As SAP furthers its strategy to help every business run as an intelligent, sustainable enterprise, there is no shortage of technology topics for its leadership to tackle in today’s fast-evolving landscape.
From the rapid embrace of artificial intelligence across industries, and in particular generative AI offerings such as SAP’s recently announced generative AI assistant Joule, to the ongoing migration of its customers from on-premises systems to cloud ERP including SAP S/4HANA, SAP leadership is tasked with balancing the need to pursue innovation and attract new customers with the need to ensure stability and security for its existing customer base.
For Juergen Mueller, SAP’s Chief Technology Officer, keeping these topics top of mind is part of his day-to-day business. Tasked with delivering the opening keynote for this year’s ASUG Tech Connect conference in New Orleans (Nov. 7–9; register here), Mueller will reflect on the latest technology achievements as well as the responsibility he and all at SAP have for continued success of their customers.
“Besides our own SAP TechEd event in early November,” Mueller tells ASUG, “ASUG Tech Connect is the most important customer event for the SAP ecosystem in North America in the second half of 2023. We are hoping to connect with as many customers and partners as possible.”
Below, Mueller expands on what attendees can expect from his opening keynote at this inaugural event for the North American developer community.
This email interview has been edited and condensed.
ASUG Tech Connect will address both technology and community. What will you be focused on during your keynote presentation in New Orleans?
Juergen Mueller: I am excited to be joined by Scott Guthrie, Executive Vice President, Cloud + AI Group at Microsoft, and ASUG CEO Geoff Scott on stage. Our keynote will focus on how we translate the latest technology advancements, such as generative AI, to provide our customers with tools and applications to achieve the best business outcomes. From me, you will especially hear how it will be applied along the pillars of SAP Business Technology Platform. Stay tuned for more!
Knowledge sharing and skills building are critical elements of ASUG Tech Connect. What topics and training do you expect will resonate with attendees?
Mueller: The event will offer content-rich lectures, hands-on sessions, and opportunities to meet with SAP and ecosystem experts—all centered around SAP Business Technology Platform [alongside other SAP technologies]. We will also showcase the latest end-to-end use cases for our platform to illustrate how our customers and partners are using SAP BTP. And of course, you can expect updates about the improvements in the generative AI space.
Your keynote addresses how SAP helps customers and partners drive better business outcomes. Give us a preview. What are today’s customers looking for when they work toward better business outcomes? How does SAP help meet these goals?
Mueller: What I hear quite often is that our customers are looking for self-learning processes and systems that are optimized for their individual business needs.
SAP is well-positioned to make this vision a reality. With the accelerated power of AI, we can provide personalized interfaces and have contextualized insights for every user just a prompt away. We offer the broadest suite of business applications, all running on and powered by SAP Business Technology Platform. Customers and partners benefit from best practices we deliver in our applications while we help them to innovate continuously.
How tightly connected are your innovation efforts to your product roadmaps? In other words, what is the time lapse between the identification and/or development of new capacities such as generative AI and its incorporation into SAP offerings?
Mueller: I just mentioned: It clearly is our goal to continuously innovate for our customers. For this purpose, we are observing technology and business trends across industries. On some of them, we are already acting; others are in the exploration phase. What’s clear: Exploration is an important part of SAP BTP.
We have many cases where exploration has led to solutions that are more current than ever. A recent example is our handling of generative AI. When the potential of generative AI started to accelerate, we engaged with our most strategic customers to co-innovate in that field to ensure relevant use cases make it onto our roadmap. This collaboration helped us to put together a list of great innovations [to be] ready for SAP TechEd in a short time. You will hear more in my keynote.
Given how rapidly new technologies evolved and matured in recent years, how can you ensure that you have the right talent and skill sets to harness new capabilities?
Mueller: Also in this case, generative AI is a great example. Every employee at SAP, regardless of their role, needs to understand generative AI, learn how to put it into practice, and help to infuse it into all our solutions. The challenge is: This needs to happen fast because the competition is tough.
In addition to a broad offering of internal training and dedicated learning time, we provide a so-called “AI playground” where our developers have secure access to Large Language Models (LLMs). This AI playground already had 29,000 unique visitors who entered 630,000 prompts to get experience and sharpen their skills on this topic. So, it is always a matter of providing training [and]—at least equally as important—the opportunity to get hands-on experience.
How does SAP manage the tension between yesterday’s innovation, which have matured, and the incorporation of emerging technologies such as AI? What recommendations can you give your customers in this area?
Mueller: For me, the key to acceptance is good communication at eye-level, as well as demonstrating benefits, while acknowledging concerns. AI has the potential to create newer, better jobs. The trick is to use technology in a way that lets people do what they do best and turn it into an advantage.
One example: LLMs are a great support for creating job postings. Let’s assume 6-10 million job postings are created per year with the help of SAP software, and AI can get the creation time down from 2 hours to 15 minutes per posting. We end up sparing more than 2 million workdays per year, creating job postings only for SAP users.
This is time employees can spend by investing more into identifying the most talented candidate for a role. That is the beauty of technology. It offers us constant improvements that make our lives easier and, at the same time, allow us to build bridges: for example, with different integration scenarios that enable our customers to take advantage of both worlds, on-premises and cloud.
What lessons have you learned from SAP customers who struggle with technical debt in the context of technology modernization?
Mueller: No doubt: New technologies must integrate into existing business processes and IT landscapes. I meet with customers every day, and we usually agree that getting the most out of tech innovations requires a combination of business and technology expertise. When both sides work together, we can achieve great things.
If customers lack this knowledge, SAP can help! That is why SAP BTP provides our customers with the latest technologies out-of-the box by integrating them innately into our tools and applications. Additionally, our “clean core” strategy helps customers adopt new releases and new technologies faster by avoiding systems modifications as much as possible. Over time, this reduces technical debt and supports a faster path to new innovations. We partner with our customers all the way, from identifying their real modernization needs to the actual implementation of new solutions—and beyond!
Hear more from Juergen Mueller at ASUG Tech Connect (Nov. 7–9, in New Orleans; register here), as the SAP and ASUG community comes together to cover the technologies and challenges most critical to you today.