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Author's profile photo Phil Cooley

Sapphire 2018 – The Worlds Biggest Challenges are the Worlds Biggest Opportunities

Once again it was great listening to the keynotes from Bill McDermott and the great Hasso Plattner at this year’s #Sapphire2018 conference. This is my third year of writing a blog based on the Sapphire keynotes and announcements so hope you like this one. The title of this blog post is in fact a quote from Bill McDermott’s keynote. I did feel this year that SAP have come out of the shackles from indirect licensing discussions and are on the front foot with S/4HANA – now one of the fastest systems to be implemented ever in history. While I viewed this from afar it seemed like one of the biggest Sapphire events in recent times with a very large number of key announcements – some of which I will cover below. Overall though I could genuinely feel the momentum of SAP’s offerings oozing out of the conference. I will cover a few main topic areas and summarise with the following keywords – the Intelligent Enterprise including Augmented Humanity, 4th Generation Customer Experience Suite titled SAP C/4HANA, and of course SAP Cloud Platform being the central innovation platform where “Cool hangs out with Enterprise” (Bjorn Goerke – 2018 Sapphire conference).

OK, let’s start with the platform – the one and only SAP Cloud Platform.

SAP Cloud Platform

One of the most pleasing messages from the conference was the recurring theme that SAP Cloud Platform will be at the centre. Not only that, it powers the “Intelligent Enterprise”. I’ve been providing advice to many customers over the last couple of years stating that changes/extensions to applications should be made in SAP Cloud Platform thereby not touching the products themselves. I’ve also stated that extensions be de-coupled from the backend system for maximum flexibility thereby improving the overall solution support and maintainability into the future. In my mind it will dramatically reduce the maintenance effort of customers as the main core system will be untouched and not customised. It was great to hear Hasso Plattner stating the same things. ? I’ve been reminded by my colleagues that Hasso’s statements would have a much greater impact than mine! OK, will take that. Here is what Hasso said in his keynote.

“There’s a reason why the Cloud Platform is in the center. Everything we do now, how we connect applications, how we present applications, how we present services, will go through the SAP Cloud Platform. The objective is not only that we connect everything with everything else, but also that we can deliver enhancements to products without touching the products. We have to reduce the maintenance effort” – Hasso Plattner – Sapphire 2018 conference

This was also backed up by Bill McDermott – detailing the following statistics around the take up of SAP Cloud Platform.

Figure:1 SAP Cloud Platform statistics – 1 billion hits a day!

SAP Cloud Platform is the enterprise platform for innovation with over 1B hits a day – this is massive! The advantage this has over other platforms is the fact it can connect to SAP and non-SAP systems and connect to older or newer versions. If that was not enough, Bjorn Goerke joined the stage and covered the following key differentiators between SCP and other platforms.

1.   Consistent commercial experience. Find, try, buy, consume, etc. Only pay what you consume and what you use. The ability to try functionality with Trial accounts is a huge advantage.

2.   Enabling innovation at lightning speed. Built on API business hub. Exposure of application portfolio and microservices speeds up innovation.

3. Multi Cloud Business Platform. SCP is the only open multiple cloud business platform. Protecting from vendor lock in and data lock in. Offered on the SAP Data centre, Google, Amazon AWS or Microsoft Azure.

Bjorn also described the key ingredient to SAP Cloud Platform’s success – Business Agility. Business users are now high maintenance and have really high expectations, they also expect their business requirements to be met quickly but with a scalable, robust solution. Overcustomised SAP systems for too long have not met the innovation demands. SAP Cloud Platform allows this to happen without touch points into backend ERP systems – thereby keeping the core clean!

Bjorn described his 5 main points around SAP Cloud Platform’s business agility offering – which is seriously compelling. I’ve jotted down quick dot points around his discussion in Hasso’s keynote – I’ve paraphrased and summarised the main points.

  • Best extension platform for any SAP application. Connectivity to on-premise or on cloud. Overcustomised ERP systems have slowed down innovation cycles and in most cases cannot meet innovation demands from businesses. SCP allows for side by side extensions. Keep core clean!!!!
  • Most holistic integration platform. Business Processes run across modules. Applying intelligence to processes and SCP provides integrated view with inclusion of 3rd party integrations. In 2 years have gained over 5000 customers.
  • Powerfully Built platform. Innovative solutions. E.g. Customer fuelling application on mobile devices. Connected them back into S/4HANA. SCP + Leonardo + Machine Learning, Big Data, IOT etc.
  • Unique experience platform. End users interactions change. Systems alert exceptions and applications make recommendations. How users interact will change. Machine learning. ERP you can talk to, a CRM you can listen to.
  • Agile platform. Speed meets scale. Experimentation meets productization. Cool hangs out with enterprise, where the cool sh$t happens! Delivering 4 releases every 2 weeks, zero downtime. Speed to innovation.

Seriously compelling! This is best summarised by the below slide.

