Like most other conferences scheduled to take place this year, SAPPHIRE NOW 2020 was reimagined and broadcast virtually to customers around the globe. In spite of some technical glitches at the start of the event that prevented viewers from watching in real time, CEO Christian Klein struck an optimistic and forward-looking tone as he made clear the path forward for SAP and its customers is through resiliency, sustainability, and profitability.

“I’m asking all of us to become resilient, sustainable, and profitable-growth companies,” Klein said. “I believe SAPPHIRE is the perfect place for this call to action. There’s hardly any event that brings together so many decision-makers of the world’s most important companies. I’m convinced that together as intelligent enterprises, we can turn the world’s biggest challenges into our greatest opportunities.”

As in the past couple of years of SAPPHIRE NOW, this year’s focus was on the intelligent enterprise, but with a renewed interest in simplicity. Klein emphasized the company’s ambitious goal of transforming all SAP customers into intelligent enterprises by helping them build an end-to-end platform of connected business processes. “The digital transformation is no longer an option, but a must," he said.

The Environment We Are in Dictates How Business Runs

As the pandemic has taught us all, even the best-laid plans aren’t failproof. Business leaders have had to be ready to change on a minute’s notice. Beyond just being agile, they’ve needed to be smart. Those businesses with the right technology in place have been able to adapt and respond more effectively.

"When we can’t interact in person,” Klein said, “we are forced to find other ways of doing business. With the world in lockdown, business leaders across the world worry whether their companies have the resilience to survive. We have all realized companies which use innovative technologies were more competitive before the crisis and are more resilient in the crisis. Those that enabled new digital business models, drove automation, and adapted their supply chains, were better prepared for the unexpected.”

Klein made the case that those businesses that can master resiliency can then move on to sustainability, and then profitability. And this is all aided by intelligence. “To emerge stronger out of this crisis, it is now more important than ever to set up your enterprise for growth. Today's technologies allow you to do just that.”

He stressed that as companies turn to technology where possible to support the health and safety of their workforce, they should not forget the biggest challenge the world faces, which is climate change. “We are at the turning point,” he said. “Just as we cannot ignore the pandemic and its impact, we cannot continue to ignore climate change and the contribution of our enterprises.” The solution, according to Klein, is to use digital technology to significantly reduce an enterprise’s carbon output, which SAP can help customers start to do. “This could equal the positive impact of 500 billion trees. Just imagine the impact if all industries join the effort. We can make this happen.”

A Different Vision for Digital Transformation from SAP

Keeping the focus on his earlier call to action, Klein emphasized that companies should not only be measured by their financial performance, but also their contribution to society. “Together we can lead this change and become intelligent enterprises that make sustainability profitable, and profitability sustainable,” he said. “We can help you achieve this.”

He cautioned that a true business transformation doesn’t happen by simply implementing an intelligent workflow solution, or by selecting a variety of best-of-breed vendors, or by moving your IT landscape to a public cloud infrastructure. Klein shifted to product strategy and emphasized, “Only SAP can deliver the business outcomes [resiliency, profitability, and sustainability] we just talked about.”

He provided a new perspective on the SAP Intelligent Enterprise, which connects experience to intelligence and operations to provide a complete, 360-degree view of an organization. He also introduced the company’s Climate 21 program to help drive sustainable and profitable business decisions by understanding your organization’s carbon footprint. And finally, he discussed the SAP Industry Cloud, which is a portfolio of vertical industry cloud solutions from SAP. “SAP Industry Cloud offers cloud-native industry applications, delivering differentiating and innovative business capabilities for the fourth industrial revolution,” Klein said. “We will partner with our ecosystem to gain broad coverage across all industries, building on our partners’ expertise to expand the scope of our solutions and enhance the vertical capabilities of SAP. And with more than 400,000 customers worldwide, we will further evolve this.”

Connecting the SAP Pieces and Simplifying the Process

For everything to work together with the aim of accomplishing these goals, Klein pointed to three key principles: integration, innovation, and agility. “Regardless of the size or industry, it is fundamental in the digital age to run your enterprise seamlessly across the value chain,” he said.

Throughout his keynote, Klein reiterated that the SAP solution portfolio—which includes the intelligent enterprise resource planning (ERP) suite and the Business Technology Platform—embodies the intelligent enterprise vision, and does so through integration, innovation, agility, and speed. “We want to serve you with the best possible business outcomes to help you quickly adopt and get the most value from our solutions to ensure your long-term success,” Klein said. “Together, we’ve embarked on the journey to become intelligent enterprises. We have come a long way already, making a significant contribution to growth while acting sustainably. Let’s show the world that when people and technology meet, amazing things happen.”

ASUG later had the opportunity to ask Klein more specifically about the biggest challenge he’s identified so far in his tenure as sole CEO and how he hoped to turn this challenge into an opportunity. He noted that the current crises have affected everyone including SAP, but this was the time SAP could step in and help. “SAP software is at the center of these needs. There’s a lot of buzz talk around digital transformation, but none of that applies to business transformation. Our software runs the business processes, and there’s no transformation unless you transform the business processes.” That, he said, meant SAP will remain relevant, even in difficult times.

Register today for ASUGFORWARD, taking place on June 22–25, to learn, exchange ideas, and gain information about your SAP investment that you can put into practice immediately.

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