Laura Tibodeau, ASUG Board Director, attended executive leadership meetings earlier this fall at SAP’s headquarters in Walldorf, Germany, as part of an annual visit for ASUG board members and senior staff leaders. Below are her experiences and impressions for the ASUG community.
Following last year's visit, this was my second trip as an ASUG representative to SAP’s Walldorf headquarters. I treasured the opportunity to meet with the SAP executive leadership team, including Jan Gilg, President and Chief Product Officer, Cloud ERP at SAP; Thomas Saueressig, Executive Board Member of SAP for SAP Product Engineering; Sebastian Steinhaeuser, Chief Strategy Officer at SAP; Juergen Mueller, Chief Technology Officer at SAP; Sven Denecken, SVP & Chief Marketing and Solutions Officer, SAP Industries & CX at SAP; Bernd Brandl, President and CRO of S/4HANA Public Cloud & Midmarket at SAP; and Philipp Herzig, SVP, Head of Cross Product Engineering & Experience at SAP.
Our conversations with the SAP executive leadership team were unscripted, authentic and, in my opinion, hugely valuable to both the SAP leaders and our ASUG traveling delegation.
In Walldorf, the ASUG Board of Directors prioritized discussions about pros and cons of private cloud and public cloud, tech upgrade deadlines, licensing concerns, and the future of artificial intelligence. SAP leaders keenly and intently listened to the struggles, challenges, and recommendations that ASUG board members brought forward on behalf of our SAP customer base. SAP executive leaders repeatedly reinforced that SAP, in conjunction with its partners, will work aggressively to ensure that customers are not left behind because of SAP solutions reaching the end of mainstream maintenance or end of life.
While our discussion topics were many and varied, prevalent themes that emerged during our visit to Walldorf included adoption of the SAP RISE and GROW programs, plans for embedding artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) into SAP products, the strategic value and importance of SAP Business Technology Platform, and the future of private and public cloud offerings.
SAP RISE and GROW
SAP advises customers to run SAP S/4HANA in SAP’s private or public cloud, so that they can quickly and efficiently realize business benefits from new product releases. During our visit, SAP expressed its intent on finding ways to simplify the move to RISE and SAP S/4HANA for customers, to help early SAP S/4HANA adopters get technically current in preparation for end of mainstream maintenance, and to reduce the complexity of technical upgrades.
SAP leadership committed to improving and easing enablement of both RISE and integrations to SAP cloud products during the RISE initialization process. We discussed how SAP could optimize RISE and GROW initializations and the increasing need for SAP to holistically monitor, detect, report, and resolve issues—across the core, the cloud, API processes, and microservices—for end-to-end line of sight.
AI, ML, and Generative AI
Amid plenty of excitement about generative AI and large language models (LLMs), we were eager to gain insights from SAP on how AI will be embedded into SAP products. According to executive leaders, SAP is currently working, investing, staffing, and expanding its partner network to become the leading business AI company by 2025. We learned that SAP is one of the founding members of Europe’s AI Ethics Council, and that SAP has several active customer projects underway on which they've partnered with Microsoft’s Azure OpenAI service to solve business challenges.
SAP also discussed Joule, its new generative AI assistant, during our visit to Walldorf. We learned that Joule and SAP’s Generative AI Hub will serve as the gateway for customers to access SAP’s underlying AI toolset.
SAP BTP and Clean Core
SAP strongly encourages its customers to leverage their pre-built integration components, extensions, and applications available on SAP BTP to accelerate their time to implement SAP S/4HANA as well as to reduce the complexity of managing and maintaining customized platforms.
As such, customers must institute strong governance processes to ensure that SAP S/4HANA is minimally customized, [keeping their cores clean.] SAP Cloud ALM, SAP Signavio, and now LeanIX are part of SAP’s transformation suite of offerings intended to facilitate the move to SAP S/4HANA.
In conclusion, this trip to Walldorf gave ASUG a unique opportunity to share key observations and suggestions with SAP’s leadership team, and to advance SAP products and services. A significant focus was afforded to RISE with SAP, generative AI, and SAP BTP, while our conversations were collaborative, positive, and highly productive. I’m appreciative and grateful for the opportunity extended to represent our ASUG membership on this important annual journey.
Laura Tibodeau is ASUG Board Director.