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Sapphire 2023 Day 2 Opening Keynote

The SAP Sapphire 2023 Day 2 opening keynote was delivered by SAP’s Customer Success Lead and Member of the Executive Board, Scott Russell.

He hosted a conversation about future proofing organizations with SAP solutions, with five SAP customers from various industries. The featured guests were: Nickole Tara, Chief Growth Officer for Cirque du Soleil, Subra Goparaju, Chief Information Officer at HanesBrands Inc., Christof Schell the Chief Commercial Officer for Intel, Ramesh Razdan, the Chief Information Officer for Bain and Company, and Charles Valentine, Chief Information Officer at Boom Supersonic.

SAP Customers Learn From Each Other

After introducing the Day 2 Opening Keynote at SAP Sapphire 2023, Russell began the presentation by expressing the importance to SAP of customer stories as a means to explore best practice:

“Our customers are the ones that are truly driving the change. Because as good as our technology has been, is today, and will be in the future, our customer stories are the real reason that you will change.”

He illustrated his point with a description of a conversation he had with an SAP customer who told Russell that he knew that SAP technology could help his company further, but was not sure the company in question “knew how to change”.

“What he was really highlighting was that he needed standardization at speed. When you think about clean core, you’re thinking about how to do standard processes at scale, but to change quickly, at speed, and the innovation being incredibly easy to use. It needs to happen on the shop floor in their business. And most of all, they want a company and products that they can trust. Because as much as the history of SAP got their business to where it is today, they want to have the trust and the confidence of where they want to go tomorrow.”

Russell described how crucial it was that SAP customers learned from other customers: how other companies transformed their businesses, and introduced the first of five featured customer stories in the keynote.

Cirque du Soleil

Russell welcomed onstage Nickole Tara, Cirque du Soleil’s Chief Growth Officer, who began by describing Cirque du Soleil’s business.

Cirque du Soleil, founded in 1984, has nearly 5000 employees globally, with 1300 artistic performers. They are currently running 32 shows across the world and sell 11 million tickets a year.

In 2019 the company had its best ever year, but they were forced to shut down almost entirely when the pandemic struck in 2020. As a result the company went through a financial restructuring process during the summer of 2020 leading to new leadership, new owners and a new vision for what it wanted to be.

Tara joined the company in the summer of 2022 as part of that new vision. As Chief Growth Officer Nickole Tara is tasked with heading up a team that looks at what Cirque du Soleil might become in the future.

Feedback from fans of the company told them they needed to become leaders in the cultural arts and that they needed to innovate in that area. This encouraged them to take steps to create more inspiring, immersive experiences using technology. Also to connect with their fans digitally between shows, and tell more compelling stories of the way that they positively impact communities.

There is also a parallel process of change going on at Cirque du Soleil: digital transformation. So the company is changing the way that it creates cultural experiences but it is also reinvigorating the way that it runs its business using SAP.

Nickole Tara ended her presentation by thanking SAP for their help during the period of transition.

“When we were in a financial turmoil, and we were trying to just figure out how to keep the lights on, SAP stood beside us, they actually let us operate many of our products at gratis for a pretty significant period of time while we got together so, to say we’re loyalist is an understatement. We feel very empowered by our partners at SAP.”

HanesBrands Inc.

The next SAP customer to be welcomed onstage was HanesBrands, represented by their Chief Information Officer, Subra Goparaju.

HanesBrands is an American clothing manufacturer that is over 100 years old. They own apparel brands like Hanes, and Champion sport wear. They have 51,000 employees, are present in 32 countries and produce over $6 billion in revenue.

They are currently working with SAP on their “Full Potential” plan, which is essentially a root and branch growth of the company by first simplifying, standardizing, and then amplifying their IT operations.

The project will create new capabilities like omni-commerce opportunities, data and analytics functions, and end-to-end business planning to help predict future demand.

“SAP is central to our transformation journey. If we ask ourselves, what are the business capabilities that a modern, retail-centric consumer minded organization like ours need? We want to build a digital foundation, call it a technology spine, on which all your standard business processes will run.”

Russel asked about the adoption of Rise with SAP by their brand Champion, and other solutions that they were employing to achieve their goals.

“We built an enterprise data management system to build… a governance structure, using SAP MDG, and Information Steward…. We also have enabled real-time analytics in Datasphere…
The other capability that we have enabled is omni-channel inventory visibility, and omni-commerce capability. Having end-to-end inventory visibility is not only critical, but paramount for offering better consumer experiences. SAP Customer Activity Repository provides that visibility across all channels, whether it is wholesale, e-com, or retail…our entire technology footprint, our global platforms are on SAP Rise: a highly scalable, available platform that enhances security. What I call the crown jewels can now run the least risk and reduce disruptions… we also enabled a global integration platform on BTP. The platform powers all types of integration patterns, whether it is application to application integration, business to business integration, or even data.”


