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Former Member

By Fred Isbell, senior director and head of Thought Leadership – Digital Business Services Marketing, SAP

The evening before the start of this year’s SAPPHIRE NOW conference, I joined some colleagues for dinner at a restaurant near my hotel. It wasn’t long before the classic Aerosmith song “Walk This Way” wafted through the air and into my head. I drifted back to my first SAPPHIRE NOW 16 years ago, when the band took the stage on the final night. I was blown away by Aerosmith and SAPPHIRE NOW – and that same sentiment continues to this day.

So after attending SAPPHIRE NOW 14 times over the last 16 years, you would think I have seen it all and that nothing is new to me. But, that’s not necessarily true. This year, Run Simple and Live Business provided some fun surprises.

Setting the stage for Live Business

Bill McDermott, CEO of SAP, kicked off the event with an eye-opening statistic – 76% of the world’s transactions and more than US$39 trillion in global commerce are flowing through SAP systems. Bill sounded like a proud parent, proclaiming that the business has never been in better shape. And when I looked at the attendees around me in that hall, it was easy to see the ubiquity of SAP in today’s business and IT landscape.

As disruptive technology continues to fundamentally redefine the balance between the customer and the business, the focus on customers – as well as our customers’ customers – has never been more critical. We are long past the era of B2B and B2C commerce; instead, the customer-to-business (C2B) economy is the new reality.

According to Bill, the customer in the digital economy determines whether businesses win or lose. The key is to build a case for creating value and showcase a viable solution. We must hear problems and needs, made more urgent by the proliferation of disruptive technology, on a consistent basis. From there, we can help the world run better and improve – one customer at a time.

Meanwhile, a marketplace with constant change requires us all to be intellectually curious, ahead of the curve, and resistant to being "also ran." These particular comments from Bill reminded me of two classic marketing strategy differentiators – completeness of vision (with a nod to Gartner’s Magic Quadrant reports) and investment.

These two attributes have positioned SAP for fundamental reinvention of both itself and our customers’ with a digital core supported by the SAP S/4HANA suite. With line-of-business cloud technology and the extension of end-to-end application with inter-enterprise and business network solutions, digital transformation is made possible.

However, a clear and straightforward road map is needed to realize the full potential of operations that Run Simple. Bill promised empathy, execution against this aggregate completeness of vision, and a vision of running live that supports and extends the principles of Run Simple. He invited IBM to the stage, covering the vision of SAP S/4HANA Value Assurance service packages as well as the road map and services packages available across the digital ecosystem, with SAP partners, and from Digital Business Services at SAP.

There is still so much more to happen around innovation that includes cloud, mobile, Big Data, and analytics solutions. And as Bill indicated, we’ve only now seen the initial phase of the true impact that will take hold. The future includes innovation accelerators, such as machine learning (a key evolution of the Internet of Things meeting new artificial intelligence solutions) and exciting possibilities in augmented reality.

If you think the last five years have been challenging, put on your seatbelt! Bill predicted that the next five to ten years will be far more disruptive. To keep up, we will need more predictive – and even prescriptive – solutions that encompass the all-important element of cybersecurity across public and private clouds and business networks.

The Internet of Things is real and here to stay – and our customers prove it

Over the past few months, we’ve written quite a bit about the Internet of Things (IoT). One of our predictions is that the growth of machine-to-machine communications and sensor-based data will only continue to grow exponentially. As is turned out, three customer sessions proved that such claims are indeed based a fact!

  • Mercedes-AMG: This auto manufacturer uses a solution based on the SAP HANA platform at the core of its digital transformation. To extend the business solution, it is looking to move to cloud-based instances of SAP SuccessFactors, Concur, and Hybris behind current core business solutions. The company views digital transformation as a central and strategic part of becoming an automation innovator and bringing the best driving experience for high-performance cars.
  • Still: This manufacturer of industrial forklift applications is a prime example of the third-generation Internet as we evolve from an Internet of content to people and to now things. The company uses the IoT for real-time monitoring and real-time predictive maintenance. As the company discussed its move from being a pure product company to a services-based business model, I quickly realized that Still is an excellent case study of how innovation spurs new business models.

  • CenterPoint Energy: This major North American energy and power distribution company is using smart readers across its vast network. Right now, the company conducts 221 million smart meter readings a day, generating an excess of 600 petabytes of data. Its strategy to run sophisticated analytics against this meter data was mind-blowing, but the fact that this information is maintained for both regulatory and data sciences in addition to real-time reporting purposes was quite incredible. CenterPoint Energy chose the SAP HANA platform to prepare for future needs, as well as the predicted massive growth of smart meter data.

The “how” of Digital Transformation

SAPPHIRE NOW offers a great selection of sessions on the show floor. And even a SAPPHIRE NOW veteran like me can walk away with a new lesson or two.

Success in digital transformation calls for a road map and a sense of where you’re going with guided assistance. By seeing how customers are applying and evolving IoT solutions, I am furthering framing that notion with three essential steps:

  • Connect: Tap into the network of connected things – then get started on the digital transformation journey.

  • Transform: Automate your business to achieve operational excellence and new business outcomes.

  • Reimagine: Use the full power of digital transformation. This will inspire new business models and value-add services and products that will become the norm in the digital economy.

Stay tuned for more insights as I continue to “Walk This Way” through SAPPHIRE NOW, discovering the Live Business and digital transformation.

Fred is the senior director and head of Thought Leadership for Digital Business Services Marketing at SAP.

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