A highlight from last month’s SAPPHIRE NOW Reimagined was the industry cloud launch. In a follow-up interview last week, I asked Peter Maier, president of Industries and Customer Advisory at SAP, to further explain the concept and detail its benefits to customers.

Industry cloud is the innovation platform and space for SAP where customers and partners build industry cloud solutions and applications that complement the intelligent suite using the Business Technology Platform,” Maier said. “In one sentence that’s what the industry cloud is all about.”

SAP has talked about industry cloud for quite a long time, but Maier says the concept has evolved.

“It’s true that we have been talking about industry cloud on a regular basis,” he says. “I would say since 2014. In the meantime, we named our industries organization to really signify our transition to the cloud.“

But since cloud solutions are the normal way of thinking and operating now, Maier says the industry cloud has a very different meaning today: “It’s the innovation space or platform to develop new solutions for the core business of our customers, where they make money today and in the future.”

“Industry cloud solutions are offered as a software service, including the relevant integration — a key ask of our customers — as well as the configuration content to really extend the intelligent suite and also the business network, which is key for this whole undertaking. Of course, we don’t start from scratch in this area. The Business Technology Platform is the foundation for the industry cloud. That’s very important.”

To turn the concept into something more tangible, I asked Maier to name the three most important benefits for customers.

“There are obviously more than three, but let me highlight the biggest ones,” he said. “It’s about resilience, efficiency, and flexibility while supporting the strategic transformation.”

Resilience, because customers need to respond fast to the new challenges with new solutions and without upgrading. Second, it improves efficiency by providing access to digital technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and robotic process automation, which make processes more efficient and cost effective. Third, it provides the flexibility customers need combined with capabilities from other industries and builds them into the business model.

“Customers can enhance and extend the business capabilities while maintaining process integrity and compliance,” Maier explains.

For CIOs specifically, he says it enables them to respond to changing business requirements while minimizing integration and support costs: “It’s about ensuring the continuous innovation by protecting the security and integrity for business processes. Finally, I would say it’s about increasing automation and support the business transformation in a safe and also controlled way. That’s actually the value we deliver, either directly or through our very rich ecosystem and our partners.”

Maier emphasizes that those partners are a critical component of the industry cloud program: “We cannot, and don’t want to, do everything alone. We engage with our partners who can also build vertical capabilities in SAP’s industry cloud.”

Specifically, he says industry cloud creates new business opportunities where SAP partners can contribute to their industry-specific innovation. “It’s an open innovation space and an open platform. They have their own business ideas and revenue to make. We want to provide this flexibility and the openness. The strong ecosystem, from my point of view, is also adding the value in itself for SAP, our customers, but also our partners.”

As an example, Maier cites SAP’s recent partnership announcement with Honeywell to create a joint cloud-based solution that enables customers to benefit from building performance optimization, including reduced carbon footprint, lowered energy costs, and an improved tenant experience.

Another interesting example is what SAP is doing with BearingPoint to reimagine equipment and tools management in the cloud. The new solution, known as ETM.next, is built on SAP Cloud Platform and offers next-generation capabilities that customers need to unlock additional value in equipment fleets.

As SAP rolls out the portfolio with the industry cloud launch, Maier says the company plans to focus on four industries initially: automotive, consumer products, utilities, and engineering, construction, and operations. Others — banking, professional services, and retail — are planned to follow in the coming months.

To learn more about the industry cloud launch, listen to the full conversation with Peter Maier:

Industry Cloud Explained

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Industry Cloud Explained