Inside Leonardo, SAP’s revitalised tech platform

Inside Leonardo, SAP’s revitalised tech platform

Software giant completely relaunches Leonardo platform to include AI, machine learning, analytics, blockchain and IoT

Bill McDermott (SAP)

Bill McDermott (SAP)

Credit: SAP

SAP relaunched its Leonardo platform as a “digital innovation system” in June 2017 at its Sapphire conference in Orlando, marking a shift from what was once considered an Internet of Things (IoT) platform.

The idea of the new-look Leonardo is to allow customers to take advantage of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, advanced analytics and blockchain on top of their business data.

Now SAP wants to give customers a simple way to embrace all of these emerging technologies to solve specific business problems, before packaging them up for non-early adopters to procure later on.

So instead of just helping customers embrace IoT with a cloud system and a set of templates, SAP has expanded Leonardo to the whole spectrum of enterprise problems.

As Mike Flannagan, senior vice president of analytics at SAP put it at the time: “Leonardo is about accelerating time to value by finding generalised, common business problems across an industry.

“It’s about taking a business problem, which is specific to one customer, find the elements of that problem which are common across the industry, then defining the elements of a methodology, the technologies used to solve that problem and package those up and make them available as an accelerator for the next customers”.

Simply put, Pat Bakey, president of SAP Industries, has described Leonardo as "our way of packaging innovation".

Tracking its progress so far, SAP chief innovation officer Juergen Mueller said during a press Q&A at Sapphire 2018 that SAP has tracked 196 Leonardo ‘scenarios’ to date, up from 15 at the time of launch. “Probably in a year from now we will have a four digit number of Leonardo scenarios,” he added.

Defining SAP Leonardo

It can be tricky to find a working definition of SAP Leonardo at this point because it is an umbrella term for a number of SAP technologies, all built on top of its open platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offering called SAP Cloud Platform.

Speaking during SAP’s 2017 Sapphire event in Orlando, Florida, cofounder and chairman of the SAP supervisory board Dr Hasso Plattner called Leonardo a “bounding box” which sits around “a set of objects.

So this is a box around a set of tools to build a system which then, with machine learning algorithms, finds insights which we can attach to transactions” within your SAP environment.

Plattner reiterated that what makes SAP’s approach to AI and machine learning unique is that customers have all of the important business data right there underneath them, in the SAP transactional systems, and that keeping the data in one place is the best way to safeguard it.

During his Sapphire keynote, CEO Bill McDermott said that Leonardo “is the biggest move our company has made since HANA” and that “it’s time for your core systems to fuel your digital innovation, it is time for your data to drive a new customer experience. It is time for machine learning to take the work out of your workflow. It is time for billions of devices to go from thinking to doing.”

McDermott was keen to emphasis the openness of Leonardo for those all-important net new SAP customers looking for cognitive, IoT or big data solutions.

As Leonardo is built on the SAP Cloud Platform, customers “can procure Leonardo and snap it into any architecture or environment you have”, McDermott explained, because “the SAP Cloud Platform is an open platform, with all open standards and anybody, including non-SAP customers, can get started”.

This includes running on the three major public cloud infrastructure vendors: AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google.

Getting started with SAP Leonardo

Mala Anand, who is now President of Leonardo, had said on stage in 2017 that: “Leonardo is about the business, we start with a business problem, we apply our design thinking methodologies to define the desired solution and apply rapid prototyping to prove how we can make the solution a reality quickly.

"The intent is to bring together everything from machine learning, big data, analytics and IoT, all integrated and stitched together on our cloud platform.

"At the end of the day, we want to deliver outcomes and to deliver those outcomes to transition a business outcome or business model. That cannot be delivered with just one technology."

SAP provides three routes to getting started with Leonardo. First off Leonardo capabilities are embedded in SAP applications, such as smart insights within SAP Ariba, Hybris and S/4HANA.

Secondly, for quick implementations, SAP released 23 Leonardo-based innovation kits for specific industries during Sapphire in 2018, for use cases across retail, life sciences, manufacturing and automotive.

For example, the Leonardo kit for automotive gives quick access to fleet insights. “This cloud-based application optimises fleet operations by bringing sensor data together with business data to provide a global view of fleet performance for strategic decision making, and a detailed view of each vehicle for real-time operations management,” the vendor states.

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