Following The Red Thread Of Innovation At SAPPHIRE NOW

Fred Isbell

Recently I wrote about the search for innovation at SAPPHIRE NOW and examples of these advancements across a series of keynotes, sessions, and more at the three-day event. I was struck SAP SapphireNOW 2014, Orlando, USAby how SAPPHIRE NOW tied in the ubiquitous concept of innovation into everything.

Besides the keynotes and sessions, there were analyst briefings, customer events, and the expertise of people supporting the event. Putting on my “analyst hat,” I was surprised by the commonality and congruence – the red thread, if you will – across a number of industries, use cases, and predictions.

Here are some of my perspectives on how these events uncovered the red thread of innovation.

SAP executive insights for analysts

The SAP Service and Support organization held an analyst briefing the day before the start of SAPPHIRE NOW. The entire day was devoted to more than 20 industry analysts from firms that cover the marketplace for consulting, systems integration, support, and related services.

Although entering a new era of unprecedented change isn’t news, the briefing discussed the impacts of these shifts – business complexity, technology, and innovation – which is gaining more attention. The sobering reality is that business complexity is lowering innovation, shrinking profits, and stunting growth. By breaking away from complexity, companies can free up resources and funds for innovation. One direct and tangible result is the ability to respond to the need for digital innovation and transformation.

The technology represented by the innovations I wrote about in my earlier blog on the 3rd Platform are driving this evolution. And believe it or not, the principle of simplification is now eclipsing people SANOW Tech Graphicsand their devices – especially when you consider the Internet of Things (IoT) along with its data growth on an unprecedented scale.

SAP customers La Trobe University, ConAgra, Mercedes-AMG, and Petrobras all spoke about their thoughts on these trends. One panelist noted that a greater focus on agility, flexibility, and business impact is required to succeed in today’s business landscape.

For more details about this discussion and the SAP Executive Insight for Analysts event, read the blog “Finding Simplicity with SAP Service & Support – Analyst Day 2015.  

The future of IT services: Simplification

Michael Kleinemeier, worldwide head of SAP Service and Support and a member of the SAP Global Managing Board, hosted an executive audience at the SAP Select executive event. From my
vantage point, I was enthused to see such a large gathering of our marquee customers in one room!MKL_SAP_Sapphire2015_08558

Kleinemeier explained common business challenges including complexity, the speed of change and innovation, and the rise of competitors leveraging disruptive technologies to enter markets long-dominated by established players. (Uber, anyone?) He stated that the key to addressing these issues is  the need for innovation road maps, the use of real-time technology and cloud deployments to deliver the promise of business and IT solutions, and outcome-based solutions and services. Meanwhile, increased attention to cost reduction in terms of ownership and implementation is enabling greater simplification, streamlining, and most important, efficiency across all business operations.

With these shifts happening worldwide, SAP Service and Support acknowledges the need for a simpler way of delivering services. According to Kleinemeier, “SAP Service and Support is simplified in a way that provides greater unity across program and project management efforts and a commitment to partnering together to realize value over the short and long terms.”

Hot topics, road maps, and expertise in action

It’s no secret that SAPPHIRE NOW is a great event to tap into the expertise SAP brings to our customers on a daily basis. However, SAP Service and Support took it to a whole new level.

Small sessions were given to focus on specific topics, with those covering the IoT, SAP S/4HANA, and SAP Solution Manager being the most popular. The same applied to the “expert table” S4 HANA Roadmap Graphicsessions that gave customers an opportunity to sit down with our experts and discuss their specific issues and questions.

Another area generating great interest was the series of sessions and workshops that showcased the value of SAP Support in a customer’s journey to innovation – especially when implementing SAP S/4 HANA.

Get a quick overview of the journey to SAP S/4HANA journey and related road maps from one of our experts.

Want to see more? Read “Top 13 Sessions at SAPPHIRE NOW” for additional insights.

The true rock stars: Our customers

I normally describe SAPPHIRE NOW as almost an “eclectic Woodstock” for SAP customers to network, present, and discuss best practices and success stories. And this year was no different when you consider the number of customers featured in the opening analyst briefing, keynotes, and general sessions and breakouts.SANOW customers

During his SAPPHIRE NOW session “Journey to the Cloud and Transform Your Business with Expert Support,” Peter Nikoletatos, executive director and CIO at La Trobe University, discussed how a one-on-one relationship with SAP is supporting a cloud-based transformation that answers the needs of its students while paving the way for simplification. Shawn Reynolds, the worldwide head of SAP Service and Support Marketing, cited that La Trobe University is following a digital strategy that has eliminated ineffective, redundant, and outdated legacy applications and fewer hours dedicated to supporting requests.

One of my favorites was a customer panel discussion, “Follow a Simple Unified Approach to Services and Support.” Loblaw Companies Ltd., Cardinal Health Inc., and McKesson Corp. discussed how it is possible to overcome complexity and achieve better business outcomes.

If that’s not enough, visit our top 10 customer replays of SAPPHIRE NOW 2015 for even more insights.

What is the red thread of innovation?

As SAPPHIRE NOW taught me this year, there are four strands that make up the red thread:

  1. Disruptive technologies that bring unprecedented change
  2. Much-needed innovation funded and driven by simplification
  3. Road map to innovation
  4. Proof from companies worldwide that it is possible to overcome complexity and drive achievable business outcomes

Save the Date for SAPPHIRE NOW in 2016: May 17 – 19, 2016

SAPPHIRE NOW comes only once a year. Be sure to mark your calendar for May 17 – 19, 2016, for three days of insightful discussion, expert advice, and networking. Sign up for event updates to learn what’s coming!

For more on the simplification imperative, see Taking Charge of Business Simplification: Why Simplification Initiatives Succeed Only When Executives Lead.

Fred Isbell is senior marketing director for SAP Service and Support Marketing for thought leadership, demand management and planning for the Worldwide Service and Support Marketing team. A passionate sports and hockey fan/player, he includes coaching and playing hockey with his three kids among his favorite moments in life.


About Fred Isbell

Fred Isbell is the Senior Director of SAP Digital Business Services Marketing at SAP. He is an experienced, results- and goal-oriented senior marketing executive with broad and extensive experience & expertise in high technology and marketing. He has a BA from Yale and an MBA from the Duke Fuqua School of Business.