Figure:2 SAP Cloud Platform powering the Intelligent Enterprise (slide from Sapphire keynote)

There were more announcements specifically around SAP Cloud Platform and these have been covered really well by Murali Shanmugham in the following blog. This is a great read!

4th Generation SAP CRM – SAP C/4HANA

The next super huge announcement was the launch of the fourth generation Customer Experience Suite codenamed SAP C/4HANA. I’ve been on multiple projects involving SAP CRM and SAP Hybris Cloud For Customer, and SAP Hybris Ecommerce so this was a really interesting one for me. I do know that there had been a lot of market pressure from Salesforce so I believe with this announcement SAP are tackling this head on with a more compelling offering in this space. Cannot wait to see how this unfolds.  Again, SAP Cloud Platform was mentioned as the key extension framework – keeping the core clean from customisations!

Figure:3 – 4th Generation Customer Experience Suite (slide from Sapphire keynote)

This has been built to create trusted relationships where the Person is at the centre. No longer is it B2B or B2C it is Me2C. It was stated that customers are not records in the system – they are people and they want their data protected and they also want companies to deliver on their promises. The 4th generation Customer Experience Suite is about connected experiences. The components to make this happen include the Unified User Experience, SAP Leonardo offering the embedded intelligence and of course SAP Cloud Platform offering the extension and microservice frameworks. Of course the major underlying technologies are all of the current SAP Hybris offerings as described above. I am buoyed by the fact that they are bringing together all of the SAP Hybris and ECommerce components under one banner with the inclusion of the SAP Cloud Platform microservices abilities. Cannot wait to see more in this space!

Intelligent Enterprise and Augmented Humanity

Bill McDermott’s keynote is always a pleasure to watch and this year was no exception – really loved the passion he brings especially when talking about the Intelligent Enterprise. I really liked the discussion around Augmented Humanity as Artificial Intelligence has been talked about for decades with not much to show for it. I really believe that Augmented Humanity will! Bill really smashed it out of the park when using Gary Kasparov’s thoughts around machine learning and human involvement in carrying out business processes. Some great quotes included – “Great brains and great computers but a lousy process for integrating them” which has historically been the case. Bill stated “Don’t let anxiety detract from opportunity” and one of the most memorable was the prediction that Augmented Humanity will bring a

“New wave of growth…. that will be at the intersection of speed of the machine and judgement of the human.” – Bill McDermott (Sapphire 2018)

Very interesting. I have read a few articles on this subject and the overall message was the fact that organisations that utilise a combination of both machines and humans will in fact get greater rewards than those that only use machines. My favourite quote from Bill though was the following:

“Weak human + Machine + Superior Process is better than Human + Faster Machine + Inferior Process.” – Bill McDermott (Sapphire 2018)

Smart business processes have always been the differentiator between companies involved in the same trade so will be interesting how many customers go down the Augmented Humanity path. As Bill states – “Process itself is the multiplier – producing superior results over time.”.  

Figure:4 – The Intelligent Enterprise (slide from Sapphire keynote)

Bill’s conclusion was that Artificial Intelligence be embedded into the business process itself to gain the greatest benefits. I really like this idea and think the augmented humanity will be huge!  

“SAP will be embedding intelligence into applications themselves via SAP Leonardo.”

What was amazing was the independent research that predicts that AI will contribute 16 trillion to the global economy by 2030. WOW!

To finish off the Intelligent Enterprise topic, Bill covered off his Top 10. This is covered by this slide and when you think about SAP’s offerings in all of these areas it is truly amazing. SAP does have what it takes to turn today’s challenges into tomorrow’s opportunities.  

Figure:5 – Bill’s Intelligent Enterprise Top 10 (slide from Sapphire keynote)

As covered by Bill McDermott – his Top 10 items for the Intelligent Enterprise included the following:

  1. Data Foundation – data management suite. SAP HANA.
  2. Platform for Innovation – SAP Cloud Platform
  3. Single View of Customer – SAP C/4HANA
  4. Intelligent ERP – SAP S/4HANA
  5. Total Workforce Management – SAP Successfactors + SAP Fieldglass
  6. Industry 4.0 – SAP Digital Manufacturing and Supply Chain
  7. Business Networks -> Total Spend Management / SAP Ariba / SAP Fieldglass / SAP Concur
  8. Advanced Analystics – SAP Analytics Cloud
  9. Augmented Humanity – SAP Leonardo
  10. Integration – SAP Intelligence Suite delivered to all SAP applications

Lastly, I leave you with a thought to ponder, well – another of Bill’s great quotes.

“Change has never moved this fast and it will never move this slowly again!”

(Bill McDermott – keynote Sapphire 2018).

This is sort of scary but great at the same time! Incredible opportunities await! Not sure about you but I’m seriously excited!!!!

Thanks for reading and to read more on this topic search for blogs around Sapphire 2018 conference. There are a number around that provide some more detail on all topics  covered.

For direct links to the keynotes check the following:

Bill’s keynote ->

Hasso’s keynote ->


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