[Russell DeLapp]: What the BTP allows me to do is that it gives me a lot more freedom to have more innovations and fewer limitations with what I'm trying to do because I'm developing outside the core in an environment that is not just an SDK for the core product.
[Peter Kowalke]: Hi, this is Peter Kowalke. Today I’m here with Ralph Hess, EVP of Sales and Marketing at Navigator Business Solutions, and Russell Delapp, EVP of Services and Support at Navigator Business Solutions. Thanks for joining me, you two.
[Ralph Hess]: Hey, Peter. How are you?
[Russell DeLapp]: My pleasure.
[Peter Kowalke]: So let's talk about SAP's relatively
new Business Technology Platform. And let's start with the most basic here. What is the BTP?
[Russell DeLapp]: Yeah, the BTP, the Business Technology Platform is really a platform that SAP is leveraging and allowed the partners to innovate on. So whether we're building our own application onto the BTP, or we're building an integration, the platform itself will support us with enterprise-level tools like machine learning, AI, robotic process automation, that we can then leverage in our own innovations to better service our customers and our industries that we service.
[Ralph Hess]: Really, it is not just the partners that are taking this approach. SAP is taking this approach as well. So it really is now a standardized way of innovating on any of the ERP platforms. It really is, as you talk about BTP or Business Technology Platform, it really sits on four pillars, right? It's not just one amorphous thing, right? It has an integration suite. It has an application development pillar. It has a data and analytics pillar, and then it has the AI pillar as well. So as you take a look at it, it's really providing a lot of innovation, all on one platform, all delivered as a service, right? You're subscribing to this. It's subscription-based access to this, this very robust cloud-based application platform.
[Peter Kowalke]: I'd love us to go a little bit more into these four pillars and what that actually means. We could start with the AI pillar, for instance. What does that actually mean in practice?
[Russell DeLapp]: Yeah. So what it does, is it's basically a tool that either we can leverage or the customer, if they have their own developers, can leverage an entitlement, a service, right?
This algorithm that we can then feed in a data model, and apply to our integrations and applications. And so in a previous conversation, we talked about approvals. And so when... we can actually set up when the approval is generated, we can use AI to predict whether
or not it's going to be approved or not. So the user can start accepting these confidence levels and using AI to automatically approve everything that comes across their desk. So they're only looking at the exceptions rather than everything. And so it's basically an entitlement that the BTP lets you leverage in anything that you're innovating with.
So it's a standard set of tools that I can then plug in instead of creating it myself and having my own AI engine. It’s there for me to use as an entitlement. Or, as Ralph said, a subscription
[Peter Kowalke]: So what I'm hearing is, there's an AI engine built into the BTP, and you can take custom functionality, or functionality from the BTP or from parts of the ERP system, and you can feed it into the AI. It's sort of like, you know, ChatGTP, you're supposed to be able
to import spreadsheets and have it work with stuff.
It sounds like this is the pro level of that. The AI, you got the AI engine, you can plug any part of the ERP, any set of data into that to get whatever you want. And applications
can do that.
[Russell DeLapp]: Yeah, exactly. Circling back to those pillars, right? Whether it's a Navigator-built IP, I can leverage that engine to help with my own application I'm building.
Or as you mentioned, I can...whatever integration, the integration suite, can then leverage that engine to perform more of that intelligent enterprise-level application in what previously wasn't available to these integrations and customizations.
[Peter Kowalke]: I can take my shopping cart information, my third-party shopping cart that's connected to my ERP. I can pull that data into the AI engine as well, and mix it up?
[Russell DeLapp]: It'll predict what you're going to order next based on your history, right?
[Peter Kowalke]: So the AI is one of the pillars. Another one was, what, integrations did I hear?
[Russell DeLapp]: Uhum. The integration pillar, basically, what SAP has done is taken all of the endpoints and connectors. There are over 400 out-of-the-box connectors to streamline and help my developers make those connections to third parties quicker and faster. Other SAP products are already done for you. It's more plug and play and configuration at
And so what is the integration suite does with all these... let's say they're, roughly, 50% done already, it turns into more of a low-code, drag and drop type of integration rather than building it from scratch. Again, that allows me to deploy integrations faster. It allows me to maintain integrations easier, and it ultimately is less expensive to build.
[Peter Kowalke]: There’s always been integrations out of the box. Now it's gotten
even easier, basically.
