SAP on the Blockchain Bandwagon


At Sapphire 2018, SAP unveiled how it has woven blockchain – along with analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and the internet of things (IoT) – into its “intelligent enterprise” concept. In fact, blockchain was a recurring theme during the conference, serving as the main topic in several breakout sessions and climaxing with the announcement of the general availability of the SAP Cloud Blockchain Services module, a blockchain-as-a-service solution that integrates with the IoT, analytics and machine learning modules in SAP’s Leonardo.

Even though the company’s CEO Bill Mc Dermott highlighted in his keynote that SAP “… didn’t need to wait for blockchain to connect the world in a trusted network…” (in reference of the existence and actual growth of their Business Network Group), SAP seems to be embracing blockchain, which puts it in a position to not only expand its current ERP capabilities but also possibly to disrupt its own Business Network Group model by evolving it into a blockchain-enabled solution in the future.

The integration of blockchain into the already robust capabilities of SAP’s ERP offering has the potential to catapult it. Several SAP pilot projects are already under way with well-known brands such as Bayer, Merck, McKesson, Ericsson, Tate & Lyle (in consortium with Kellogg’s, Target and others). By integrating blockchain technologies into supply-chain management and finance processes, these companies are showing they can solve real-life problems like billing fraud, food waste/contamination and prescription drugs counterfeiting.

SAP has begun to sell a blockchain-as-a-service offering that make it easier for customers to implement these kinds of solutions, but they are still in their early stages. The lack of clear definitions for customers about the underlying ledger technology of choice – whether it’s the open source Hyperledger project (of which SAP is a platinum sponsor), multi-chain or any other decentralized distributed ledger technology – means that we should expect many variations and updates of those tools depending on where the market is headed.

Considering SAP’s dominance in supply-chain management and considering this is one of the most promising use cases of blockchain, it’s not a stretch of the imagination to conclude that SAP has a real opportunity to become one of the leaders implementing blockchain solutions that solve real business problems. The company has shown it’s ready to jump onto the blockchain bandwagon. Let’s see where it will take it.

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