For the second year in a row, SAP hosted its SAPPHIRE NOW conference online, unveiling new products and strategies virtually. While COVID-19 is the obvious reason for this measure, the keynote—hosted by Christian Klein, CEO of SAP, and Julia White, chief marketing and solutions officer at SAP—addressed the problems and complications of the past year while also giving attendees a glimpse at how the software company is working to tackle the future.

“The way we live, the way we work, the way we consume will never be the same,” Klein said. He also discussed how COVID-19 is not the only challenge the world and global business community are facing, citing problems including inequality, social justice, and climate change. In the end, Klein and White made the case that interconnected networks leveraging technology can help the world confront and overcome these challenges. Over the past year, we have seen technology keep families and communities connected, while also assisting businesses as they pivoted and adapted to the turbulent times.

“The [COVID-19] crisis underscored the urgent need for every company to become an intelligent enterprise,” Klein said.

White and Klein discussed three of the main lessons the software company learned during the pandemic: resilient companies are those who embraced technology, the importance of community, and the need to become sustainable organizations. Here are some highlights from their 2021 SAPPHIRE NOW keynote address.

Making Sustainability a Key Metric

One of the most prominent themes throughout the conference was the importance of sustainability. SAP put a significant amount of emphasis on this topic and introduced new solutions that will help organizations measure and manage their carbon footprints.

“We must act on a goal of zero emissions, zero waste, and zero inequality,” Klein said. “It’s time to build sustainability into the fabric of how we do business.”

Klein said SAP will provide “standard reporting and analytics” on sustainability metrics from the World Economic Forum.

“SAP truly has the power to protect our planet and create the future our children want to be a part of,” he said.

Klein and White also announced sustainability-related solutions that customers can leverage to help turn their enterprises into environmentally conscious organizations. These products include the SAP Responsible Design and Production solution, which helps product designers to make responsible and sustainable decisions when moving a product from concept to production. Another new solution is SAP Product Footprint Management, which helps customers keep an eye on a product’s sustainability throughout its entire life cycle. Finally, SAP is giving customers a complete end-to-end view of sustainability in their organizations with SAP Sustainability Control Tower.

The SAP Business Network

Klein and White also discussed the SAP Business Network. A key part of RISE with SAP, the “digital transformation as service” offering, SAP Business Network promises to connect companies, helping them create industry networks and find new partners to work with. The solution combines the SAP Ariba Network, the SAP Logistics Business Network, and SAP Asset Intelligence Network into a connected community that will benefit—according to SAP—5.5 million organizations.

“We will create the world’s largest and most comprehensive business network, and enable a network economy across every industry,” Klein said.

Paige Wei-Cox, SVP and head of SAP Business Network at SAP, gave audiences a deeper look at the solution and how it can help businesses. She emphasized how the SAP Business Network not only brings all points of collaboration into a single place, but it also gives organizations a collective network intelligent to understand results with trading partners, guide decisions, and understand risks.

One of the main aspects of SAP Business Network is the trading partner portal, which lets customers connect with trading partners across industries. During a demonstration of the solution, attendees got a glimpse at how the SAP Business Network can be used to help members find trading partners, including the ability to search for partners by quality certification. The solution also gives customers visibility into a certain project’s carbon emissions.

RISE with SAP for Industries

One of the other major announcements to come out the keynote address was a new update to RISE with SAP, the offering SAP unveiled at the beginning of 2021 as a way to help customers accelerate their journey to SAP S/4HANA and the cloud. During the SAPPHIRE NOW keynote, Klein addressed a new part of the RISE with SAP offering: modular, industry-specific cloud offerings.

“We heard loud and clear that many customers want a holistic modular cloud ERP solution,” he said.

SAP announced it was launching five industry-specific clouds that include industry solutions and services. This new part of the offering will, according to Klein, bring “deep industry expertise and partner ecosystems” to customers that work natively with SAP S/4HANA Cloud. Klein said that will allow customers to “get the full set of industry-specific solutions needed in their cloud development.”

Starting out, SAP is rolling out five industries—retail, consumer products, automotive, utilities, and industrial machinery and components—with more likely to follow in the future.

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