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DSAG Technologietage 2024

The DSAG Technologietage 2024 conference took place this week at the Congress Center, Hamburg, Germany, with more than 3000 attendees.

Under theme of “Black Box: From Vision to Reality,” the conference analyzed the complexities of SAP solutions and implications of their cloud strategy for the wider SAP community: offering valuable insights and sparking crucial conversations about the relationship between SAP and its customers.

For those who couldn’t attend, in this post IgniteSAP will summarize the major themes, key takeaways, and the nuanced perspective of DSAG on SAP’s AI vision and cloud shift.

Key Themes At The Conference

While generative AI systems and large language models (LLMs) were hot topics, the discussion emphasized that AI has been steadily impacting businesses for some time. Companies are actively investigating how to leverage AI capabilities, such as process automation and cybersecurity threat detection, beyond the current hype. DSAG, along with SAP, advocates for integrating AI into existing most products to enhance their functionality.

SAP’s announcement tying future AI innovations to the RISE-with-SAP-Premium model raised concerns among S/4HANA Private Cloud and on-premises customers. However, the introduction of the Generative AI Hub and SAP Joule offered positive signs. The Hub facilitates access to LLMs like OpenAI independently of specific cloud contracts, while Joule demonstrates SAP’s commitment to Business AI with its voice-controlled assistant integrated into core business processes.

Despite the enthusiasm surrounding AI, the conference highlighted persistent challenges. Converting vision to reality requires bridging the gap between theoretical promises and usable software. Making AI integration purely dependent on specific contracts and cloud models presents technical limitations. The solution lies in open ecosystems and platform independence, allowing companies to leverage AI solutions seamlessly within their existing IT infrastructure.

While SAP’s plans to expand the AI Core and Launchpad with the Generative AI Hub, and introduce separate AI unit pricing, the key takeaway remains the need for control and open access. Integrating external LLM models like OpenAI demonstrates a step towards openness, but ensuring true flexibility and interoperability within diverse IT architectures remains crucial.

Highlights Of The Keynote Presentation

The DSAG Technologietage 2024 conference keynote presentation primarily focused on the integration of AI and sustainable practices in business operations.

Sebastian Westphal, DSAG’s Chief Technology Officer, set the stage for a comprehensive discussion on the fusion of technology and business in the digital age. Westphal’s introduction highlighted the theme of the event, “Black Box: From Vision to Reality.”

He emphasized the need for transparency in technological advancements and the role of SAP in shaping the future of business solutions. His introduction acknowledged the challenges that companies face in adapting to rapidly evolving technological landscapes and the importance of converting long-term technological visions into practical, reliable solutions for businesses.

“In principle, we welcome this strategic orientation of SAP: especially against the background of the dynamic developments surrounding the large models such as OpenAI, Bard, etc. However, there are still some unanswered questions for us from a commercial, technical and technological perspective.”

Westphal stressed the need for a clear and actionable roadmap for technology integration, particularly in the context of SAP’s role in providing innovations in cloud and on-premises solutions.

He said these roadmaps need to be comprehensive and transparent, enabling businesses to plan effectively for the future. The focus on opening the “black box” of technology, a metaphor for demystifying the complexities of digital transformation, set a tone of urgency for clarity and action in the SAP domain.

In his address, Westphal raised a critical point regarding SAP’s strategic direction, particularly its decision to channel future AI innovations exclusively through the RISE with SAP Premium offering. Westphal’s criticism highlighted several key concerns that this move by SAP raises for the broader SAP consultant and user community.

Westphal pointed out that the decision to limit access to AI innovations to RISE with SAP Premium subscribers could potentially create disparities in the SAP user base. This exclusivity might lead to a situation where only a segment of SAP’s clientele, primarily those who can afford the premium package, would have access to the latest AI tools and advancements: which in turn could inadvertently create a hierarchy of users, where smaller or budget-conscious businesses might not benefit from the latest innovations.

Westphal also underscored the potential impact on the SAP consulting community. Limiting AI innovations to a premium service not only restricts the diversity of tools and solutions available to consultants working across a range of businesses, but also could lead to challenges in providing comprehensive, cutting-edge support and solutions to all clients.

For SAP to remain a leader in the ERP space, it’s crucial that innovations, particularly those in a field as transformative as AI, are made widely available. This ensures that all businesses, regardless of size or financial capacity, have the opportunity to benefit from technological advancements, for a more equal ecosystem.

This critique by Westphal reflects a broader concern within the SAP community about ensuring that technological advancements as part of SAP’s cloud shift remain accessible and beneficial to the entire spectrum of SAP users.

SAP CTO Juergen Mueller In Conversation

In the middle of the presentation, a significant conversation unfolded between Sebastian Westphal and Juergen Mueller, CTO of SAP. Initially, Mueller appeared as a hologram as a means of demonstrating the extent of current technological innovation, then joined Westphal onstage in person.

This dialogue went much deeper into the challenges and opportunities of integrating new technologies like AI into business practices. Mueller provided insights into SAP’s approach to innovation, highlighting their focus on embedding AI across their product portfolio. He discussed the implementation challenges and the importance of accessible, open technologies that can integrate with existing SAP systems.

