Back At SAPPHIRENOW – Day 1 Keynote

It’s been a couple of years since I last attended SAP’s huge SAPPHIRE NOW conference, but this week I’m here with my 20,000 closest friends at the Orlando Convention Center (plus another 80,000 watching online) to get caught up. The conference kicked off with a keynote from Bill McDermott, SAP’s co-CEO, and it’s all about HANA and cloud: everything from SAP now runs on HANA, and combined with their cloud platforms realize the dream of realtime, predictive supply chains. HANA is also at the heart of how SAP is addressing social enterprise functionality, allowing a company to analyze a flood of consumer social data to find what’s relevant.

They highlighted some of their sports-related customers’ applications — which definitely allowed for some good lead-in video — with executives from Under Armour, the San Francisco 49’ers and the NBA. In part, sports applications are about helping teams play better and manage their talent through play/player data analysis (think Moneyball), but are also about customer engagement online and in the stadium. The most traditional usage of SAP on the panel is with Under Armour, which manufactures sportswear and sports-related biometrics devices, but their incredible growth means that they needed enterprise systems that they won’t outgrow. An interesting new industry vertical focus for SAP.

The keynote finished with Bob Calderoni, CEO of Ariba (recently acquired by SAP) talking about how cloud — in the form of private business networks, of course — drives productivity. Good focus, since too often the current technology buzzwords (social, mobile, cloud) are discussed purely as the end, not the means, and we can lose sight of how these can make us more productive and efficient, as well as fully buzzword-enabled.

As usual, wifi in the keynote area is impossible, and since I’m tablet-only, I couldn’t even plug into the hard-wired internet that they provided for we guests of Global Communications – I’m not the only one in this section with a tablet rather than a laptop, so imagine that they’ll have to do something in the future to allow the media to consume and publish during the keynote. T-Mobile’s iPhone coverage is resolutely stuck at EDGE in this area, so I can’t even reliably set up a hotspot, although that would just contribute to the wifi problems. The WordPress Android app works fine offline, however, so I was able to take notes and publish later.

SAPPHIRENOW Photo Caption Challenge

Last night, after a couple of drinks at the SAPPHIRENOW reception, Oliver Marks and I cooked up the idea that it would be fun to make up captions for the huge photos that adorn the Global Communications Center and the rest of the show floor. The photos are really beautifully photographed, but the compositions are a bit weird at times.

Update: a late addition to the caption challenge, which some consider to be the best of all:


Not a lot of blogging yesterday; a couple of good keynotes (but I’m not going to blog about Richard Branson, Al Gore and Colin Powell), a press conference, the sustainability roundtable, a couple of other short meetings and networking at Blogger Central. Some links to items of interest:

Today, I’ll be getting a briefing on NetWeaver BPM, what’s happened in the last months and what’s coming up in future releases; I haven’t heard a peep since TechEd last fall.

Can We Make A Sustainability-BPM Connection?

Peter Graf, SAP’s Chief Sustainabilty Officer, and Scott Bolick, VP Sustainability, spoke to a group of bloggers and analysts at a sustainability roundtable today. Graf started with SAP’s definition of sustainability: increase short and long-term profitability by holistically managing economic, social and environmental risks and opportunities. Sustainability changes business processes drastically, especially those processes that span multiple organizations. SAP is leading by example, improving their own internal efficiencies by enacting sustainability measures such as reducing carbon emissions, but also see their software as an enabler for other organizations to implement sustainable solutions. SAP has a number of customers that are using SAP solutions across five general areas of sustainability: carbon impact, environmental compliance, people health and safety, product safety, and sustainability performance management. In addition to cost savings, sustainability can become a recruitment factor: younger people, in particular, want to work for a company that shares their environmental concerns.

They have made sustainability a focus of presentations at this conference, but also have made a number of sustainable logistics choices at the actual event. They have a new sustainability report that has already become hugely popular for fostering stakeholder dialog, and a sustainability map structured by line of business and business case. They are the first technology company to join the Sustainability Consortium, and we heard about acquisitions, customers and partners that are all focused on sustainability.

SAP sees Business Objects Explorer as being a key tool for helping to identify areas for sustainability; for example, providing an analytical view into office and plant costs to determine where unusual electricity consumption is occurring. SAP uses this internally for their own sustainability data analysis, and had a nice spiffy iPad version to show us, since you can’t have a conference these days without showing an iPad at least once. Analytics, especially real-time dashboards that allow for drilling into data, have been gaining popularity in a number of areas lately: we’ve seen everything from academic papers to mainstream reports in The Economist discussing analytics, and this is just one more high-profile example.

Bolick then took the stage to talk about their new sustainability report in more detail; if you want more information on everything from the basic definitions of sustainability to measuring performance to more complex solutions, check it out online. This is not a static PDF that you’ll never read; this is an interactive website that includes up-to-date SAP sustainability news and social content, as well as their own analytics tools allowing a drill-down into performance (e.g., carbon footprint reduction) numbers. The sustainability map is pretty interesting (under the Solutions tab), showing all the different targets for sustainability, organized by who is responsible for solutions in that area.

SAP Sustainability Map

There’s a pretty strong commitment to corporate transparency from SAP: they show both positive and negative performance measures in the report, such as the significant drop in employee engagement. This would make a great tool for other companies to measure and publish their sustainability measures; Tom Rafferty asked when they planned to productize a sustainability report generator for their customers, but since this is currently pretty specific to SAP’s operations, it’s not clear how easy that would be to do; they spoke about the potential to provide at least part of this as an on-demand solution, as well as providing benchmark performance data to help companies measure their “return on sustainability”.

The conversation came back to business processes, and the impact of IT in enabling more efficient and sustainable processes. There’s a key piece missing, however: their focus today was on analyzing sustainability performance data for human consumption, but I’m not hearing anything about using those analytics as events to feed back into any sort of automated process optimization, where optimization in this sense would be sustainability performance optimization rather than the usual type of process optimization that we do. I suspect that much of this sort of optimization is still fairly manual due to the nature of the measurement and what is required to optimize it (e.g., number of women in the workforce in order to create a more sustainable workforce), and also since many of these are such high level measures that they don’t relate to just a single process: optimizing sustainability performance is up in the first row of your enterprise architecture, and over in those columns dealing with motivation, and we haven’t yet worked out all the transformations needed to map that down to the nitty-gritty of actual business processes and rules.

Credit to Jon Reed for the title of this blog post; I was in the blogger area of the communications center (did I mention that SAP’s treatment of media in general and social media in particular really rocks?) and I told him my impressions of the roundtable and how I thought they should have more of a focus on a round-trip push back to BPM, and he popped out the phrase “the sustainability-BPM connection”. Thanks, Jon!