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IgniteSAP at Sapphire Now 2021

Over the past week IgniteSAP has attended the SAP Sapphire Now 2021 online event for the EMEA and Americas regions.

For those in the IgniteSAP community who were unable to attend the live broadcast sessions from the Sapphire Now Studio we produced a series of transcriptions so that they did not miss out on the details within this content.

We will now summarise the key product and strategy announcements from SAP Sapphire Now. These appeared during the course of the keynote and other sessions from the Sapphire Now Studio. We will put them in context with the wider theme of how SAP is responding to changes in the world.

SAP Global Business Network and the Trading Partner Portal

CEO Christian Klein revealed the lion’s share of the announcements to which we want to draw attention in the introduction to the keynote presentationThe Enterprise in an Age of Networks”.

In a response to the supply chain problems (“almost 75% of all companies reported supply chain disruptions as a result of COVID ”) which many businesses faced during the pandemics, SAP announced the creation of the world’s largest business network. Christian Klein said that this network was designed to give “buyers, multi-tiered suppliers, logistics providers, manufacturers and banks” the ability to respond in real-time to disruptions in the network.

Klein pointed out that SAP already run the world’s largest supplier network with over 5.5 million connected enterprises. Later in the presentation Paige Wei-Cox, Chief Product officer for SAP’s Business Network gave us some more detail.

The Global Business Network, by drawing together the various aspects of business processes aims to provide visibility for the entire supply chain and increase the resiliency of business through a “network of networks”

“Our SAP Business Network serves as a platform with open API’s for integrated network of networks, connected to third-party networks, industry networks and other value-added services.

At our very core, we bring together the Ariba network, Asset Intelligence network, and Logistic Business network in the best-of-suite unified network, interlinking business processes and workflow beyond a company’s four walls.” The emphasis on collaboration and a greater degree of data-sharing with business partners for mutual benefit was a recurring theme through Sapphire Now 2021. Implicit in this unification of networks is the idea that by sharing non-sensitive business information as a matter of course with network partners, users will extend the visibility of their own supply chains beyond the first tier of immediate relationships. This will give more warning of disruption: enabling network users to prepare alternatives in that event.

Synchronised Planning and Synchronised Execution

Within the supply chain content track at Sapphire Now, in the live broadcast “Building a Resilient and Sustainable Supply Chain”, and “Propel Your Business with Intelligent Spend and a Unified Business Network”, Thomas Saueressig, member of the executive board, and others from the executive board shared further details of the SAP Global Business Network and the Trading Partner Portal. The extension of supply chain inter-company data-sharing was described as “synchronised planning” and “synchronised execution”.

SAP sees the synchronisation of an intelligent network as a key ingredient in moving towards the agility required by businesses to cope with any later shocks to the supply chain. It is also as a means to judge the level of supplier risk ahead of any disruption developing, so that the right suppliers for the right businesses are chosen. The Global Business Network Trading Partner Portal will also contribute to productivity and sustainability, as well as contribute to finance decisions. John Wookey, President of Intelligent Spend and Business Network at SAP said:

“SAP Business Network is really going to replace all the disconnectedness with a single open platform that brings together all your interaction points with trading partners. The business network will connect our existing procurement, logistics and asset networks in a unified collaborative: an intelligent network of networks, and when procurements connected not just at the surface, but to the depth of the data, your business can truly benefit from a network of intelligent enterprises. Collaboration becomes singular and synchronous, your systems can connect once, and then the data and processes are able to flow freely and securely across functions and workflows across your partners and all of your people. And when trading partners connect through a business network even supplier finance takes on whole new possibilities. Using the supplier’s unique digital footprint through the business network can help identify a suppliers financial services needs and match it with suitable working capital financiers.”

SAP also used Sapphire Now 2021 to announce key developments in SAP sustainability initiatives. 

While the level of synchronisation inherent in the Global Business Network will contribute to sustainability, SAP also has created an entirely new business sustainability portfolio. As Christian Klein put it in the keynote this has been designed to “drive sustainable practices, not only inside your organisation, but across your entire value chain… make carbon footprint tracking available in the business network so that you can go to net zero… [and] turn your circular economy vision into reality.”

This sustainability portfolio is intended to make sustainability a “standard dimension of corporate management ”. As part of this aim SAP has taken the World Economic Forum’s standard sustainability metrics as their standard for reporting and analytics on sustainability. The intention of pushing for these standards to be widely adopted in global commerce is to provide a common system of measurement, so that the whole business community is on the same page when it comes to measuring and acting upon sustainability. This is a push toward the ultimate aim of “making profitability sustainable and sustainability profitable”.

SAP Responsible Design and Production, and SAP Product Carbon Footprint Management

Sustainability as a key component of modern business operations was continued in the supply chain content track by Thomas Saueressig. He announced new products called SAP Responsible Design and Production, and SAP Product Carbon Footprint Management. They allow companies to asses the carbon footprint of a product’s supply chain as well as within the company’s manufacturing facilities.

The carbon footprint accumulates along the value chains and across industries and companies. We know that supply chain emissions are 5.5 times higher than companies’ direct emissions… And the link between resource reuse and emissions is only becoming clearer. 45% of co2 emissions can be tackled by transforming the way goods are made and used. The pathway to a low carbon future is circular. What’s waste or output for one company can be a valuable resource or input for another. With our profound knowledge of business process software, we can identify those opportunities. We will contribute with various solutions, such as the new SAP Responsible Design and Production. By making circularity, a key principle of product design and production, manufacturers can reduce waste and unlock new value.”

Another theme which developed through the course of SAP’s Sapphire Now 2021 was the automation of business processes.

