“Our AI is designed to complement human ingenuity, not to replace it.”
Meet the Authors
⇨ Customers are finally finding the potential of enterprise automation and are realizing that without integrations, there is no visibility into end-to-end processes.
⇨ The path to a clean core is facilitated by BTP, which serves as the anchor, especially for ECC customers.
⇨ Our AI is designed to complement human ingenuity, not to replace it as we provide fundamental tools within BTP that users can leverage to create AI/ML apps and extensions.
In an exclusive interview, SAPinsider sat down with John ‘JG’ Chirapurath, the Chief Marketing and Solutions Officer, SAP BTP and AI at SAP to discuss his background, role, and journey to joining SAP, the excitement surrounding BTP, SAP Build and its impact on customers, and AI at the core of SAP’s solutions.
John ‘JG’ Chirapurath, the Chief Marketing and Solutions Officer, SAP BTP and AI, SAP
SAPinsider: Tell us about yourself, your background, role and how did you come to join SAP?
JG: My career has been rooted in platforms, technology, and products. I’ve journeyed through the realm of hardware infrastructure, founding a start-up that was eventually acquired by Intel, an opportunity that brought me to Seattle, given that Amazon was one of our prime customers. I’ve witnessed the transition to what we now recognize as cloud computing with Azure, the underlying services, and platforms. For me, the move to SAP, particularly to this platform, seemed like a logical and natural progression, where I could appreciate the entire tech stack in all its complexities. This ranged from the most foundational elements to the point where applications truly flourish and stimulate need and demand. SAP is a significant driving force in any application narrative, providing the underlying platform that powers it all.
SAPinsider: What motivates you and excites you about this role?
JG: I am naturally high-spirited. But primarily, it is the people I collaborate with who energize me the most. We support an active, unified team environment, united in pursuing a shared mission. As I often express, I don’t require substantial support; instead, I am here to back my team, and it’s from them that I derive immense energy. The second motivating factor for me is the commitment to our customers. They have invested substantial trust in us, and considering SAP’s storied past, I don’t want to be the one to fumble. The desire to persistently innovate and push forward keeps me driven. Lastly, it is the larger BTP family – the product and sales colleagues, essentially the best people at SAP – that I work with, who truly inspire me.
SAPinsider: If we were to have a conversation again next year, what achievement from this year would you consider to be your most significant?
JG: Our journey has already begun with initiatives like SAP Build and SAP Datasphere, and we aim to continue this progression by fostering a robust ecosystem. We will continue to introduce new products and clarify the productive routes one can take with SAP BTP. Our goal is to construct a practitioner-focused digital journey around our offerings since BTP primarily caters to individuals who are hands-on in their roles. These are the experiential individuals, the ones who actively explore what they can achieve with the product, driving technological decisions within their organizations. We strive to consistently win their trust and admiration with our superior products, partnerships, and services.
Our focus is on the ‘how’ and ‘what’ instead of the direction, vision, and reasons. Our collaboration with Ada Agrait, Senior Vice President and Global Head of Corporate Marketing, SAP is a testament to this, as it brings together the ‘what’ from my end and the ‘how’ from hers. For instance, if I have a product and I want to target developers with it, I outline why I am targeting them and what I can offer them. Then, Ada strategizes on how we can effectively reach them.
In reality, it takes approximately 24 interactions before potential customers show interest in what we have to offer. We understand that our customers, particularly practitioners, have a range of options available. Therefore, providing top-tier products alone is not sufficient; we also have to craft the right experience around them. As for Michelle Cooper, Senior Vice President, Global Field Marketing, SAP, she brings the field perspective, while my focus lies more on product strategy, product marketing, solutions orientation, and digital elements. The achievements we have made together at these launches and announcements have been nothing short of spectacular.
SAPinsider: Why is there so much excitement and enthusiasm around BTP?
JG: The reality is that our customers are finally finding the potential of enterprise automation. Customers are realizing that without integrations, there is no visibility into end-to-end processes. Without this integral integration, tools like Signavio cannot fully actualize their capabilities. It is through these insights into processes that automation becomes a possibility. In today’s market, when customers assess their options, they often get isolated solutions that lack integration. Among integration providers, some may be top tier but might not integrate well with tools offering process intelligence or automation.
You can’t automate what you can’t connect to. And you shouldn’t automate before you understand what is causing inefficiencies. So, you really need iPaaS, Process Mining, and Process Automation to deliver end to end automation. With SAP Integration Suite, SAP Signavio, and SAP Build, we offer a tightly integrated, complete tool chain and value chain comprised of best of breed solutions. You can begin anywhere within this cycle, and its value only increases the more you interact with it. The cycle enriches itself with each iteration – the more you use it, the better it becomes.
SAPinsider: What do you think is clicking with customers as they better understand this. Is there a catalytic event that is driving the interest?
JG: The first factor driving interest is the accessibility and comprehensibility of our products, along with their comprehensive rollout in the market. For instance, each of these product’s functions not only with SAP applications but also with non-SAP applications. Take SAP Integration Suite, underpinned by the Business Application Hub, offers 3500 integration flows and APIs for deployment, all aimed at a quick and easy start.
Now, you might question the standards upon which Signavio offers insights and process improvements. There are 200,000 industry benchmarks incorporated into Signavio, enabling you to benchmark yourself against industry standards and assess whether you are below, at, or above par, fostering an environment for learning and growth. Similarly, SAP Build is user-friendly. It is standardizing around SAP technology, with around 1121 users already creating low-code extensions with SAP Build Apps. And, with over 9,000 customers already utilizing SAP Build, we’ve seen an astounding 900% growth. These figures demonstrate the keen interest customers have in the potential offered by our products.
