Enterprise

Sathya Narasimhan, SAP: On the challenges and benefits in enabling blockchain for enterprise

Picture credit: SAP

Blockchain for the enterprise is on the rise. According to a study from PwC earlier this year, 84% of 600 executives polled said their organisations had at least some involvement with the technology.

One company with a particular interest in getting these large firms off the ground is SAP. The German software giant – which held an Enterprise Blockchain Summit in Berlin last week – has plenty of irons in the fire, including its SAP Cloud Platform Blockchain, which enables functionality with the rest of the company’s portfolio.

Similar to the idea of industry clouds – the application of a cloud service to a specific vertical, such as healthcare or finance – SAP has also been working towards launching consortia around pharmaceuticals, retail, and much more, to give an industry-focused exploration of blockchain.

Prior to his speaking appearance at Blockchain Expo North America later this month, The Block caught up with Sathya Narasimhan (left), SAP senior director of blockchain business development and product management, to discuss enterprise initiatives, fascinating use cases, and much more.

The Block: What topics will you be speaking about at Blockchain Expo North America 2018? What message are you hoping the audience comes away with following your presentation?

SN: Reimagining enterprise-to-enterprise collaboration using blockchain. SAP is currently working with more than 80 customers to deliver productive blockchain use cases after ensuring there’s an appropriate business case. If and when it is the right solution fit, we are helping our customers define the next generation of business processes by applying blockchain.

SAP recently launched two new consortia around pharmaceuticals and life sciences and agribusiness, consumer products and retail respectively. What does this launch mean for SAP and the enterprise usage of blockchain applications more generally?

Blockchain adoption is a two part problem: ensuring technical feasibility and ensuring networked business model readiness. Our consortium-based approach brings customers together in a comprehensive way to define both functional and technical requirements for cross-company collaboration on a blockchain-based solution. By working together with multiple companies, an industry-wide option can be promoted. In doing so, governance aspects of forming and operating the network will be jointly addressed. This way all can agree on what they want to share and on how this technology will be embedded into their business.

Enterprise business processes haven’t really changed much over the past 30 years – they are still highly optimised to work most efficiently within the four walls of a company

As the world leader in enterprise applications, we bring customers, partners, and other relevant players together to identify industry-spanning blockchain use cases, areas for cross-industry collaboration and further benefits of permissioned industry blockchain networks. We collaborate closely with experts from SAP’s 25 industries and work on joint blockchain-based projects to understand specific business requirements to help drive enterprise blockchain technology forward.

How are these particular industries reacting to the opportunities blockchain technologies provides?

Customers across many industries now understand how a blockchain-enabled end-to-end supply chain network can provide traceability information. When the business value for all network participants are clearly articulated and justified, there is greater willingness to start and join and support growth of a blockchain based network. Industries with considerable cost of traceability audit/regulatory compliance are further along in embracing blockchain based networks. In addition, customers are highly interested in expanding the use of a traceability based blockchain network for other related uses such as financial reconciliation.

Could you explain broadly the concept of SAP Cloud Platform Blockchain and how it benefits customers?

The SAP Cloud Platform Blockchain empowers our customers, partners, and developers to access ready-to-use blockchain services, build their own blockchain solutions and integrate them into existing SAP solutions.

In addition, SAP’s offering provides our customers maximum flexibility by providing them Hyperledger Fabric, MultiChain and Quroum, allowing them to tailor their blockchain solutions to their specific business needs.

Our view of an intelligent enterprise is one that appropriately uses the combination of highly complementary emerging technologies – blockchain, IoT, machine learning, AI

Our offering enables customers to natively integrate and expand all parts of SAP portfolio products into a blockchain augmented business process. As a result, SAP business users can continue to use their existing application, technical users can continue to leverage existing SAP tool kits and methodologies and finally business owners make their investments based on actual pain points and not on the technology itself. The SAP Cloud Platform Blockchain offering is essentially an abstraction layer that shields our customers from potential volatility on blockchain protocols.

How does blockchain fit in to SAP’s vision of the intelligent enterprise? More generally, how in your opinion do blockchain technologies co-exist with other emerging enterprise technologies (cloud, IoT, machine learning etc)?

Enterprise business processes haven‘t really changed much over the past 30 years – they are still highly optimised to work most efficiently within the four walls of a company. SAP is a business process applications company and with the power of our installed base, we are cautiously optimistic about how a blockchain enabled business network can help companies to work with each other in a peer to peer, industry based network and cross industry based network-of-networks. Our view of an intelligent enterprise will be the one that appropriately uses the combination of highly complementary emerging technologies such as blockchain, IoT, machine learning/AI.

What is the most exciting use case you have seen thus far in terms of enterprise adoption of blockchain?

At SAP, our purpose is to help the world run better and improve people’s lives. The most exciting blockchain use cases for us are the ones helping achieve both of these purposes. The Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA), outlines steps to build an electronic, interoperable system to identify and trace certain prescription drugs as they are distributed in the United States. This will enhance FDA’s ability to help protect consumers from exposure to drugs that may be counterfeit, stolen, contaminated, or otherwise harmful. The system will also improve detection and removal of potentially dangerous drugs from the drug supply chain to protect US consumers.

SAP has brought several leading pharmaceutical companies to form a consortium and drive cross-company collaboration of drug supply chain data to comply with DSCSA, all based on blockchain.

Blockchain Expo North America is taking place on November 28-29 at the Santa Clara Convention Center. Find out more about Sathya’s speaking sessions here, and find out how to register your ticket here.

Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person? Find out more at the Blockchain Expo World Series, Global, Europe and North America.

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