[Russell DeLapp]: There's always the translation element, let's be honest. Right? It's never
just this field equals this field and you're done. It's that translation element is where we can add some of the value. But ultimately, it gets you to a certain point of low code. And then when there's that last 10 percent I'm coding, instead of coding the whole thing. Right. So another thing it allows us to do is do that in a very visual way. I wish we can pull it up. But it's basically like a swim lane chart, and then each one of those boxes has the relative code in that action item. Before we use the example of a bot extracting a file, that's one element of it.
So you set up your connectors to your email folders, and then when it extracts it, it'll take the data from a PDF file and make it machine readable, the OCR technology, and the next
box is how it maps it over. That's when you're doing the drag-and-drop at that point. So
it's a very visual way to see integrations and how they work.
[Peter Kowalke]: Making it easy, basically. What were the other two pillars?
[Russell DeLapp]: Was really more about data and security. And so that ties into building
your applications. And so it provides a way to have that seamless integration that we talked about before, where the user doesn't, from their perspective, they can't tell
if they're in S/4, if they're in the BTP, right?
It looks and it feels the same. So all the UI application, the UX design, is... is done in the same
way that SAP would build it. They've given us the tools to basically extend the solution. And so with that, we can also have our own database. And it has that world-class security that,
again, a partner like Navigator doesn't have to have that skill set and technology on the bench. We follow their best practice, and development standards of excellence around how we build all of our applications and tools.
[Peter Kowalke]: So what I'm hearing is, just like the AI pillar, you can tap into it. It sounds like you tap into the data security part of it instead of having to, you know, when you do something custom, there's always the, well, “Am I doing it properly from a security
perspective,” data security perspective? You're saying that that's almost a service now within the Business Technology Platform. Where, when you're building that, it automatically can roll in that data security component.
[Russell DeLapp]: A lot of that is on the efficiency, and we're leveraging, getting those services that are already out there, so we're not rebuilding it every single time. It’s just part of the best practice of deploying an application onto the BTP.
[Peter Kowalke]: And what was the fourth pillar, Ralph?
[Ralph Hess] It was the data and analytics. So, as you have predictive analytics and the ability to access Datasphere, which is another SAP product for storing massive amounts of data. And, as Russell said, having that cohort of data in an accessible place for the AI pillar to be able to access and for your applications to be able to access is just another foundational pillar of the BTP.
[Russell DeLapp]: Now I wanted to point out, we're real focused on outcomes. So to us, one of the important elements of the BTP is the whole clean core concept.
[Peter Kowalke]: I wanted to ask you about that. Yes. Tell me about the clean core. What does clean core mean?
[Ralph Hess]: Hahahaha. Yeah, the clean core is essentially making sure that your ERP application is now corrupted or polluted, shall we say, with customizations or application development that might interfere with continuing to consume new innovations through upgrades.
So, BTP allows you to develop and deploy in such a way that it keeps it outside of the “core” of the ERP solution itself. So, we call it “loosely coupled.” There's a number of different terminology for it, but loosely coupled and using standard APIs and integration points to
be able to speak to and innovate on top of your ERP platform.
With S/4 Public, they're delivering two major upgrades per year, plus some additional continuous innovation. And if you're keeping the core clean, it allows you to be able to take advantage of what really an automated upgrade process is. Of course, as an organization we’ll supply and deliver regression testing on your behalf if you want to take advantage of that. But…but, a company doesn't have to wait for the customizations to be redeveloped and reapplied on the new version when things are kept clean in the core itself.
[Russell DeLapp]: Another thing it allows for, just to piggyback onto that… I think we should
take a step back and talk about the differences. So, previously with ByDesign and Business One, we have to develop within the application itself. We're developing in the core, essentially, using SAP's software development kit, using their SDK. And so their SDK
has its own limitations. So there's two ways:
I'm developing in the core, and I have to abide by the governance that they put around it. So I don't break everything, right? What the BTP allows me to do, is it gives me a lot more freedom to have more innovations and less limitations with what I'm trying to do because I'm developing outside the core in an environment that is not just an SDK for the core product, right? It is using modern technology and modern languages.
So again, I can recruit better talent. There's so many great things that the BTP brings us as partners and allows us to deliver to our customers.
[Peter Kowalke]: Now, the BTP is relatively new. What… How has the methodology for
SAP shifted here? And what does this mean, not just for an individual business, but for the whole industry? Where are we going with this?
