SAP Sapphire 2024: Building a modification-free clean-core cloud ERP

This blog post is part of our Essential Guide: SAP Sapphire 2024 news, trends and analysis

SAP used its SAP Sapphire & ASUG annual conference this week to detail some three dozen product and platform announcements. Drinking from the firehose of enterprise software updates, the Computer Weekly Developer Network team downloaded, digested and drove through the main stories while also logging in to the keynote presented by the German softwarehaus C-suite and partners. 

NOTE: Having followed SAP for some 20 years and tracked most of those last two decade’s work here in this column, it seems only appropriate to note that this is the 2000th story posted here.

The event keynote kicked off with SAP CEO Christian Klein taking the stage.

“The SAP is definitely getting bigger,” said Klein, surveying the attending audience. “We now come together to network and share best practices and learn from each other – this is why I love Sapphire, but this year is special because we are entering a new phase of AI with endless possibilities… and in the next two days we will show you how to capture this decisive moment in technology.”

With some 40,000 software application development engineers now working at SAP, the team has moved from working on an ERP system to a fully-blown cloud-first system with connected AI. With SAP now putting generative AI into its stack from top to bottom, Klein jumped straight into announcements.

SAP Joule is the new front end (it’s a copilot technology) for every SAP end user to now embrace as it helps automate tasks and facilitate faster and more efficient work methods. With up to what the CEO says are up to 80% tasks (everything from order management to financial book closure with its data compliance requirements – and onwards to HR and strategic recommendations for business through advanced data modelling) now capable of being shouldered by SAP Joule, the technology analysis to find performance patterns in a business and make business decision recommendations.

Joule will now be integrated in a two-way integration with Microsoft Copilot.

Talking about how SAP is putting embedded AI into services that exist right across its platform, Klein went straight into processes that can now be executed throughout systems (such as financial) without any human intervention. Making sure enterprise can develop their own business-specific use cases, SAP is enabling customers to use its own bespoke developments and be able to expose those functions into the SAP data layer… and, confirms Klein, that will all be through one single contract.

Keeping a clean core

Some 27,000 customers now use SAP Business AI services. Now focused on turning AI services into real business outcomes. Looking at the SAP RISE business transformation-as-a-service offering, Klein says that customers using this service now enjoy 40% less need for customisations needed in order to fit the core SAP stack to their business… given that the company is always fond of talking about a ‘clean core’ where customers are able to spend less time modifying their ERP system, this is a positive forward progression.

It’s all about getting to what SAP likes to call ‘a modification-free cloud ERP’ today.

AWS CEO Matt Garman joined Klein on stage (on what is his first week in the role) to help detail the current status of the partnership between the two firms. Talking about why Amazon runs on SAP, Garman explained how many of his firm’s departments and brands use SAP for mission-critical workloads.

Julia White, chief marketing and solutions officer and a member of the executive board of SAP SE took over presentation duties in one of her ‘live from the show’ floor video reports. Moving the conversation to the company’s GROW with SAP service (a scaled offering not dissimilar to RISE suitable for smaller to medium-sized businesses and new customers quickly implement SAP S/4HANA Cloud), 

White also focused on how the SAP Business Technology Platform (BTP) provides a deep grounding in business data and the ability to build its generative AI hub to build custom ERP solutions that work natively with SAP systems.

Never miss a keynote

Making sure he didn’t miss one single technology keynote this year, founder and CEO of capitalisation-focused company Nvidia (also known for its graphical processing units) Jensen Huang made an appearance by video link from Taiwan as part of this keynote. Talking about the importance of enterprise software organisation’s own proprietary languages (such as ABAP at SAP and CUDA C/C++ at Nvidia), Huang noted just how far SAP Joule has helped developers inside his own organisation to work with ABAP and help develop next-gen AI services with SAP.

The latest developments are aimed at simplifying SAP implementations for partners and the new consulting capability, using the Nvidia NeMo Retriever microservice, draws insights from SAP product documentation and the SAP community to provide consultants with information through natural language interactions. This capability is especially critical for supporting customers transitioning to SAP S/4HANA Cloud as part of the RISE with SAP program, helping to accelerate implementation projects and save money.

As TechTarget reminds us, SAP ABAP (Advanced Business Application Programming) is the primary programming language supported on the SAP NetWeaver ABAP application server platform and applications that run on it, such as SAP ERP (formerly R/3), S/4HANA and CRM. 

SAP & Google

The SAP C-suite used this event to showcase new work with Google. The two companies have expanded their partnership, focusing their combined resources to better predict and mitigate supply chain risks.

To help businesses more easily understand the impact of marketing campaigns on product sales, the companies are integrating generative AI assistant Joule and SAP Integrated Business Planning for Supply Chain with Google’s Gemini AI assistant and Google Cloud Cortex Framework’s Data Foundation based on BigQuery.

“This integration will increase forecast accuracy and allow supply chain business users to react faster to demand signals that were previously hard to capture,” stated SAP. “The new partnership also makes it easier to predict and react to potential supply chain disruptions. SAP Integrated Planning for Supply Chain now includes AI-driven alerts about potential disruptions retrieved via Google Cloud Vertex AI. The solution also integrates additional contextual data, such as weather and search trends from Cortex Framework, which can provide an early warning about potential disruptions. With these new capabilities, SAP Integrated Planning for Supply Chain will be able to generate alternative scenarios and re-plan entire supply chains to offset disruption risks.”


SAP also made note of its work this year which has seen it update its global AI ethics policy by adopting the 10 guiding principles of the UNESCO Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence. SAP’s policy was first published in 2018. It governs the company’s use and sale of AI, ensuring that customers remain aligned with global AI principles while SAP Business AI delivers fully on its promise of relevance, reliability and responsibility.

Extended end sections of this event’s keynote covered areas including spend management, the need to achieve to a unified view of data across all systems and the need to build AI-powered features across the full spectrum of SAP stack technologies.

Pushing the conversation wider as the keynote wrapped up, SAP’s Julia White noted how far the company is now looking to roll out generative AI across its platform. SAP CEO Christian Klein wrapped up by asking attendees to now ‘get inspired by how Business AI can make an impact inside companies’ and invited the audience to explore the show floor to get hands-on experiences looking at many of the SAP technologies detailed here.




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