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Author's profile photo Christian KLEIN

Can’t Stop the Feelin’ … My Highlights from SAPPHIRE NOW 2018

What an incredible week it has been! More than 21.000 attendees joined us in Orlando at this year’s SAPPHIRE NOW. Each year, SAPPHIRE NOW marks THE highlight for SAP as well as for me personally: always huge, always impressive, always inspiring, always hard work, always fun.

Like every year, this year’s SAPPHIRE NOW was full of highlights: We announced major updates to our strategy and heard inspiring keynotes from our co-founder and chairman Hasso Plattner and members of the SAP Executive Board. I’m pretty sure you read about them in the press already, so I would like to focus on my personal highlights in this post.

The day before SAPPHIRE NOW officially kicked off, I attended the Call to Lead Summit “Winning with Purpose” which featured amazing guest speakers. I listened to Condoleezza Rice talking about what makes a team successful: “You have to have people who are not afraid to speak up” – describing exactly the culture I want to establish at SAP to win together as one team. One of my very first highlights in Orlando was Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States, who joined the Call to Lead Summit and gave a very powerful and encouraging statement: “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” Very well said!

On day 1, our CEO Bill McDermott kicked off SAPPHIRE NOW with an amazing keynote announcing SAP C/4 HANA, a unified suite of cloud solutions that manage the customer experience based on one trusted customer data model. It combines SAP’s front office cloud solutions with SAP S/4HANA powered by artificial intelligence – a true game changer in our industry.

After listening to Bill and his guests on stage, my day was packed with customer meetings. Engaging with our customers is the main reason we travel to Orlando every year. I got very valuable feedback from customers first hand. At SAP, our most important metric is customer success. Dedicated teams in my board area are focused on delivering a best-in-class customer experience. Only by listening to our customers directly am I able to check if we meet their needs, deliver on our promises, and help them run at their best.

On day 2, Hasso Plattner shared our strategy of the intelligent enterprise. Hasso made it very clear: “The intelligent enterprise is not a marketing story thriving on buzzwords. It is a logical consequence of what is possible today using modern technology in enterprise applications.” Only SAP can deliver such an intelligent suite and we are all very excited about the opportunities this strategy brings for our customers.

During my own keynote, I talked about how SAP runs SAP and how we are transforming ourselves into an intelligent enterprise. Just like our customers, we also see the business benefits of becoming an intelligent enterprise – it’s about the adoption of new business models (in our case the move to the cloud, SAP Leonardo, machine learning, and artificial intelligence), customer success, and continued business growth.

But such a transformation requires boldness and I shared our approach at SAP: you have to be as agile as a start-up, think out of the box, and dare to think differently. One of my key pieces of advice for our customers was to always make sure they have the commitment of the business for their transformation projects – only then will you be able to adapt to new business models and re-think your business end-to-end.

Another recommendation I shared was the need to have an integrated, company-wide approach. Core business processes run across the entire company – they are not restricted to specific lines of business. To improve the employee and customer experience, it is crucial to harmonize your business processes across your entire organizations. To achieve this, your company must function as one team – no department can win by itself. With all employees working together as a team and a mindful change management approach, transformation will be a success.

An intelligent enterprise doesn’t have any silos in it – it lives by the bridges it builds. Lead with empathy, deliver quick wins, and communicate often to make sure that every colleague sees the values of the transformation and is convinced that they want to be a part of the journey.

Finally, SAPPHIRE NOW is also about having fun together. So, my last major highlight was for sure the concert on day 3. This year, one of the world’s most successful entertainers, Justin Timberlake, came to perform his top hits. As you can imagine, the crowd was fired up, and there was nothing we could do but just dance, dance, dance.

See you next year, Orlando!

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