McDermott Talks Xs and Os at SAPPHIRE NOW Keynote

On Tuesday, May 6, SAP CEO Bill McDermott kicked off the 30th edition of SAPPHIRE NOW with a keynote punctuated by practical examples of how SAP is powering innovation, integration, and an improved customer experience. McDermott illustrated his message by sharing details on SAP’s investments in R&D, its own use of SAP technology, and customer adoption statistics for its SAP HANA database, and through live interactions with industry leaders such as Tim Cook, CEO of Apple.

McDermott’s narrative for the 30,000 in attendance at this year’s event was organized around three key questions he posed for the audience:

  • Where are we?
  • Where do we need to go?
  • How do we get there?

Since 2010, SAP has poured over $70 billion into innovation, McDermott reported, with a significant portion of these funds focused on SAP HANA, cloud solutions, and making the intelligent enterprise a reality for the SAP customer base.

“We brought a lot of innovation to you in a short time frame,” said McDermott. “When we listen, understand, and act, we fulfill our potential as your trusted innovator.” He went on to recognize that companies may follow a different pace in their own innovation process, but indicated that SAP will continue to move full steam ahead — particularly when it comes to enabling end-to-end business processes with SAP technology, integrating the front office and back office with Qualtrics technology, and building enhanced mobile enterprise apps for iOS.

Enabling End-to-End Business Processes with SAP Technology

McDermott then brought up SAP’s Chief Operating Officer, Christian Klein, to help share how SAP is leveraging its own technology to run its business. Klein’s message focused on both integration and automation, stressing the need to adopt technology not only for feature and function, but also to generate real business results.

“It’s not just about the number of SAP Leonardo use cases — it’s about the business outcome to you,” said Klein. He went on to talk about how SAP is working to use artificial intelligence (AI) to automate end-to-end business processes with specific objectives by year end. In speaking about manual and resource-intensive processes — such as order management, invoicing, and cash collection — Klein reported that SAP is doing focused work in this area, and he believes that SAP can increase automation levels using AI by over 50% by the end of 2019.

Tighter integration of HR and customer experience business processes are also high on Klein’s 2019 agenda. The move to the cloud is just a first step for customers to offload solution management and gain faster access to the latest functionality. In its next phase of innovation, SAP is working to deliver true end-to-end process automation and efficiency starting with the hire-to-retire process, according to Klein.

Using SAP Cloud Platform as the foundation, SAP will tighten the automation and integration between both data and functions with a unified user interface on top. “End users don’t work within functional siloes — they are working across business processes,” Klein observed. SAP will bring together all key master data objects, integration services, workflows, and security to support key processes. Klein reports that there are 30,000 engineers working on more than 1,000 technical APIs to deliver seamless end-to-end business process integration and aligned data models. SAP is committed to delivering the fully integrated hire-to-retire process by the end of 2019.

Integrating the Front Office and Back Office with Qualtrics Technology

Another priority for SAP is using SAP C/4HANA and SAP S/4HANA to integrate the front-office and back-office when it comes to customer engagement, sales, and experience. McDermott emphasized the combination of operational data (which he defined as “O” data) and customer experience data (which he labeled as “X” data) to give organizations a true picture of what’s going on within their business.

SAP’s acquisition of Qualtrics is the centerpiece of this strategy and McDermott brought Qualtrics CEO Ryan Smith on stage to talk more about the importance of X data to business prosperity. According to Smith, the return on delivering a great customer experience is significant and the risk of failure is equally high. “Organizations are disproportionately rewarded when they deliver a great experience and absolutely punished when they do not,” he stated.

Smith went on to use companies such as Peloton, Uber, Venmo, and Square as examples of companies that have effectively competed and dominated in marketplaces that were previously led by long-standing incumbents. “All of these companies have been started in someone else’s experience gap. The race is on, and only experience brands are surviving,” Smith concluded.

One of the ways current SAP customers will see the impact of the Qualtrics acquisition is through touchpoints — for both customers and employees — within existing SAP ERP business processes. For example, earlier that day SAP announced that it is introducing 10 new offerings that bring together customer experience data with operational data to improve customer, employee, product, and brand experiences. These solutions will embed experience data at various points in HR, CRM, and core SAP ERP processes. The data will be drawn from a combination of action, sentiment analysis, and answers to questions posed to customers and employees directly within a process.

Building Enhanced Mobile Enterprise Apps for iOS

Once the Qualtrics discussion concluded, Apple CEO Tim Cook took the stage in an open conversation with McDermott to discuss the evolution of mobile enterprise applications and to highlight a joint announcement on expanding the function and feature set of SAP’s development environment for iOS. These enhancements include the addition of machine learning to SAP’s iOS development kit on SAP Cloud Platform.

SAP has been aggressively rebuilding mobile apps for iOS for SAP SuccessFactors solutions, SAP Concur solutions, and the SAP Asset Manager application to improve their performance, security, and overall functionality. SAP has also been promoting the mobile apps it has built for professional sports to both improve the customer experience and aid coaches and managers. The portfolio includes an NHL app for coaches that delivers 30 real-time in-game statistics to help them modify their strategy throughout the game.

What Does This Mean for SAPinsiders?

While some of this functionality may be far off for many, we believe that all customers should start thinking about where and how they can use this technology, and start experimenting early. SAP is making many of these solutions the foundation for future applications and enhancements. The bar to piloting many of these solutions and development environments is lower than ever, and the more you know, the better prepared you’ll be to get the most out of your continued investment in SAP technology.

Here are some of our recommendations:

  • Get some experience leveraging SAP Cloud Platform with integration. SAP Cloud Platform is undoubtedly going to become the integration engine for SAP’s on-premise and cloud environments. Start looking at your current foundations of APIs and middleware to determine where your challenges are and how SAP Cloud Platform can help.
  • Identify your critical pain points within your end-to-end processes. How siloed are your critical business processes? Where are you finding delays or disruptions? What’s causing them? By answering these questions, you’ll be able to start identifying the integration headaches and where SAP solutions can help. You will also be able to identify areas where you have siloes that are hampering collaboration and efficiency between departments or business units.
  • Determine where within your business processes you can collect experience data. Think about the current feedback you are receiving from both employees and customers and what’s missing. Are there specific parts of your order management process or logistics processes where you want to collect feedback? Explore solutions that can help you fill these gaps.
  • Experiment with enterprise mobile app development. Most companies have already developed some basic enterprise mobile applications. The technology and capabilities of enterprise mobile environments are expanding rapidly, however, enabling you to integrate modern user interfaces, AI, machine learning, and advanced analytics into your mobile apps. It’s a good idea to start experimenting with these capabilities, as they will be critical to the future of mobile application development. By gaining experience, you will give your organization a competitive advantage.