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Top 5 Takeaways from SAP TechEd 2016

teched takeaways 2016 blog cio

For the 20th anniversary of TechEd, SAP put the party in Vegas! The Venetian-Palazzo Congress Center again served as the venue and this year’s event seemed more technically focused and less “big room, keynote session” filled, but no less content packed.

Irfan Kahn, CTO SAP said in opening remarks, “The world has changed substantially. Every aspect of our environment is changing.” A key focus of the event would be, “How can you get Faster, Simpler, Smarter in the context of your digital journey?”  SAP would look to answer the question over the next four days.

SAP goes mainstream with the SAP S/4HANA platform.  Certainly, SAP was trying to prove this to us with customer presentations.  Lenovo spoke first. With 55,000 employees and the largest SAP HANA installation in Asia, they talked about $50M in transaction cost savings, 45x faster reporting, and two weeks of supply chain planning done in less than 10 minutes. Epsilon, a consumer data provider, talked about their next gen data warehouse and providing huge amounts of data in real time. Noble Corp., the energy firm, described their success with BW/4HANA in a POC. “One of the things we understood from the beginning was we had to completely rethink the way we do things…To simplify was the best way.” Now their inventory process ran in about 1 second for the whole fleet, where one rig’s inventory calculation used to take 35 seconds. ConAgra Foods wrapped up the session explaining their move to BW on HANA. All of this was quite credible in explaining the potential, but clearly it’s still early days in terms of universal customer adoption of SAP’s new platform.

SAP wants customers to stay in their galaxy. But what about the rest of the universe? "SAP now has the most comprehensive, high scale portfolio of enterprise cloud solutions in the market. From core operational systems such as S/4 to HR with SuccessFactors, CRM with Cloud for Customer, Procurement with Ariba and Expenses with Concur – SAP is truly delivering end-to-end in the cloud." While that’s true, for large enterprises there will continue to be a very mixed landscape for years to come -- SAP family and non-SAP, on-premise and cloud, custom systems and packaged applications. It won’t be getting simpler.

SAP Fiori 2.0 will be the new face of SAP software. SAP aims to improve the user experience for solutions such as SAP Business Suite 4 SAP HANA (SAP S/4HANA), the SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central solution, Ariba mobile and the SAP Cloud for Customer. We heard, "The design concept for SAP Fiori 2.0 aims to deliver a series of innovative new features such as improved contextual interaction, enhanced relational navigation for complex settings, action-oriented personal notifications, real-time collaboration in an enhanced transactional model and improved productivity tools. Traditional business applications operated on a “pull” concept. SAP Fiori 2.0 innovates with a “push” model, anticipating tasks based on an employee’s role, and also bringing in real-time data from other systems across devices tailored to each situation."

SAP customers look to automation to keep their heads above water! The last 12 months have seen a sea change when it comes to automation interest, and we saw that at TechEd as well. As SAP customers ramp up HANA projects, and more and more shift to SAP’s recently acquired enterprise apps, automation is increasingly seen as a life raft for overwhelmed project staff. Worksoft’s theater sessions “How do you test 500 SAP business processes in 2 hours?” and “Map Every Actual SAP Business Process in Your Company? It’s Possible” generated standing-room-only crowds, and more than 750 people visited with Worksoft at the booth! The question is how come?

Automation becomes the standard approach. What we heard from IT staff is that automation trumps manual effort these days when it comes to QA for new technology projects.  Manual testing has become old-school, and if you’re doing it for more than 10% of your business process testing, there had better be a good reason. In other words, automation is now the standard, and manual testing is the exception. It’s a flip-flop in expectations that has occurred in the last 12 months. That explains the groundswell of interest.

I expect the same will happen for business process discovery in SAP environments. If you’re looking to streamline or re-engineer processes, how do you find out what’s really happening today across your enterprise? Today, the answer for most firms is still manual interviews. 

But as Mary McLemore from Noble said regarding their HANA deployments, “We had to completely re-think the way we do things.” To do that, you need to understand your starting point and grasp today’s “as-is” business processes enterprise-wide. No small task. Manual, piecemeal interviews are no longer the answer.  Who’s got the time and patience for that, anyway? Automation to the rescue. Again. This time for process discovery and process mining to help companies reach a completeness in understanding that’s never before been possible.

We could talk more about IOT, mobile, and security, which were also big themes, but there you have our top five. See you in Vegas next year!

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