Photo Credit: SAP

As expected, SAP Chairman Hasso Plattner kicked off day two of SAPPHIRE NOW and the ASUG Annual Conference by expanding on the two major themes introduced by SAP CEO Bill McDermott on day one: SAP C/4HANA and the intelligent enterprise. But he also introduced a new idea: The possible end of the extensive customizations so common in on-premise implementations as companies migrate to the SAP Cloud Platform, which received a big push throughout the day.

The End of Customization?

Companies have become accustomed to customizing their SAP systems as a cost of doing business. Yet Plattner said, “We also have to reduce maintenance. We have these modifications—and we have to get rid of them.”

One goal of putting SAP into the cloud is to strip away all the modifications, as Plattner promised that the new functions available in the software will cover some of the areas that enterprises have developed as extensions. “We don’t want to change (the source code) in the cloud in the future. We don’t even allow it,” he said.

Instead, SAP announced that it embedded SAP Analytics cloud capabilities directly into SAP S/4HANA Cloud. It allows customers to access more than 150 cloud data sources. It also uses machine learning and natural language query technology and includes prebuilt content and business logic for more than 20 SAP products such as SAP SuccessFactors.

Running on Multiple Clouds

Companies now have more options when choosing a cloud services provider for an SAP implementation. SAP announced that SAP Cloud Platform is now available on Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure, joining Amazon Web Services (AWS) as choices for deployment. SAP also announced its intention to release SAP Cloud Platform, private edition, on IBM Cloud as a private cloud deployment. This option is geared toward heavily regulated industries like banking, health care, and transportation, or any enterprise managing highly sensitive data.

Using the SAP Cloud Platform should reduce cycle times and allow companies to deliver a better customer experience, allowing them to adapt to changing market conditions and consumer demand, according to Bjorn Goerke, CTO of SAP. SAP Cloud Platform is “where cool meets the enterprise,” he said.

Keeping with the choices theme, SAP also announced the release of the SAP Cloud Platform software development kit (SDK) for Android, joining the existing SDK for iOS. This completes SAP’s mobile offerings to provide a native cloud experience on mobile devices, according to Goerke.

The Intelligent Enterprise May Not Be Ready for Prime Time

“Even toasters will become intelligent,” Plattner said. The intelligent enterprise is more than a marketing buzzword and more than ERP. SAP has surrounded the centerpiece of the intelligent enterprise, SAP Cloud Platform, with applications. While SAP can’t technically use “intelligent enterprise” as an SAP brand, it is using it to describe a collection of products—for which Plattner added, “I don’t think I’d promise too much—if you buy all of them, you will get a discount.”

Expanding on the intelligent enterprise theme, SAP announced several SAP Leonardo enhancements, including that SAP Leonardo machine learning capabilities now come standard in SAP applications. SAP Leonardo Machine Learning Foundation now has five new services, including object detection, text recognition in images, and text classification, which analyzes and automatically categorizes text documents. SAP also released SAP Leonardo-based “innovation kits” for specific industries, including retail, life sciences, manufacturing, and automotive.

Human Hands on the Wheel

During the keynote, Franck Cohen, president, SAP Digital Core & Industry Solutions, attempted to demonstrate voice queries into an ERP system. Connectivity issues prevented the speech conversation demo from completing. The idea is to create a hands-free ERP system where users converse with the system, Cohen said.

No matter what, human touch will be required in the intelligent enterprise, said Markus Noga, Senior Vice President, SAP Machine Learning. “We still have to keep our hands on the wheel for one-offs and critical decisions,” he said.

Blockchain in the Supply Chain

SAP Cloud Platform Blockchain, a blockchain as a service offering, was also announced. This lets companies use blockchain technologies like Hyperledger Fabric and MultiChain. Sausage maker Johnsonville LLC already uses blockchain to trace products throughout its supply chain.

Questioning SAP’s Own Integration

While Plattner expounded on the intelligent enterprise and SAP C/4HANA announcements, he also mentioned integration. SAP has realigned its own internal structure to foster integration between SAP products. But, as Plattner himself admitted, “our integration between systems is not perfect.” In an executive Q&A briefing, he mentioned that SAP was at the top of the integration game, when SAP ECC was the latest product.

Quotes of the Day

“That’s where the cool s--- happens.” – Bjorn Goerke, SAP CTO, on SAP Cloud Platform

“Our integration between systems is still not perfect.” – Hasso Plattner, Chairman, SAP

Find out what happened on day one and day three in our 2018 SAPPHIRE NOW and ASUG Annual Conference coverage. Or read a recap of Dr. Hasso's keynote.