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The curtains have closed on SAP Sapphire 2024, for both the in-person event in Orlando and the virtual experience. But the energy and excitement it generated are sure to carry on for months to come. Whether you attended live or tuned in virtually, let’s dive into some of the key takeaways from this landmark conference. Was it an AI murder on the dance floor, or did the more classic themes prevail?  Maybe both.

This year’s SAP Sapphire was all about innovation, Artificial Intelligence (AI), the journey to S/4HANA, and the SAP Business Technology Platform (BTP). From keynote addresses to breakout sessions, the focus was on how businesses can leverage cutting-edge, and in some cases bleeding-edge, technologies to thrive in today’s dynamic landscape. A major theme was the power of AI, as well as the BTP as a foundation for digital transformation. Attendees learned how BTP can help them integrate disparate systems, build intelligent applications, and unlock the power of data.

SAP Artificial Intelligence: Joule 

Overview

It was incredibly evident that SAP is making serious waves in the world of AI. During the conference, they unveiled a multi-pronged approach to integrate AI across their entire cloud software portfolio. Here’s a breakdown of their key initiatives:

  • Joule: This is SAP’s natural language generative AI co-pilot. Imagine interacting with SAP software with natural language requests!?! Joule can automate tasks, generate reports, and even write code – all based on your instructions.
  • Focus on Business Processes: SAP isn’t just creating cool AI features; they’re building AI functionalities specifically designed for business workflows. Their goal is to double the number of AI use cases by the end of 2024. Aspirational?  Perhaps, as it is spanning areas like finance, supply chain, and HR. I’m excited to attend the show next year to learn about progress and how those aspirations transformed into real-world use-cases.
  • Collaboration with Leading AI Companies: SAP is working with Nvidia, AWS, and Microsoft to leverage their expertise and accelerate AI integration within SAP products.
  • Acquisition of AI startups: SAP is expanding their capabilities so they can stay at the forefront of AI innovation.
  • Development of Ethical AI: SAP is committed to developing AI responsibly, with a focus on data privacy and explainability. This will ensure it is effective and trustworthy for businesses. 

 

Real-World Impact

It is clear that SAP is combining their deep industry knowledge with cutting-edge AI. In doing so, they are enabling businesses to strive towards tangible results. Here are a few examples:

  • Supply Chain Optimization: Generative AI can expedite tasks like freight verification and documentation, leading to faster delivery and reduced wait times.
  • Improved Customer Service: AI chatbots powered by SAP can answer customer questions in real-time, enhancing the overall customer experience.
  • Data-Driven Decision Making: AI helps businesses analyze vast amounts of data to gain valuable insights and make better decisions.

 

My Reflection:

Overall, SAP’s AI initiatives are designed to empower businesses to become more intelligent, efficient, and adaptable. With their focus on user-friendly interfaces, industry-specific solutions, and responsible development, SAP is poised to be a major player in the future of business AI. I welcome this because, let’s face it, few people have said, “the SAP UX is amazing and I can’t wait to use it!”.  

It’s still unclear to me as to who owns the data and where it was transported to for interpretation (i.e., did it go to an SAP cloud LLM?). Also, who owns the Inference data model? I’m sure SAP has a clear direction and explanation on these topics, but I simply didn’t have time to corner anyone to discuss them at the event.

Generally speaking, I’d like to see the AI industry, as a whole, agree on standards so businesses can transport their private LLMs (is that an oxymoron?) and Inference models between AI products. I imagine that business owners would like to build one LLM and Inference model, and then leverage it with various platforms (e.g., SAP, ECM, Marketing, etc.). However, we’re likely a couple years away from getting there, despite many claiming it exists today.  

Journey to S/4HANA – Do You Need to Clean-up to Move-up?

Overview

“I wish I hadn’t developed an SAP document and archive management strategy” – said no one attending SAP Sapphire.

It was clear that SAP archiving is increasingly important as people prepare for the move to S4/HANA. Some started their journey and realized that they should have archived first. Others are in the planning stages and are gathering information. Still others are eager and ready. The question is, where are you in this process? 

