SAP TechEd Madrid: SAP chiefs urge businesses to go digital

SAP is urging businesses to rethink core business values to become more consumer-centric using mobile, social, cloud and BI

SAP is urging businesses to rethink core business values to become more consumer-centric using mobile, social, cloud and business intelligence (BI).

Addressing delegates via a video link at the opening of SAP TechEd Madrid, Bill McDermott, co-CEO of SAP, said: “There will be another two billion consumers by 2030, and they want to purchase in the digital world.”

He said in today's economy the consumer was in charge. Mirroring the Gartner Symposium in Barcelona at the start of November, McDermott described a nexus of forces – cloud computing, social computing, big data and mobile technology.

Its in-memory Hana database appliance is where SAP sees big data heading. In fact, SAP is moving Hana beyond an accelerator for data warehouse applications to an appliance for speeding up transactional systems.

During the keynote, McDermott announced a new transactional system – SAP Customer 360, powered by Hana. 

SAP 360 Customer aims to provide real-time analytics, allowing a business to turn insight into action and engage with customers one-to-one in context, he said. The new application uses Hana to accelerate transaction processing, which he said leads to faster response times.

Fashion retailer Burberry, for instance, is using Hana to look at customer buying habits, and is providing sales staff with access to big data analytics via mobile devices to help them personalise fashion advice to customers.

In terms of its cloud strategy, McDermott said SAP was focused on the cloud. "Everything we engineer is cloud-enabled. We have 17 million users of SAP software in the cloud,” he said.

SAP's cloud strategy was given a major boost following the acquisition of the SuccessFactors cloud-based human resources application.The recently acquired Ariba business network is also part of SAP's cloud story. 

During the opening session at the TechEd conference, SAP explained how heavy machinery firm Caterpillar had linked its SAP system to the Ariba business network, reducing the cost of handling paper invoices by 70% and so improved the accounts payable business process.

Our vision is to educate 100,000 young people around the world, and we will start here in Spain

Jim Hagermann Snabe, co-CEO, SAP

Economic uncertainty

In the opening keynote, Jim Hagermann Snabe, co-CEO at SAP, discussed the worrying economic trend and how businesses needed to “defy gravity”. 

“Uncertainty is the new normal. In Europe we need strong leadership, not just in politics, but also in businesses,” he said. "The biggest challenge is unemployment in Europe. It is unacceptable to have 50% youth unemployment in Spain.”

SAP launched an e-learning platform, which Hagermann Snabe said would be used to educate young unemployed people. “Our vision is to educate 100,000 young people around the world, and we will start here in Spain.”

Hagermann Snabe also urged businesses to rethink their core values, to make them consumer-centric. He discussed how the music industry has undergone a revolution thanks to the MP3 music format Napster (which revolutionised music distribution) and the iPod.

This is not limited to digital products, he said. “The fashion industry used to have a cumbersome process to design, produce, market, distribute and sell the latest collection. Now there is a focus on the individual customer.” 

The fashion companies design and market their brands, and outsource the other business processes. There are also apps, analogous to Spotify, that allow consumers to share fashion tips. He showed a demo of an app in China called Runway that allows people to share their virtual wardrobe with friends, in a similar way to how Spotify allows people to share playlists to discover new music.

The consumer-centric view can also be applied in healthcare. Hagermann Snabe said SAP has collaborated with healthcare software provider MolecularHealth on a decision support system that analyses a patient's DNA against medical databases to select the right drug for the patient.

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