Faster SAP Intelligent Robotic Process Automation and Hyper-Automation

Juergen Mueller, SAP’s Chief Technical Officer announced during the Sapphire Studio broadcast “Drive Toward the Intelligent Enterprise”  (a part of the IT content track), that SAP had created new capabilities in SAP Intelligent Robotic Process Automation. They significantly raise the speed at which automated functions can be processed. As an example Mueller cited that with a combination of chatbots and SAP Intelligent RPA, Zuellig Pharma had raised the volume of their order processing by a factor of 30 times its previous level. This is accessible to the user as part of the SAP Business Technology Platform.

In the CX content track, Robert Madl, Global Executive Partner at Cisco pointed out that automation will increasingly become incorporated into many aspects of business, including security, networking and infrastructure in order to keep pace with the accelerating speed: “applications have become an increasingly distributed, dynamic, complex, and really beyond the scale of human management.”

Greater Low-Code and No-Code Capabilities in SAP Business Technology Platform

Also in the IT track Juergen Mueller said in order to increase the ability for greater numbers of people to create innovative solutions within SAP, they have “significantly increased the low-code and no-code capabilities on the SAP Business Technology Platform.

Citizen developers can now select from new pre-built process content packages in SAP workflow management without writing a single line of code. These packages span many lines of businesses to address the most common workflow needs such as in procurement for example, the approval of purchase requisitions or invoices without purchase orders.”

Following the strategy of introducing a greater degree of no-code flexibility in SAP solutions, in the keynote presentation executive board member Julia White introduced a new product called SAP Upscale Commerce: a no-code solution to quickly tailor the user’s online shopping experience of customers across all channels, using AI to personalise that experience.

We could say that the introduction of further low-code and no-code solutions in SAP is an extension of the hyper-automation strategy in that a no-code solution is in fact automatically generating code as the functions are defined by the non-specialist user.

In general at SAP Sapphire Now 2021 we saw this theme emphasised: repetitive and manual tasks in business should be increasingly automated in order to free up the time of the workforce for more creative and strategic tasks, for the long-term benefit of the business as a whole.

A parallel theme as we have seen is that the ability to make changes to a system (in order to best perform in a changing context) should be democratised and made more accessible to a larger portion of the workforce. Where this is not possible SAP has created a modular, and carefully curated template-style solution in the form of Rise with SAP.

The Reception of Rise with SAP

SAP was careful to consistently bring Rise with SAP up in presentations and interviews through the week in order to reinforce their careful campaign to position it as the simple solution for business transformation: referring to it often just as “Rise”.

In the Finance content track Luka Mucic, SAP’s Chief Finance Officer briefly review the reception of the Rise with SAP product:

“I’m extremely pleased that in the first quarter alone where we had barely two months actually, to position Rise with SAP with our customers, already more than 100 customers have chosen to benefit from Rise with SAP. And I’m very confident that this will allow them to increase their operational efficiency, and agility, their resiliency, and their speed of innovation, as well as the ability to integrate sustainability measures in their value chains, again, because we are embedding them in S/4HANA right away.”

During Sapphire Now 2021, SAP announced they were also expanding the Software-transformation-as-a-Service with further modules including HR and procurement capabilities along with SAP S/4HANA Cloud, and also another industry specific set of modules called Rise with SAP for Industries. The first five industry-specific modules they have introduced are cloud offerings focussed on retail, consumer products, automotive industries, utilities and the industrial machinery and components industry (IMC). They indicated that this selection would increase in the future, saying these were “just the start”.

SAP Process Insights

Luka Mucic also gave some detail as part of the finance content track on the new SAP Process Insights product (part of the BPI portfolio) initially announced by Christian Klein:

“SAP Process Insights can allow our customers to track performance data and performance indicators, process benchmark indicators based on a vast industry benchmark database that we have built from more than 3000 customers. It can then also recommend actions across a customer’s value chains. So which functions of S/4HANA to activate, which optimal process flows to embed, to really move closer to best in class process matrix for the respective industry.”

SAP Process Insights was the main subject of the Hasso Plattner interview which featured in the keynote presentation. He illustrated the nature of the installation process from the point of view of system integrators and explained that this new product was a means by which companies could assess their current installation running live and in real-time, and how, along with the cloud-based installation this would reduce the instances of having to install monolithic implementations with many months of down-time.

“the speed with which we improve in the cloud is now really.. impressive, since we are… for 90% done with the rewriting and transformation. We have some industry issues still to solve, but in general, we can consider it done. And now we see how we improve. And therefore, it’s so important that we get as quickly as possible the information back to the development. And I’m very optimistic that this additional acquisition of Signavio together with the stuff we already had, the use of Qualtrics and the BPI functions… we have built with our analytics.”

Accessibility and Modularity

We can see from this quick summary of the key product and strategy announcements from SAP Sapphire Now 2021 that SAP has produced a comprehensive response to the challenges of the last months and is putting it’s fullest efforts into product development in such a way that the whole portfolio can function in a unified but modular way, in order to bring the greatest benefit to the largest number of customers.

SAP Sapphire Now 2021 reinforced the placement of Rise with SAP with their customers since the beginning of the year because this service product fulfils the need for accessibility and ease of deployment that was requested by their customers.

Overall SAP Sapphire Now 2021 successful in explaining and promoting the long-term strategy of SAP to bring Industry 4.0 into reality now, and they have demonstrated a clear and accessible route for business of all sizes to use their products to transform their enterprises into intelligent enterprises which are agile and fit for whatever the future may hold.

Discover More:

SAP Preliminary First Quarter 2021 Review

How has Rise with SAP been received?