As a business unit leader and innovator, I’m always researching and meeting with customers, prospects, and industry experts to validate, modify, and revalidate whether our innovations and products align with trends and expectations. This is exactly what we did to prepare for the launch of our new SAP Archiving Appliance

Real-World Impact

Zia and Rocket Software collaborated to launch our modernized SAP Content and Archive Management Appliance in early 2024. Truth be told, it wasn’t built on brand new technology. It was built on a product that has been an SAP Certified solution for more than 25 years. What is new is the modern approach that we took to align with customer feedback and the overall best practices in the industry.

We listened to our customers, prospects, and industry leaders to understand their needs, challenges, and expectations. Then we compiled the research and went back to the drawing board to modify our solution and develop a fresh SAP archiving go-to-market offering that aligned with what we heard. Here is a snapshot of what they shared and how we responded: 

  • Ownership – In some way, shape, or fashion, customers want to own their data and have more control over its use. The idea of moving terabytes of data to a SaaS or PaaS offering and not having full access to their own data doesn’t sit well with them. 

We fixed that. Our appliance is a fully managed subscription that is deployed in the customer’s tenant. In other words, you own your data and have full access to it – Period.

  • Pricing – Customers want price clarity and certainty on day one and into the future regardless of the number of users, data volumes, access, or use. I mean, c’mon folks – SAP document and archive management has been around for a quarter of a century. It’s a commodity. It shouldn’t be that hard. And, as it turns out, it isn’t. 

We fixed that, too. We provide price certainty during contracting today and into the future. But don’t worry, we’ve put funds aside to continue to invest and innovate.

  • Management – SaaS and/or PaaS offerings are appealing, but customers aren’t happy with the limitations, security concerns, and costs associated with those models. They also don’t want to use their brightest talent, who have immeasurable subject matter expertise, to manage on-premise, mundane technologies and processes. They want to deploy their resources to high-value projects so they can leverage their expertise. For us, their ask was simple – can you deploy a fully managed application in our tenant for a reasonable price? 

You guessed it, we did that too. Our SAP content and Archive Management appliance is fully containerized, managed subscription that is deployed in your tenant and in the cloud of your choice. But don’t worry, it’s elastic to accommodate your evolving needs.

  • External Use (API) – This really extends on the ownership topic from above.  Customers want to own their data, as well as their access to it. They want to leverage it directly in a portal interface, and/or in a third-party line of business application(s) to ensure the right employees, vendors, suppliers, etc. have access to the right information. Many vendors nickel and dime customers for this type of access. 

Yep, we fixed that too! You have unlimited access to your data through our portal interface and APIs.  

My Reflection

We have to remind ourselves why SAP archiving is important. Here is a summary of my thoughts:

  • Improved System Performance: S/4HANA leverages an in-memory database, HANA, which excels at processing vast amounts of data. However, HANA memory is expensive. Leveraging an external storage appliance to store attachments, documents, print lists, as well as archiving inactive or less frequently accessed data, allows you to keep your S/4HANA database lean and mean. This optimizes performance and dramatically reduces costs.
  • Seamless Migration Process: A smaller data footprint in your source system (i.e., pre-migration SAP instance) translates to a smoother and faster migration to S/4HANA. Moving less data translates to utilizing less time and fewer resources.
  • Reduced Storage Costs: Archiving frees up valuable storage space in your current SAP system. This not only benefits the migration to HANA, but also reduces ongoing storage expenses associated with inactive data.
  • Compliance Adherence: Many regulations require businesses to retain data for specific periods. Archiving ensures you meet these requirements while keeping compliant data readily accessible.
  • Focus on Active Data: By removing inactive data, you prioritize the information most critical for daily operations within S/4HANA. This makes data analysis and decision-making more efficient.
  • Improved Collaboration: Leveraging an external storage appliance allows you to serve and enable this content to users, vendors, suppliers, etc., as well as the line of business applications externally from SAP. This streamlines and improves collaboration.

