Here are a few thoughts from the SAP Leonardo Center launch in Singapore in early May. The good news: Since we last reported on Leonardo, SAP is clearer about what Leonardo actually is and has more mature messaging and interesting customer examples to share. Leonardo itself, though, continues to be a work in progress.

So, What Is Leonardo?

Today, SAP uses “Leonardo” to refer to one or both of the following:

  • A set of microservices built into SAP’s cloud platform and products that allows you to build custom extensions for SAP business applications to an assortment of technologies (IoT, machine learning, analytics, big data, and blockchain products).
  • A productized workshop and prototyping approach built on design-thinking principles and driven either by the SAP Leonardo team or one of its consulting partners. SAP hopes that this approach will help it and its customers discover and implement viable use cases on Leonardo that connect back to SAP products.

While SAP suggests that it might cover the cost of initial prototyping, it also asserts that, in most cases, it will own the IP and drive reusability of prototypes and solutions across its platform. SAP intends to build a library of use cases and reusable solutions that it (and its partners) can then sell forward to other customers.

Leonardo Is SAP’s New Go-To-Market

Leonardo is a focused attempt to build a productized consulting and service offering to help drive adoption of SAP’s cloud software. SAP’s new openness relinquishes much of the heavy lifting around core infrastructure and machine learning to other cloud/compute platforms such as Azure, AWS, and Google. The company sidestepped questions around, for example, how many data scientists are embedded within Leonardo. Instead, SAP focuses on using open frameworks in the cloud and elsewhere to expose business data to enable the construction of custom applications and vertical solutions. This is not a bad thing, as there is value in a guided, structured approach to innovation — especially if you already have a long-term commitment to SAP. Leonardo initiatives also enjoy the support of the company’s strong partner ecosystem. (At the time of writing, SAP has ~800 partners and ~1,400 partner apps on Leonardo.)

Is Leonardo For You?

Customers are looking for ways to transform their businesses with big data, machine learning, and intelligence embedded in “things”; Leonardo’s design-thinking approach is just one of several ways to start down this path. Consider Leonardo if you:

  • Are thinking of a long-term commitment down a path toward the SAP cloud.
  • See value in SAP’s structured process of design-thinking-led innovation that Leonardo promises but are reluctant or unable to get such expertise elsewhere.
  • Have the required mix of strategic vision and executive sponsorship to sustain and expand these initiatives beyond mere disconnected “islands of innovation” within your enterprise.