But the last piece of the puzzle is ensuring accessibility. We incorporate SAP Build or Signavio where they can deliver the greatest value. We market our products along with Cloud ERP, RISE with SAP, and GROW with SAP, where credits for SAP Build, SAP Signavio, and Integration Suite are included. This is because the most common context where these three elements would be employed is during a transition to S/4 or a cloud transformation.
SAPinsider: There’s Azure and there are other cloud providers. Is it an either/or decision or a bit of both?
JG: We provide a fully managed, defined, and composable foundation that can operate on any cloud platform. We do not wish to arbitrate, dictate, or interfere with our customers’ cloud choices; that is not our role. Whether they are running AWS, Google, or Azure, they can operate BTP on it. Of course, our partners might offer services that appear similar, but I don’t see this as a significant divergence. SAP customers usually focus on the Line of Business (LoB) applications, and we have a strong presence in this realm. I find it hard to see why anyone would opt for a competitor’s product when we offer such seamlessly integrated solutions that can quickly get operations up and running. Thus, the proposition we present to our customers is all-encompassing. If they are investing in a Cloud ERP, we provide the tools necessary for its success.
SAPinsider: What are you seeing around S4 customers vs. ECC customers using BTP. Is it both or is S4 transition forcing organizations to use BTP?
JG: We are noticing a significant shift of customers gravitating towards fully managed SaaS. Getting to a cloud environment gives them access to the latest SAP and technology innovations, as well as an opportunity to retire many of the customizations, modifications and technical debt that has built up in their environments. We see this as an opportunity for our customers to get back to a clean core. The path to a clean core is facilitated by BTP, which serves as the anchor, especially for ECC customers. Throughout this journey, crucial decisions have to be made such as what sequence and how to migrate the existing workloads. We have many customers that have already achieved success by migrating their legacy SAP Process Integration and SAP Process Orchestration environments to the BTP’s Integration Suite; and others are using the SAP Datasphere, BW bridge to leverage existing SAP BW models and transformations in the cloud. With these initial successes in hand, they then have the confidence and experience to migrate the rest of their ECC workloads.
SAPinsider: There’s a lot of attention and focus on AI. How does BTP fit into the AI picture?
JG: Our approach to AI is straightforward and significant. Our AI is focused on business needs and distinguished by three key principles. First, our AI is relevant because it’s embedded within the applications themselves to enhance their functionality, whether it is S4 or HXM. This was a topic of discussion during our announcement with Microsoft, especially in relation to HXM and SuccessFactors. We’re essentially infusing AI to significantly improve the experience for Line-of-Business applicants – this is our primary objective.
Second, it’s reliable because it’s trained on your industry and company data, driven by our process expertise.
Third, we deliver AI with the highest levels of concern for security, privacy, compliance, and ethics. We maintain high ethical standards, and we adhere to these in every scenario. No feature is released to the customer unless it passes our rigorous internal evaluation — a dedicated board ensures this. We are aware of the challenges associated with AI, such as bias, and we do not dismiss them lightly. That’s why we always involve human oversight.
The reasoning behind every AI decision is transparent – take a resume ranking scenario as an example. We clearly outline the criteria used for ranking, how we compared resumes against the provided job description. Users can review the criteria and decide whether they are comfortable with the AI’s reasoning. If not, adjustments can be made to the criteria that might be causing bias.
Our AI is designed to complement human ingenuity, not to replace it. We provide fundamental tools within BTP that users can leverage to create AI/ML apps and extensions. For instance, Datasphere is a data federation platform. We announced a partnership with Data Robot; you can use the business context data within Datasphere to create and train a machine learning model within Data Robot. You can then use AI core and launchpad to push it into SAP Build, which results in a trained model and an app built around it. The best platforms operate subtly, serving as data intermediaries, engines, and training entities, while SAP Build can push it out.
SAPinsider: Who are your core customers using this product?
JG: I’ve yet to come across someone who self-identifies as a “low-code developer”. It is more about efficiency and productivity than anything else. Selecting the best tool for the task, the one that accomplishes the work in the quickest way possible – that’s where low-code fits in. It is a means to improve productivity. What we are observing is the growing centrality of business IT and Line-of-Business (LoB) teams in the application development process. That is where tools like SAP Build come into play.
SAP Build is a tool of empowerment. It enables anyone, regardless of skill level, to become an expert. That is the commitment SAP Build makes to its users.
SAPinsider: Tell me a few stories of impact of SAP Build.
JG: We have a number of examples that demonstrate the practical impacts of BTP, including industries such as agriculture. Arla Foods, a dairy farming cooperative, improved their demand forecasting by 70%, significantly reducing waste, which is crucial given that milk is a perishable product. The Mahindra Group, the world’s largest tractor supplier by volume, is another instance. Blue Diamond Growers, for their part, has made great strides in supply planning with xP&A, SAP Integration Suite, and the automation in SAP Build. Then there’s Areas, SAU, which has standardized KPIs across all of their metrics, resulting in a quick turnaround in their reporting and the ability to forecast daily demand.
What makes BTP unique is that it is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Each customer embarks on a different journey, which is in stark contrast to typical Line of Business applications that have a predefined usage pattern. With BTP, we engage in a constant dialogue with our customers, asking questions like, “How did you get started?” and “What are you doing with it?” This ongoing process of discovery reveals that each customer’s journey is indeed unique.
SAPinsider: What’s next?
JG: These are exciting times. Currently, we have 21,500+ customers actively using BTP in the cloud, along with 1,840+ partners, and we anticipate this growth trajectory to continue. Rather than solely focusing on revenue, my emphasis lies in expanding our customer base and transitioning to a consumption-based model. I firmly believe that when customers genuinely appreciate and consume our offerings, providing delightful experiences, the rest falls into place naturally.