's Dr. Vishal Sikka says that this total technology proposition means that it can now deliver a real-time enterprise with transaction, text and analytics processing on one platform.
"Support pack stack 5, to be announced this week, is a non-disruptive increment for SAP Hana [that] aims to enable integrated application services, key enterprise capabilities for high availability, disaster recovery and integrated text analytics, as well as key OLTP optimisations that enable us to release our first mission-critical SAP Business Suite application, SAP CRM, to run completely on the SAP Hana platform," said Sikka.
So what's the message for developers here then?
As far as the developer world according to SAP goes, the firm extends an open invitation to programmers to use the Hana platform and think about building applications that are characterised by their use of:
• Real-time data: From front-office interactions, back-office transactions and publicly available information from social networks.
• Real-time interactions: This is your "just-in-time customer insight" to deliver one-to-one interactions... often, now, via mobile devices.
• Real-time execution: Companies will be able to instantly carry out end-to-end customer processes beyond the front office and create differentiated customer experiences.
Is this all conceptual drawing board technology postulation being thrown at hypothetical deployment scenarios, or is there substance here? SAP has said openly that Apple was aghast when it started to roll out high end BI-centric enterprise applications on the iPad (and there is Windows tablet news to come).
The firm also has examples of the Sybase Unwired Platform driving enterprise level apps such as the SYSCO restaurant food ordering system, so there is meat on these bones despite this being a very corporate customer centric event.
What other business tool can you use to sell concrete, food and handbags? Not everything SAP enthuses over feels tangible, but we buy these three, so far.
Caption: Jim Hagemann Snabe: "concrete this side, handbags this side"