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Top 10 business applications stories of 2015

SAP’s continued building on Hana and Oracle’s march to the cloud were features of 2015, with a new wave of digital customer engagement and the internet of things

SAP and Oracle are staking their future growth on fundamentally different bases from the past: the high-speed, in-memory database platform Hana, in the case of SAP; the cloud, in the case of Oracle (and, yes, SAP is orienting towards cloud delivery, too). That’s reflected in the two first stories in this annual crop.

Strong cloud competitor Salesforce, whose Dreamforce event is a San Franciscan counterpoint to Oracle Open World in the autumn months, continued to develop, with its ecosystem of partners.

SAP executives are clearly thinking beyond their company’s technology being bought by CIOs – at least of the old school.

Much talk has abounded in 2015 of going beyond customer relationship management (CRM), of the coming into being of a new wave of customer engagement that is omni-channel, (close to) real time, more personalised than ever, and so on. That is a direct theme of one of the features below, but the drive to use digital channels to engage better with customers runs through the others too, signally the Al Rayan Bank case study, the analysis of Salesforce’s Thunder and Lightning initiatives, and Welsh Water’s customer billing replacement programme.

It has been hard to avoid the internet of things (IoT) this year, and one of the stories below shows IoT leaving behind the internet fridge as the poster boy of the phenomenon.

The worlds of social media and business applications are very different. What would it mean to yoke them together? Could that help solve the productivity crisis so often spoken of in the business and financial press? This is addressed in a column, the tenth article below.

1. SAP unveils S/4Hana as 'biggest launch in 23 years'

SAP launched what its CEO Bill McDermott calls “our biggest launch in 23 years, if not in the entire history of the company”, SAP S/4Hana. The enterprise resource planning product will, said the company, “help customers run simple” – the supplier’s mantra since its customer conference, Sapphire, in 2014.

2. Oracle OpenWorld 2015: Larry Ellison vaunts Oracle’s cloud proposition over rivals

Larry Ellison promoted his company’s cloud services and berated rivals in his opening keynote at Oracle OpenWorld 2015. He stressed the longevity of the cloud trend. Software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies, such as Salesforceand Workday, he said, have been around for 15 or so years. Oracle’s own Fusion programme of middleware, rewriting the supplier’s suite of applications for the cloud, began a decade ago, and Amazon Web Services (AWS) is 10 years old.

3. Salesforce Thunder, Lightning and Wave show the app economy at work

At Dreamforce 2015, Salesforce.com's Adam Gross and Stephanie Buscemi discussed the internet of things app economy and action-orientated business intelligence apps. Salesforce’s internet of things cloud service and an upgrade to its Wave Analytics service were significant developments because they take part in a broader trend of action-orientated apps, they said.

 4. SAP executives on what digital transformation means for CIOs

SAP Europe president Franck Cohen and CEO Bill McDermott discussed what digital transformation means for CIOs and the supplier’s partners. A wave of digital transformation threatens to sideline CIOs, according to SAP Europe president Franck Cohen. The CIOs that the supplier has spent decades building relationships with “may become obsolete” in the not too distant future, he said.

5. Al Rayan Bank finds business agility in cloud applications

Al Rayan Bank believes its investment in cloud applications gives it an edge in business agility. It is the only Sharia-compliant bank in the western world, and it believes it can make changes more quickly than established banks, thanks to its investment in cloud applications.

6. Van de Velde upgrades Infor ERP to boost e-commerce

Lingerie manufacturer Van de Velde is looking to upgrade its Infor ERP in the next 18 months to improve supply efficiency and reduce lead times.

7. First steps being taken on “omni-channel” customer experience

There is no doubt about it – according to the pundits – the future of the customer experience is well and truly “omni-channel”. The future customer experience might be personalised, but there is a long road ahead yet.

8. Welsh Water billing replacement programme offers customers new tariffs

Welsh Water (Dŵr Cymru) scooped a Computer Weekly award for a billing replacement programme, for which it was its own systems integrator. The system is vital to the smooth running of the utility’s business. It processes more than 1.1 million meter readings every year, and issues £800m worth of bills.

9. Waste and traffic management applications come from internet of things

For years, the fridge has been the poster boy for the internet of things. Suppliers imagine the connected domestic appliance anticipating off milk and avoiding shortages of cheese – but the lack of commercial availability raises questions about whether a multitude of online sensors might be better applied to things we discard.

10. Can social media emulation make business applications more productive?

Can social technologies be turned to account for business applications, and can they boost economic productivity?

People spend huge amounts of their free time on social networks, whether Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram, but the creativity and energy they expend there is not commonly used in their working lives. Why is that?

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