Photo Credit: SAP

SAP co-founder and chairman of the supervisory board, Dr. Hasso Plattner, needs no introduction.

“Another year, another SAPPHIRE, another keynote—oh, you know [sigh], it’s getting harder every year,” joked Dr. Hasso in his opening address. His keynote began to a packed house, with attendees spilling outside the theater for standing-room-only viewing. A hush fell over the normally energetic show floor, as people quietly circled around every booth with monitors broadcasting his session. Even in an environment designed to distract, the crowd was fully engaged with Dr. Hasso’s every word.

If you haven’t heard him speak before, Dr. Hasso’s delivery is dry, slightly irreverent, and wonderfully to the point. His candid approach and honesty in terms of where SAP needs to improve tends toward the unpredictable, but it’s always valuable and as technical roadmap discussions go, it’s good fun.

The Evolution of HANA

During his opening address at SAPPHIRE NOW 2018, Dr. Hasso spent some time talking about the progression of SAP’s databases over the years. He referred to SAP R1, R2, and R3 (with R3 being the biggest success) and explained how these have led to the development of SAP HANA.

“The hope I had in our early prototypes for SAP HANA and the work we did with Vishal [Sikka] finally became a reality,” said Dr. Hasso.

Photo Credit: SAP

Say Goodbye to Pre-Aggregation

Dr. Hasso explained that the speed of SAP HANA and its in-memory capability allows its users to avoid all the pre-aggregation of data that used to slow things down and hamper performance. There are no redundant aggregators anymore. Dr. Hasso stated that he is “almost surprised” that the competition didn’t attempt to emulate what SAP has developed.

“We are out of the woods in terms of performance. There are so many testimonials from SAP customers who are so productive with SAP HANA. These companies can build any kind of information hierarchy without changing their data. We removed a lot of redundant code that might have been used in the past and that means the system is more simple—and so much more stable,” said Dr. Hasso.

The Key to the Intelligent Enterprise

SAP HANA is now deployed by 22,000 customers. Dr. Hasso stated that even the people who were skeptical about what SAP HANA could do have started to believe there’s a reason why people would move off a great database like Oracle. Now they understand why, suggested Dr. Hasso.

With SAP HANA, users can complete their installations faster and respond to business changes based on real-time data from across the organization. And the intelligent enterprise is more than ERP: It is a business world of other SAP applications including SAP SuccessFactors, SAP Hybris (now renamed under the SAP Customer Experience umbrella), SAP Concur, SAP Leonardo, SAP Fieldglass, and other products.

SAP Integration: A Work in Progress

“I don’t think I promise too much when I say, if you buy all of the SAP products, you will indeed get a discount. That really is how it works,” joked Hasso. “I talk with Bill [McDermott] all the time and I know he has apologized that not all the integration between the elements in the SAP ecosystem are perfect—we know that and we are working on that. We are bringing the heads of these internal brand name departments together on a monthly basis to define what kind of interfaces are needed so that we can be more integrated in the future.”

As Agile as a Startup

Within all its business units, Dr. Hasso acknowledges that SAP needs to be “as agile as a startup” to be successful. He also pointed out that we, as users, will all have to be really clever in the future to exploit the possibilities that come from intelligent analytics and new cloud platforms. We don’t even know yet where we can apply all the technical advances SAP is building into the intelligent enterprise, he suggests.

Data From A to B, Not to C

“The biggest risk factor when moving data from A to B is that it might end up at C. We want to keep the data where it is protected by the security features of the original application it resides in. Because of this, we want to be able to power SAP HANA data analytics where the data resides,” said Dr. Hasso. SAP has also engineered the ability to aggregate, transform, and now anonymize data on the fly. This anonymization factor will be very important to healthcare companies, for example.

“Everything we do now with applications in and outside the world of SAP will be done with an objective to connect things properly and help develop enhancements to products without actually touching those [software] products and services,” said Dr. Hasso.

Real-World Business Intelligence in Real Time

Dr. Hasso welcomed Frank Cohen to the SAPPHIRE NOW stage as the president for SAP Digital Core & Industry Solutions, to demonstrate what SAP really means by the term intelligent enterprise. Cohen explained that the way we used to do the month-end closing process at a company involves many disconnected tasks. A firm would typically send a spreadsheet around various departments to match products shipped versus invoices received.

The demo explained that SAP HANA can automatically process and match items throughout a firm’s inventory. Exceptions are flagged where the system doesn’t have a high enough confidence level to automatically process items. Although the exceptions must be resolved by a human being, the SAP software will make smart recommendations to suggest which goods or services should be matched with which.

SAP on the Right Track

Coming back to Dr. Hasso’s reference to customers who want to buy the whole SAP ecosystem of applications, SAP has emphasized that customers can use SAP Leonardo to benefit from using these increasingly integrated SAP applications across their business.

“I hope we have embarked upon a road that shows you SAP has made its applications more intelligent and that you think that SAP is on the right track,” concluded Dr. Hasso.

Dr. Hasso’s open, frank, honest, and candid approach isn’t a contrived or falsely staged play to create confidence among SAPPHIRE NOW attendees, it’s what he really is. We’re already looking forward to his 2019 session.

Want to find out what went on at this year’s SAPPHIRE NOW and ASUG Annual Conference? Read our coverage of day one, day two, and day three.