In June 2020, the world was still in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses and organizations were still figuring out how to safely and effectively continue operations, and a huge swath of the workforce was well into its third month of working remotely. When ASUG hosted the first ASUGFORWARD virtual conference a year ago, the focus was on how technology can be used to help companies adjust and—for lack of a better word—pivot.

This year, ASUG once again hosted ASUGFORWARD online. Unlike last year, the focus of the conference was on how SAP solutions and technology can assist organizations as they move beyond COVID-19. The past year has brought great change to almost every aspect of business. Across four days, ASUGFORWARD featured sessions from SAP experts, partners, and customers (and actor Kumail Nanjiani!) discussing how SAP and technology solutions at large can bolster organizations for life and operations after COVID-19.

“We’ve seen what great change can happen in just one year,” said Geoff Scott, CEO of ASUG. “We’ve got 70 sessions this week addressing all of those changes. And at ASUG, we know that the best journeys are the ones we share with each other.”

During the “Becoming an Intelligent Enterprise” track of sessions, attendees heard about the importance of the Intelligent Enterprise in the current business climate and saw ways that organizations can go about upgrading their IT landscapes to become Intelligent Enterprises. Here are four highlights from those sessions.

SAP and the Intelligent Enterprise

Matthew Donovan, director of business and marketing development at SAP, led a session focused on helping attendees understand SAP’s concept of the Intelligent Enterprise, and how the software company is helping SAP customers achieve that status. Donovan laid out the three “guiding principles” of the Intelligent Enterprise: resilient, successful, and sustainable. He also discussed how SAP is focusing on end-to-end processes, whereas the organization used to place a heavy emphasis on “solutions and products.”

“We are really trying to focus on how we are supporting an end-to-end process,” Donovan said. “How do we bring together the best SAP has to offer and do it in a way that is aligned to the business processes the customers are supporting?”

Yet, certain hurdles are holding some organizations back from adopting certain SAP solutions—such as SAP S/4HANA Cloud—and becoming Intelligent Enterprises. Donovan went over a few of those challenges, including the high cost to upgrade, the complexity of these projects, and agility and scalability limitations.

“SAP is focused on making the path consumable for customers,” Donovan said, before launching into how RISE with SAP—the software company’s new subscription offering designed to help ease the transition involved with becoming Intelligent Enterprises—can help customers overcome these roadblocks. He went over a few of the transformation packages that were launched at SAPPHIRE NOW 2021 a few weeks ago, including RISE with SAP for Human Experience Management, RISE with SAP for Modular Cloud ERP, and RISE with SAP for Industries. According to Donovan, SAP has taken “a step back to expand into the different industries and different LoBs we support.”

Lessons from COVID-19

One through line present in a few of the sessions was the lessons speakers took away from COVID-19, which is steadily declining in parts of North America. In one session focused on digital transformation, Ron Gilson, CIO of Johnsonville Sausage, discussed some of his main takeaways from the past 18 months. He underlined the current—and growing—importance customers are putting on cybersecurity, standardized business processes, and advanced analytics as they begin to return to normal operations. But, one of the main lessons he took from COVID-19 was the importance of people.

“At the end of the day, your business relies on your people,” he said. “Your ability to thrive and survive is really going to depend on your employees.”

Gilson encouraged attendees to prepare their workforces for the future and put in work to retain employees.

On the technology side of things, Jonathan Becher, president of Sharks Sports & Entertainment, discussed the importance of a technology-first mindset, which will help organizations create experiences for their customers. He also encouraged attendees to reimagine how technology can help organizations do things digitally that they cannot necessarily do in the real world.

While he emphasized the way technology can bolster and broaden an organization’s capabilities to reach and interact with customers, he also cautioned attendees to not overdo it. One of his main lessons from the pandemic was “technology works best when it is invisible to the customer.”

Customer Story – Mrs. T’s Pierogies

ASUGFORWARD also featured several sessions with SAP customers discussing how they accomplished their implementation. Tim Coyle, director of information systems and technology at Mrs. T’s Pierogies, was joined by Pattabhi Peddinti, an advisor on the SAP Global Center of Excellence for SA Business Process Intelligence, to discuss the food company’s recent transition to SAP S/4HANA.

Mrs. T’s Pierogies migrated from SAP ECC 6.0 to SAP S/4HANA version 1909 last year. In May 2020, the company moved its SAP ECC landscape to Google Cloud Platform, Mrs. T’s Pierogies’ hyperscaler of choice. Additionally, the organization also installed the SAP HANA database during this first stage. In September 2020, Mrs. T’s Pierogies migrated to SAP S/4HANA—going live on Sept. 21—and added SAP Analytics Cloud.

This implementation project was completed using the SAP Pathfinder 2.0 Report, which Coyle described as helping the organization get its “house in order.”

“You need to clean things up and throw out stuff you’ve stored for years,” he said.

According to Peddinti, The Pathfinder 2.0 report helps organizations “look for areas where there is potential improvement.” Using a snapshot of data from an organization’s ERP system, the report can identify ways to improve processes and performance. In the case of Mrs. T’s Pierogies, the report was used to prepare for the forthcoming implementation project, identify top custom code transitions (and eliminate some unnecessary custom code), see new or changed processes in SAP S/4HANA, and bolter the organization’s business case.

Coyle said the report helped him understand the changes necessary to complete the implementation project.

Thoughts from the Top: Q&A with Christian Klein

One of the final sessions of the conference featured Scott interviewing Christian Klein, CEO of SAP. Their wide-ranging conversation covered a variety of topics, but Klein spent a large portion of the sessions discussing RISE with SAP, the subscription-based transformation offering SAP unveiled earlier this year as a way to help more customers migrate to the cloud and SAP S/4HANA, and eventually become Intelligent Enterprises.

“RISE [with SAP] is an assembly of all the customer requirements we heard when we launched our new product strategy 12 months ago,” Klein said.

He noted that customers were initially disappointed that they couldn’t see any business model changes after moving to the cloud.

“That is why we infused into RISE [with SAP] this BPI (business process intelligence) layer,” Klein said.

Klein also spoke about the “harmonized data layer” that is an important aspect of the Intelligent Enterprise. Companies that are operating with data silos are inherently at a disadvantage, and Klein said that this way of running a business is not only costly but also “destroys the experience for the customer and the employee.”

“RISE [with SAP] is more than just a move to the cloud,” Klein told Scott. “It’s a move to the standard.” He emphasized the importance of keeping an ERP platform “clean.”

Missed ASUGFORWARD? Have no fear. You can still register and watch the sessions on demand. Click here to register and dive into the conference.

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