The Chief Commercial Officer of Intel, Christof Schell, was invited to describe to the audience the company’s recent adoption of Rise with SAP, leveraging S/4HANA.

Christoff Schell said that Intel, a producer of semi-conductor chips, has been an SAP customer for some time and it recently renewed that relationship with a view to meeting future business strategic needs.

Intel decided to open up it’s manufacturing facilities to external customers to design their own silicon chips on an open standard called UCI because where silicon technology is manufactured is becoming a geopolitical issue, and therefore a strategic business issue.

“The reason why SAP won the core ERP [contract] with Intel going forward is because they listened really well. What we have to do is we have to separate our business, [a manufacturing operation from a business operation] so how we streamline operationally is right now very important. We need to offer transparency to our customers We’ll have customers that will only do business with us. On the flip side, some that will do business with us on the CPU, GPU side and software side. And some that will do both. And so we need to move the cost where it is needed to be, and give the right accessibility and transparency”

Schell went on to explain the nature of the complex business partnership between SAP and Intel, pointing out that SAP and Intel engineers work closely together, and that improvements in the energy efficiency of their products and other innovations led them to work together on what the business will look like in five or ten years time, bearing in mind new technology like quantum computing and how security standards will change.

Bain and Company

Ramesh Razdan, the Chief Information Officer for Bain and Company then gave a short video presentation on how they used SAP to renew their own business processes.

The company is an established and expanding strategy consulting firm which operates in 40 countries. They have made 15 acquisitions in the last few years and this led them to consolidate and expand their IT landscape.

“We chose S/4HANA public cloud to future proof our business during the design and deployment phase… the business transformation program for business and IT collaborative, established guiding principles that minimize the need for customization, and key performance indicators that made sure we know the success criteria. As I look upon the program, I’m confident that we are on the right path. We have up-skilled both business and IT with new and agile ways of working and removed a number of manual and inefficient processes.”

Scott Russell said that Bain and Company renovated their business processes in part because others in the professional services sector were disrupting the market, necessitating a modern and agile platform along with standardization and speed.

“So they could drive their business into a new future new commercial models, IP graded models, subscription models, as well as fee-for-service models. So for Bain, the need for change was imminent. It was strong because the competition was going to outpace them unless they made that move, and they made the move with S/4HANA public addition.”

Boom Supersonic

The final contributor to the presentation was the Chief Information Officer of Boom Supersonic, Charles Valentine.

Boom Supersonic is a aeronautical manufacturer established in 2014 who have an ambition to revolutionize air travel with the introduction of the world’s fastest airliner, the Overture, which will carry between 65 and 80 passengers at twice the speed of current commercial aircraft.

As Chief Information Officer, Valentine initially assumed that SAP was for large and established companies, and that it was too early in development to implement SAP ERP across their operations, but the controller (one of the main stakeholders) of Boom insisted “we need SAP”.

“So it’s a story of true scalability, and knowing we would need to depend on SAP in 5, 10 or 15 years from now. So we looked at Rise with SAP, which I hadn’t been familiar with previously. What appealed to us is that we can get our feet wet with it as we grew. We can grow the license count accordingly… We really didn’t want to or need a full implementation to get live and get going, and said we were willing to change our internal processes to map to the industry standard. And when we needed those packages, Rise had them.”

Boom now relies on the automated system to consolidate data, limit redundant data processing, increase data validation and help to increase user adoption.

They implemented S/4HANA and went live in April of 2022 in just 90 days.

Every Journey Is Different

In his concluding remarks Scott Russell emphasized that each organization’s reasons for engaging with SAP was unique to them. Sometimes to help them through difficult transitions or uncertainty not of their own making. Sometimes to react to changing consumer demand, and sometimes to prepare the business for the future, but there are also requirements that are common to many SAP customers.

“Number one: Every company wants to do that business transformation at speed: it’s not good enough to do the business change over a long period of time, it needs to be compressed, it needs to be packaged, and it needs to deliver a sustainable platform of outcome. Number two: Innovation that is easy to use… easy to expand, whether it be an omni-channel or using the data platform, or in their core business processes. And number three: and for us, the most important one, is that they want to work with partners that they trust as SAP.”

He said that SAP has to earn the trust of every single customer, and that it tales great technology and great partnerships to enable these visions to come to life.

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