The COVID-19 pandemic has digital business surging like never before, and not just because of social distancing. Cash-strapped organizations are taking a second look at cloud-based platforms because they can deliver the agility and cost-efficiency needed for business resilience in a volatile world.
“The pandemic has demonstrated that companies may have to find different suppliers, delivery channels, or new ways of meeting customer needs on extremely short notice,” said Gunther Rothermel, president of SAP Cloud Platform. “The debate is no longer about whether or not your company should go digital, but how to make it happen by organizational area and technology solution.”
As for what companies should demand from their cloud platform providers, three things top the list: extensibility, integration, and intelligence.
Ecosystems Extend Business Value
Digital’s pivot from important strategy to survival must-have puts ecosystems in the spotlight. Companies need a much stronger cloud-based platform that connects their entire supply chain, including partners and suppliers. They also need developers, whose ranks are swelling with so-called citizen designers capable of quickly churning out an explosion of apps.
By 2021, Gartner predicted that 30 percent of manufacturers will have digital application teams using low-code technology to create business-relevant applications — no coding skills required. IDC researchers predicted the number of part-time developers, including business analysts, data analysts, and data scientists worldwide, will double from 6.8 million in 2019 to 13.6 million by the middle of this decade. This growing population is integral to helping companies meet new business pressures.
“The cloud-based platform is where companies deliver the customer-specific value from software developers who can add specific functionalities quickly, delivering new services at the edge for flexible business agility,” Rothermel said. “While most companies have heterogeneous IT landscapes, the ones that are most flexible and competitive have integrated business processes on top of a stable, cloud-based foundation. This is what’s behind SAP’s intelligent enterprise strategy.”
Real-Time Intelligence Saves Lives
Events like the COVID-19 pandemic have only reinforced the importance of embedded intelligence across cloud-based systems. Most people already understood how tools like conversational artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and robotic process automation (RPA) dramatically sped up tedious, repetitive tasks by analyzing vast amounts of data. During the pandemic, some of the results have been lifesaving.
Early on, software developers built an emergency repatriation platform using SAP Cloud Platform, which helped the German government bring home approximately 240,000 stranded citizens. Other developers have responded with cloud-based apps to help communities quickly find intensive care hospital beds and bring meals and other free resources to more than 54 million children following school closures.
Some experts believe it has never been more important for companies to understand what their customers and employees are going through as they navigate radically changed life and work experiences. Sports teams are using cloud platforms to improve the fan experience, something that is even more critical as the industry slowly reopens, virtually or not.
An Australian-based zoo designed an app on SAP Cloud Platform that boosted customer satisfaction levels with staff to 87 percent while simplifying the employee experience with a mobile app that streamlined daily tasks including human resources (HR), finance, and procurement.
Modern Cloud is Real Time and Actionable
Examples of intelligent, cloud-based innovations to address pandemic-related challenges are legion and only expected to continue. However, this is not last-century automation. Modern cloud-based business platforms help companies combine and analyze information inside and outside corporate walls for real-time actions and insights.
“Companies need to make sure their infrastructure partners can meet in-country regulations such as data protection and privacy,” Rothermel explained. “For example, in Poland any transport of oil and gas has to be registered with the government to protect against fraud and corruption. That’s why customers are using SAP Cloud Platform to extend their standard SAP Transport Management application to meet specific national regulatory requirements like these.”
Cloud Redefines Business Resilience
Despite widespread world economy disruptions, recent IDC surveys revealed “noticeable resilience” in the cloud business model, with 62 percent of respondents from organizations in Western Europe planning to keep or increase software-as-a-service (SaaS) spending this year. These stats are part of a much larger trend toward digital transformation aimed at shoring up business resilience.
“Our customers are adapting to the new normal, whether it’s having a greater appreciation for cloud’s flexible usage-based payment options or taking advantage of our remote coaches who help them work through missions online through the SAP Cloud Platform Discovery Center,” Rothermel said. “When a company’s cloud-based platform provides control over end-to-end business processes, organizations can react to changes faster and deliver more value to their customers.”
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