The SAP Sapphire Event 2023 is an event held yearly by SAP to update customers and partners alike on all the latest SAP news, and additionally offers numerous educational and networking opportunities. This was the first year since the beginning of the pandemic that a physical version of the event took place. Not only that, it took place in three different physical locations: Orlando, Barcelona, and Sao Paolo. For the past decade before the pandemic hit, the Sapphire event had been held exclusively in Orlando. Though SAP presented the same program at every location, conference visitors’ experience varied depending on which location they were visiting. The Orlando location, for example, experienced more foot traffic, as it did not require all visitors to register to enter.
Artificial Intelligence and HR
One of key topics at the event was the implementation of AI across all SAP offerings through Signavio. AI and especially sustainable AI, where ethics remain an essential concern and humans remain in control, was the rhetoric SAP pushed at the event. “The user stays in the driver’s seat” was VP AI Tech Ulf Brackman’s statement. Perhaps SAP wanted to allay any fears that AI would replace any significant portion of the workforce, since labor shortage and HR strategies were also topics of discussion at the Sapphire. However, SAP also proposed automation as a solution for businesses struggling with a staffing shortage.
At SAP’s Digital Hub (SAP’s digital-only sales center) in Barcelona, SAP showcased an example of how to create a better work environment, incentivize hires, and improve retention. Tobias Haug, Head of Humanizing Business SAP, painted an idyllic picture where employees defined how workspaces were used, chose their own schedules, and all collaborated to create as non-competitive and multicultural a space as possible, all with “flat hierarchies”. Of course, management and employees always have different perspectives, and no sales representatives were present to voice their opinions on the subject. However, forcing employees to participate could have quickly led to a horse and pony show, as employees would obviously be expected to say only good things, and could perhaps face retribution if they chose not to.
The Green Ledger
The Green Ledger, which allows companies to track and account for their carbon emissions, emphasized SAP’s commitment to sustainability, which extended to the event itself. Plastic was minimized and all paper cups, cutlery, containers, and other related paraphernalia came in eco-friendly materials such as paper, cardboard, wood, etc. Whether the catering company usually operated in this manner, or did so at SAP’s behest is unknown, but this was in line with their theme. This mentality extended to the exhibitors themselves, as they were prohibited from giving out goodie bags to visitors. SAP cited ecological reasons, and in this case would seem to be making a valid point. It’s not for nothing that minimalism is often tied to environmentalism.
Partnerships – “very important”
SAP CEO Christian Klein in his keynote address stated SAP, their partners, and the users were all one team, all conquering a mountain together. In the question-and-answer session with the press, Klein emphasized the importance of the partner ecosystem, affirming they were “very important” and “that why we’re hearing so much about them”. Partners have complained about the direction SAP has taken in the past, specifically with SAP entering the fields of cloud computing, as it appeared to be monopolizing business and leaving only crumbs for the rest. Klein addressed this concern directly, stating that partners need not fear SAP stealing revenue, and that SAP’s new strategies would lead everyone to benefit financially. He emphasized the importance of partners, especially in cloud offerings.
RISE is a basic offering, was Klein’s explanation, a skeleton if you will, that depends on the add-ons that partners provided to be as agile as possible. In order to streamline and accelerate digital transformation, the full range of necessary functions customers require cannot and should not be included in the base package, because that is when the migration becomes mammoth and unwieldy, taking years to finish.
To reiterate, partners will be necessary for the move to the cloud according to the SAP CEO, especially since he once again emphasized that public cloud is what everyone will eventually have to move to. It does not have to be today, but it is the end destination. It’s a journey, he said.
But perhaps Klein should rethink whether encroaching on partners’ territory and implementing his cloud-only strategy will actually provide the results he expects. It is rather ironic that Klein spoke at length about future-proofing, but neglected to speak more on SAP’s future, on what will come after S/4 Hana, and about a more concrete roadmap. For now all that remains is to wait and see.
Any questions, comments, or concerns? Feel free to let us know in a comment below!