For the first time in three years, the SAP community gathered—physically—in Orlando for SAP Sapphire & ASUG Accelerate. A welcome break from the virtual experiences prompted by COVID-19, the in-person event not only gave SAP customers, partners, analysts, and experts the ability to once again network with one another, but also, it featured a series of announcements, innovations, and SAP portfolio product updates.
Nonetheless, the world has dramatically changed since SAP last held this in-person event. COVID-19 has rocked the global economy and supply chains. Rising concerns about climate change and the unwarranted Russian invasion of Ukraine have spurred more organizations to re-evaluate the extent of their enterprises’ carbon footprints and reliance on fossil fuels.
“While the world has changed significantly, our purpose is more relevant than ever,” SAP CEO Christian Klein said in his keynote address last Tuesday.
Throughout Klein’s remarks—and the entirety of the event—SAP consistently underlined the challenges its customers face and the need for organizations to become more agile and resilient. Current events were never far from the keynote addresses and sessions that SAP and ASUG held. One throughline existed throughout the conference: SAP can help its customers operate in these complicated times.
The Biggest Challenges for SAP Customers
Klein focused his keynote address on three significant hurdles that SAP customers are facing: rapidly changing industries, disrupted supply chains, and a lack of sustainability transparency. He spoke about the work SAP is doing to help its customer base meet and overcome these hurdles, while also announcing a few new partnerships and alliances with organizations such as Apple, Accenture, and McKinsey & Company.
The first challenge Klein detailed related to how fast industries and organizations are changing.
“You need to keep pace with a world changing faster than ever,” he said.
Klein positioned several SAP solutions as tools to keep up with this pace and help organizations become “intelligent enterprises.” First, he discussed SAP Signavio, one of the newest additions to the SAP portfolio. Klein explained how its benchmarking, AI, and robotic process automation capabilities can help customers take advantage of new opportunities and “make the case for change.” He also touched on two other SAP offerings: RISE with SAP and the SAP Business Technology Platform. Klein laid out how those solutions can respectively facilitate migrations to the cloud and integrate third-party applications and data with SAP.
Supply chains were the next pain point Klein tackled in his address. He emphasized how the last 18 months have underlined the importance of making supply chains “resilient and agile.” Here, Klein turned his attention to the SAP Business Network, which he described as “the world’s largest network of buyers, suppliers, and manufacturers.”
“We are building the LinkedIn of the business-to-business world,” Klein said.
With the SAP Business Network, customers can trace “every single asset down to the lowest level” of their supply chains, while also matching demand and supply in real time.
Finally, Klein turned to sustainability. SAP has focused on sustainability for a few years. Earlier this year, SAP announced the release of SAP Cloud for Sustainable Enterprises, a cloud offering that allows customers to easily measure and track their carbon footprints.
“Sustainability has become a business imperative,” he said. “The green line is just as important as the top and bottom line.”
Klein discussed the new green ledger functionality in SAP S/4HANA, SAP Concur, and SAP SuccessFactors that will allow organizations to capture, manage, and track important sustainability-related data and build ESG (environmental, social, and governance) programs.
“I’m convinced that only SAP can offer you reliable ESG transparency for your entire enterprise,” Klein said.
Power in Partnerships
The second day of the conference began with a keynote address that highlighted the importance of collaboration and partnerships in tackling the hurdles Klein described on the first day.
“The tech is one thing but the journey to get there is more important,” said Scott Russell, an SAP Executive Board member and Head of Customer Success. “We aren’t telling you to do something we haven’t done ourselves.”
During Russell’s address, two SAP customers joined him to explain how SAP assisted them in their technology projects. Art Sebastian, VP of Digital Experience at Casey’s General Store, discussed the organization’s modernization project. A key part of this transformation focused on the customer experience, as well as on creating “digital express,” where customers could order items—such as personalized pizzas—online. Sebastian emphasized that this project took a lot of collaboration. Casey’s General Store completed the project with help from the retail organization’s partners, including SAP.
Melissa Goldman also contributed during Russell’s address. Goldman, VP of Corporate Engineering at Google, discussed Google’s collaboration with SAP.
“It never felt like Google was alone,” she told the audience.
SAP and Google worked together to enable SAP on Google Cloud. Goldman noted that this work has allowed Google to leverage cloud environments and increase its level of security.
Geoff Scott, CEO of ASUG, then gave a short address on the work ASUG is doing in the SAP ecosystem and how it can help customers.
“We are a customer community,” Scott said. “We are here for each other, and we are here to help each other succeed and make this SAP ecosystem strong and vibrant. Because when we come together there is nothing we can’t accomplish for our organizations, for our teams, and for our careers.”
Scott reviewed select insights gleaned from the 2022 ASUG Pulse of the SAP Customer study, including members’ issues finding and retaining talent, dealing with remote work, and keeping pace with accelerating digitization.
“This is the only way that we will collectively elevate this ecosystem to help achieve the business outcomes that you have promised to your key stakeholders,” Scott said. “And we need to deliver on these promises because we live in a fundamentally different world.”
During his closing remarks, Scott described some of the ways ASUG can help SAP customers make the most of their SAP technology investment, including through editorial content, podcasts, events, and chapter meetings. He also spoke about ASUG Member Pathfinder, a new offering focused on helping organizations gain access to key, connected insights.
“Member Pathfinder is how ASUG draws lines between all of the dots of information that bombard you and your team every day,” Scott said. “Let us do the work of curating the best information so that you can make the most informed decisions.”