Photo Credit: SAP

The opening move in what looks like an epic battle for the CRM market took place in Orlando Tuesday morning. The big news from day one at the SAPPHIRE NOW and ASUG Annual Conference is the official launch of SAP C/4HANA, SAP’s new customer relationship management (CRM) suite. This move comes as no surprise, after SAP’s much-discussed purchases of hybris, Gigya, and CallidusCloud.

Without directly mentioning Salesforce, SAP CEO Bill McDermott said in his keynote address, “SAP was the last to accept the status quo of CRM and is now the first to change it.” Legacy CRM doesn’t supply a 360-degree view of the customer, and SAP is moving from a world where nothing happens when you add a record to a CRM system to a world where the entire supply chain is connected to the customer experience, he added.

Treating Customers Like People

SAP C/4HANA is a direct response to what Alex Atzberger, president, SAP Customer Experience, refers to as a customer revolution, where the customer is in charge of the relationship. Customers are rebelling against the use of data and companies who don’t deliver on their promises. “It’s ‘me to B,’” he said, noting that customers have identities, needs, and desires—and want their data to be protected. They want personalization, but not at the cost of privacy. “Customers are done with creepy,” he added.

Atzberger explained that the SAP C/4HANA suite was built to create trusted relationships around the person. As the fourth generation of CRM, “it’s targeted at people, not segments,” he said. The commerce cloud provides personalized experiences to customers across different touchpoints, while the sales cloud allows the sales force to tap into the supply chain by configuring and pricing products in the moment.

Intelligent Enterprises Capitalize on Data

SAP C/4HANA wasn’t the only product announced in the keynote speech. McDermott also introduced the SAP Data Management Suite, an umbrella for SAP HANA business data platform, SAP Data Hub solution, SAP Cloud Platform Big Data Services, and SAP Enterprise Architecture Designer Web application. The idea is to create a full management suite that pulls in data from every available source.

The Business Process Company

“Every step in the process fuels intelligence in the next step, and integration fuels intelligence,” McDermott said. SAP Data Management Suite is designed to connect the demand chain to the supply chain as an end-to-end process suite. “SAP is the business process company,” he said.

Microservices made several appearances in the keynote, in particular as a “microservices ecosystem” for SAP Cloud Platform to create one data model for an artificial intelligence suite, according to Atzberger. This, in turn, provides better intelligence for SAP Leonardo to embed into applications directly, dovetailing with McDermott’s statement that artificial intelligence must be part of the business processes themselves.

Artificial Intelligence Brings Global Teams Together

SAP decided to end the keynote with a bit of flashiness. In this case, producer Simon Fuller, best known for American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance, brought out Now United, a musical act comprised of 14 young adults from 14 different countries. The act tied in SAP’s overarching theme of using artificial intelligence to foster productivity across global teams, while keeping the crowds entertained.

ASUG’s Keynote of Champions

Collaboration and knowledge-sharing is what ASUG is all about, according to ASUG CEO Geoff Scott. “You are not alone,” he implored. “We are faced with adapting to technology or being left behind. ASUG is your place for answers, clarity, and support.”

Referring to the Olympic athletes Lindsey Vonn, Jocelyne Lamoureux, Monique Lamoureux, and Amy Purdy who spoke in the ASUG keynote, Scott noted that like them, SAP users are racing against the clock, and against technology. “We need to be at the top of our games,” he said.

Ultimately, Users Power SAP

Scott’s keynote served as a pep talk of sorts for users who may be feeling the pinch of new technology while still trying to sort through legacy systems under pressure from the business. “The skills of everyone in this room is what makes (SAP) work,” he said, adding that, like David against Goliath, users succeed by their wit, not weight. As SAP introduces SAP C/4HANA and the SAP Data Management suite, users will need to innovate in their own businesses using those platforms.

Citing the 2018 ASUG State of the Community Survey, Scott noted that 73 percent of respondents are increasing spending on key innovation initiatives, and 68 percent said this will require getting more out of their SAP systems. The new SAP products being released today will help companies innovate and get more out of SAP investments, he said.

“In so many ways, that’s our latest pair of skis,” Scott said. “But it takes skill, determination, and grit to make it down the mountain.”

Quotes of the Day

“Just don’t be creepy.” – Alex Atzberger, President, SAP Customer Experience

“The ultimate form of sophistication is simplicity itself.” – Bill McDermott, CEO

Interested in what went on at the 2018 SAPPHIRE NOW and ASUG Annual Conference? Catch up with the events of day two and day three. Or read a recap of Dr. Hasso's keynote.