In North America we often serve cheese as an appetizer, while in Europe it comes after the meal. We can ask a restaurant server to customize our order and we drink unlimited free refills topped up with ubiquitous piles of ice. While we’re still drinking from Dixie cups and leaving our server a tip, none of these things happen in quite the same way on the European continent.

While Europeans tend to find our ways quirky, we feel similarly about their cold octopus entrees, warm beer, and tiny hotel rooms. Given that it’s more than just the Atlantic that separates us from Europe, should we expect something radically different from SAP TechEd Europe compared with what happened at SAP TechEd Las Vegas?

¡Hola! Let’s Keep the Core Clean

In keeping with the last few years, SAP chose Barcelona to host SAP TechEd Europe 2018. The capital of Spain’s Catalonia region, Barcelona is home to the expansive Fira (literally meaning “fair”) conference center. Björn Goerke, Chief Technology Officer and president, SAP Cloud Platform, SAP SE spoke at the event’s opening keynote to explain the big picture.

Goerke’s mantra centers on keeping the core technology base and kernel clean as we look to layer SAP Cloud Platform technologies on top. This is all with a heavy emphasis on integration excellence to make any customizations work with the base system.

Putting some additional color and context into that statement, Goerke is urging customers to use keep their SAP ERP core free of the customizations that could cause their IT stack to become bloated, brittle, and immobile.

A Passport to SAP TechEd

So, how do people “do SAP” differently in Europe? ASUG News asked the always-affable Sven Denecken, SVP, head of product management and co-innovation for SAP S/4HANA at SAP SE.

"Is there a difference between an SAP TechEd in the U.S. and SAP TechEd Europe? Well, cultural differences aside, there is a palpable sense of the Europeans looking to examine where their existing (often legacy) systems need to be re-engineered to be architected for multicloud,” said Denecken.

Dreaming About the Clouds

In contrast, Denecken says that the Americas (led by Silicon Valley startups and other innovation zones from Northern Virginia to Boston and Utah) are naturally more comfortable being cloud-first and cloud-native in what we might call the Cloud 1.0 world.

“But, let’s also remember that Asia is readying itself to leapfrog everyone with next-generation Cloud 2.0 services that in many cases are only just being developed and rolled out," he said.

Looking back at European CTO Goerke’s keynote, the team this year shied away from a Star Trek dress up party as it did in 2017. Admittedly, that didn’t stop him from donning a full spaceman suit at the end of the presentation. He told us all to dream big and imagine a whole world of future possibilities.

Photo credit: SAP

Inside Outside SAP

During breakout and Q&A sessions, the team did admit that it was hard to make end-to-end integration process technologies sound sexy. But it was healthy to see these issues addressed in this way. SAP states that it does realize how much customers will need to integrate with their SAP platforms while also integrating with technologies from outside SAP.

The products highlighted this year included SAP Cloud Platform Open Connectors, which offer search and connectivity functions to make these kinds of integration projects happen. SAP is also working to automate data structure mapping between systems to make critical data connections happen faster and with fewer errors.

Aiming for holistic integration, SAP says it needs to support any style of integration. This should include bringing in smaller streams of application data that may exist in silos today, specific subsegments of data, or complete system upgrades.

SAP Asks the Crowds

SAP Connectors will perform tasks like connecting to document hubs, which could include anything from Box to QuickBooks Online. SAP Integration Content Advisor brings together machine learning and crowdsourcing to create a mapping guideline that will make integrations and connections easier by applying a defined set of business semantics.

The crowdsourced information comes from anonymized data based on users of software applications. These are tracked from other customers to learn what works well with integration, all within the guidelines of integration governance.

Natural Language Queries for Non-Scientists

SAP has also been working to refine functionality that allows users to type natural language queries of their data, making it accessible to those who aren’t data scientists. For example, a user could ask how much expenditure their company is incurring by geographic region, by department, and by type of worker.

What these business users will get as a result is integrated data that can help them take actions to (as Goerke likes to say) “pivot the business” when business models change, new markets open up, or demand moves in one direction or another.

Journey to a Platform

All-in-all, there was a lot of high-level strategy on show in Barcelona. SAP is open about the fact that it is on a journey from an enterprise application company to a platform company. That means we’ll likely hear more about integration into, out of, and throughout the SAP universe.

Curious about what happened at SAP TechEd Las Vegas 2018? Read our recap of the week’s focus on intelligent data or our coverage of Bernd Leukert’s keynote.