Mueller also touched on the implications of AI for data and system security, recognizing the increased responsibility that comes with more data and automation. He shared SAP’s initiatives in responding to security incidents more comprehensively and efficiently. Additionally, he addressed the omnipresent topic of sustainability, discussing how SAP technologies can help businesses use resources more efficiently and comply with emerging environmental protection regulations.

The conversation between Westphal and Mueller provided a clear perspective on how SAP envisions bridging the gap between technological possibilities and practical applications in business. It underscored the ongoing collaboration between DSAG and SAP in steering technological advancements in a direction that is both innovative and aligned with the real-world needs of businesses. This interaction was a cornerstone of the presentation, embodying the conference’s theme of transforming technical visions into realities.

Viva Con Agua

The conversation with Juergen Mueller was followed by a presentation by Michael Fritz, Co-Founder of Viva con Agua, which promotes access to clean drinking water worldwide.

Michael Fritz delivered a passionate presentation on the critical importance of clean drinking water and decent sanitation. He highlighted that while many enjoy easy access to these essentials, billions globally lack basic sanitation and clean water. Fritz discussed Viva Con Agua’s commitment to community support through initiatives in eight countries, promoting the use of tap water over bottled water for environmental sustainability.

He addressed the taboo topic of sanitation, and the challenge in raising awareness and funds for it. Fritz encouraged audience participation in social media campaigns to support sanitation awareness. He also touched on the broader topic of sustainability, criticizing superficial uses of the term, and calling for real, integrated actions. He urged the audience to rethink old paradigms and embrace technology for positive change.

Fritz highlighted the role of individuals and corporations like SAP in addressing these global challenges. He mentioned Viva Con Agua’s projects, like building three wells in Ethiopia, providing clean water to 3000 people. His speech was a call to action, urging everyone to contribute to making a noticeable difference in addressing the water and sanitation crisis.

Sustainability

There followed a section about SAP’s role in achieving sustainability.

The speaker emphasized the importance of environmentally friendly practices in data center operations, pointing out that datacenters often use drinking water for cooling purposes, which isn’t technologically necessary. The discussion included examples of efficient cooling systems and the potential for datacenters to use industrial water or have their own sewage treatment systems. The speaker advocated for setting criteria in Europe-wide contracts to ensure sustainable practices in datacenters.

The conversation shifted to SAP’s involvement in sustainability, particularly through their cloud services. SAP Cloud for Sustainability was mentioned as a tool to create transparency in sustainability data, tracking various metrics like CO2 and water usage.

The DSAG Hackathon

The 2024 DSAG Technologietage ignited creativity with its hackathon event, showcasing practical applications of technology. Talented participants presented diverse solutions, tackling real-world challenges across various sectors.

A standout project used AI-powered chatbots to dramatically improve customer service: promising increased efficiency and improved experiences. This aligns with the growing demand for automated, intuitive customer interactions.

Another notable project addressed the need for transparent sustainability reporting. Their comprehensive tool empowers companies to accurately track and report environmental impact, promoting responsible business practices.

Beyond these examples, projects for data analytics for optimized supply chains and IoT-based process monitoring displayed the versatility of technology in transforming businesses. Each project highlighted the vast potential for innovation, fostering critical thinking and collaboration among participants.

The hackathon served as a vision of the future of business: characterized by innovation, efficiency, and a commitment to sustainability. It offered valuable insights for attendees and organizations alike, paving the way for a more technologically driven and responsible future.

DSAG Requirements

In an article published simultaneously with the conference Sebastian Westphal produced a list of requirements that represent the current preferences and needs of DSAG members:

SAP’s AI framework should be standardized and interoperable, allowing seamless integration of third-party AI models without dependence on specific contracts.

A clear path forward for identity management is needed, including migration options and support services.

SAP should initiate a program for consistent and unified document management across all SAP products and solutions.

Offer comprehensive business applications for SAP’s data and analytics platforms with user-based licensing options for occasional users.

Significant advancements are required in data fabric/mesh and data lakehouse architectures.

SAP should provide continued security tools for Solution Manager beyond 2027, with clear migration options to SAP Cloud ALM.

Offer flexible and controllable cloud services instead of mandatory “always-on” options and reserved instances.

Energy consumption should be a key consideration in cloud service offerings and infrastructure design.

Integrate Green Ledger functionalities at no additional cost for all RISE with SAP customers, for promoting sustainable practices.

For The Good Of The SAP Ecosystem

The DSAG Technologietage 2024 offered a glimpse into the future of SAP, illuminated by the potential of AI but shadowed by lingering concerns.

While SAP’s commitment to, and enthusiasm for the cloud and the transformative power of AI were evident, SAP strategy, particularly regarding on-premise support and communication, continues to be a point of contention for DSAG and a significant portion of the user base.

The recurring theme of the last few DSAG conferences is that SAP needs to work closely with user groups as new technologies and applications of those emerge, not just for the benefit of the users themselves, but for the good of the whole SAP ecosystem.

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