In short, content and data archiving is a strategic move that paves the way for a successful transition to S/4HANA. It streamlines the migration process, optimizes S/4HANA performance, and helps you manage data effectively in your new system. And don’t forget, implementing an SAP content and archive management strategy is equally important to stabilizing costs and maintaining performance after you move to S/4HANA. 

My Parting Thoughts

In the end, the SAP Sapphire conference validated that we got it right! Several of our existing customers and prospects were eager to learn more and understand exactly how they can leverage our modern, managed subscription based SAP Content and Archive Appliance in their tenants. Thank you! 

Artificial Intelligence

As I look back at my career, I’ve never really been the bleeding edge guy. The leading edge guy is where I tend to fall. That’s likely because I started my career when the dot com bubble was bursting, technology spending was waning, and my customers had finite budgets that needed to generate tangible results. The days of throwing tens of millions of dollars around on questionable outcomes had come to an end and I actually had to make shit work. 

In reality, I see myself watching from the backseat, for a bit, to see how the AI market consolidates and what bubbles to the top as billions of dollars are invested in this space. That will allow me to provide best of breed approaches so my customers can achieve tangible results with reasonable budgets. Will I miss the bleeding edge projects? Probably. Will I learn from their pitfalls and failures so I can deliver a better value for my customers? Definitely!  

Without doubt, it’s an incredibly exciting and transformative space. Everyone needs to continually observe and determine how to leverage advance and gain competitive advantage in their businesses. I’d recommend thinking about it now, even if you decide to hang out in the backseat with me for a few more months while you determine what’s sensible.

As a 48 year old professional, I have spent the majority of my career focused on content and data management for SAP and finding ways to simplify collaboration on SAP content between users, suppliers, vendors, etc. I’m cautiously optimistic about the push for natural language interactions within SAP and we are currently collaborating with Rocket Software on their AI initiative to launch AI capabilities in their flagship enterprise content management software. This will be extended to the SAP Document and Archive Management Appliance…stay tuned!

Journey to S4/HANA

SAP Document and Archive Management is simpler to write – Just Do It!  Yes, I’d love for you to take a look at our offering so we can prove the value you’ll derive from our solution. Regardless of what solution you decide on – Just Do It! Our offering is a tried, tested, and proven approach to improving performance, reducing costs, and extending business processes and collaboration external to SAP. It’s simple and it’s boring, but it works, adds immediate value, and can be achieved in less than six months.  And – here’s an important reminder – you can redeploy the human capital and ROI savings from your document and archiving project to your high-value innovation projects, such as AI.  

Leverage our leading SAP Archiving Solution so you can focus on your bleeding edge innovations…I promise, that is a smart idea.

Moving Forward

While SAP Sapphire 2024 has come to a close, the learnings and connections made will continue to fuel innovation across businesses of all sizes. I’m greatly thankful to be part of this extraordinary community of forward thinkers. Y’all are really damn smart and make me a better professional. Thank you for challenging me!

It seems like there were two themes…  the new and the old. There wasn’t a clear winner in the murder on the dance floor competition, as both themes prevailed in a sensible dance to fuel progress and innovation.

Up Next for Zia

ASUG, Zia, and Rocket are hosting a webinar to discuss and demonstrate the value of leveraging our SAP Certified Content and Archive Appliance. Stay tuned for the official registration link! Of course, you can always reach out to us to talk about your specific needs or questions.

p.s.

Reese Witherspoon… You are an amazing inspiration, leader, creative thinker, risk taker, and philanthropist. Thank you for making the world a better place!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeremy White, Director, Managed and Cloud Services
Jeremy has over 25 years of experience working with multinational clients to drive value by aligning complex process, data, and content management problems with the appropriate technology solutions. Over the past decade, Jeremy has focused on enabling critical business processes and solutions in cloud environments, as well as developing managed services programs to meet customer needs. These critical services provide customers with solutions to rapidly realize productivity gains and improve agility, reduce staffing requirements, and improve return on investments. Jeremy is regarded as a trusted advisor.

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