[Russell DeLapp]: Yeah, we're really at the inflection point right now, in my opinion, with machine learning and AI becoming more of a commodity versus a kind of an out of reach, expensive, unknown engine that was a little bit vague.
So, as we are getting more and more tools to consume that information, SAP has always
been very forward-thinking. And so the BTP is not a new concept. It's been ingrained in their deployment for S/4 and, you know, since in 2015, 2017 is when I started really getting involved, to be honest. But it's become a little bit more mainstream now, is why more people are hearing about it. And so, again it’s…I keep coming back to that clean core. You can't have a future-proof solution without having this strategy at the infancy of your product design.
And so everything SAP has done for S/4HANA Cloud Public Edition has been with the BTP in mind. And so you can't have one without the other. And having that ingrained since
day one is huge.
[Ralph Hess]: Yeah. And Peter, you reference it as being something new. It's actually an evolution of a product that SAP, as Russell said, started developing back in 2015 through 2017. It's been called a number of different things, but it is something that has evolved over
the course of time and really become a very substantive, as Russell said, piece of their overall technology strategy.
So as you take a look at it, they have really had this mindset in terms of delivering innovation for quite a while. They just finally, you know, actually when they finished it, they looked
at it and said it needs a new name. and gave it the Business Technology Platform
as its name.
[Peter Kowalke]: Well, it sounds like it's also bringing the technologies together. It sounds like it was a component before. Now it's becoming sort of a main thing. And it sounds like, with products such as S/4HANA Cloud Public Edition, they're building that into the foundation of the ERP solution.
So, it sounds like it's not just evolving, but it's becoming central now.
[Russell DeLapp]: Yeah, I think to expand on that, I mean, SAP's recognize that they can't do everything. And so, instead of doing all the innovations themselves, they've invested in a platform to allow partners, customers, to come together to innovate as well, in a way that's going to not disrupt their innovations, right? Which is that clean core methodology. That's why they've created this platform. not just Integration Suite, not just Application Factory, but a platform that then partners can use and scale, and co-innovate with SAP. Ralph has mentioned that a couple of times in different sessions with us, the co-innovation.
So SAP has been very supportive in investing in Navigator to, again, fill in that white space
that they're not targeting in the next couple of years. And so we can leverage their same tools and techniques on the platform to then deploy in a seamless way into the product.
[Peter Kowalke]: Because it's not one size fits all. Exactly. There's different needs, there's
core, there's best practices, but there's also… it's a little different for each business. So, sounds like SAP takes care of it generally, but then, you know, there are adjustments. Way, way back when, it was custom code and plugins that would break, you had to maintain.
Now that's moved to the BTP. And now things are... Easier, is what I'm hearing. You're pulling from services, AI, security, and making that process a lot more streamlined is what I'm hearing. Because it's, instead of being a fringe thing, now it sounds like it's core. It's central to the product offering.
[Russell DeLapp]: Exactly.
[Ralph Hess]: Yes, that's true. And that streamlining equals affordability, Peter. So again, as
Russell mentioned, it's now accessible to the small to mid-size market, where previously it was only available to the larger enterprises.
[Peter Kowalke]: Who uses BTP now? Is this for the small businesses who are using Business One? Is this for only people using us for S/4HANA Public Cloud Edition? Who uses the BTP?
[Ralph Hess]: Everybody. And if they don’t, they should, as Russell and I say. But just an example: Everybody buys through Amazon today, I assumed. The majority of our distribution,
wholesale distribution retail-type customers can leverage a BTP integration to Amazon. So whether they're doing fulfillment by Amazon or they're maintaining an Amazon store, that's an example of where the integration suite from BTP would be used.
[Peter Kowalke]: So what I'm hearing, Ralph and Russell, is that small business customers
using SAP Business One, they can tap into the BTP. SAP Business ByDesign users, the
small to mid-size, fast growing, they can use BTP. The mid-size and larger that are using S/4HANA Public Cloud Edition, or the private one that's not on the public cloud, they also are using the BTP.
[Ralph Hess]: That is correct, Peter.
[Peter Kowalke]: Okay. Well, thank you very much for bringing some clarity on what the Business Technology Platform is. I really appreciate…both you, Ralph and Russell,
taking the time to talk with me today. Thank you so much.
[Ralph Hess]: We've enjoyed it. Thanks Peter.
[Russell DeLapp]: Thank you.