SAP Festival Geneva: A Deluge of Digital Business And Technical Value

It was the annual SAP Festival event last week in Geneva. There were separate days and agendas for HR, Supply Chain, and Finance professionals, and I presented the keynote for the Innovation Day part of the event, focused on the trends and technology behind digital business.

Attendees were welcomed — en français, naturellement — by event host Denise Marchi and the sales manager for Suisse romande, Greg Strasser.

My presentation covered the challenges and opportunities of Digital Business, and how SAP can help with the new SAP Leonardo Digital Innovation System.

Along with other great examples like Stara and Mohawk Industries, I was able to showcase the local Cargo Sous Terrain project. It’s a wonderful example of completely rethinking problems and solutions using the latest technology.

In this case, Cargo Sous Terre intends to replace up to 40% of truck deliveries with a network of underground tunnels and autonomous vehicles. It sounds like science fiction, but the project has blue-chip investors and a solid business case. Using internet of things technology from SAP Leonardo, the first stretch four-city stretch of tunnels are due to go into operation as early as 2030.

The rest of the day went into the details of the technology behind the business opportunities, with separate tracks for companies interested in implementing the next-generation S/4HANA ERP platform, and for the SAP Cloud and Analytics portfolios.

Stefan Batzdorf gave an excellent overview of the latest developments with S/4HANA, including the integration of SAP Leonardo Machine Learning to create smart enterprise applications such as automated payment and invoice matching for finance, predictive maintenance for the supply chain team, and many more.

Stefan also showed off SAP CoPilot, the new machine-learning-driven enterprise equivalent to Alexa, Siri, or Cortana.

You can download the presentation here.

Next Tjarko von Lehsten, Senior BI Manager for Swisscom, presented his organization’s OneBI project, designed to deliver business-driven, self-service access to data, using the latest BW4HANA platform.

Swisscom has over 24,000 users on the system, and the database is now a quarter of the size it used to be thanks to SAP HANA in-memory compression. Because of the simplified architecture, the new system provide more functionality with 25% fewer data models. OneBI provides near-real-time data from over 40 different systems (only 6 are SAP).

The improved performance has enabled the creation of more complex and powerful dashboards, and the more flexible architecture means more of the development efforts can be carried out directly by the business.

The new front-end tools enable the business to do self-service analytics and create their own queries and dashboards. Complex data transformations have been moved into SAP HANA, reducing data loads and enabling real-time ETL processes, for both relational and big data workloads.

The result? The datawarehouse is now considered “a critical operational system” at Swisscom, according to von Lehsten.

BI governance was a critical part of the project. The team created detailed guideline documents for every aspect of the system. All the defined standards, checklists, etc. were put into a shared wiki and now any Swisscom employee can go and see what’s in the data warehouse, how the KPIs were defined, and how the data was prepared.

The BI governance system so impressed DSAG (the German SAP User Group), that they are now adopting it as one of their best practice approach. You can download Swisscom’s presentation’s here and you can listen to Tjarko von Lehsten summarize his project here.

Next, Karsten Haldenwang covered the latest news in SAP’s approach to modern data platforms, including the brand new SAP Data Hub, designed to refine enterprise big data. It allows organizations to create, reuse, and manage “data pipelines” across many different enterprise systems.

For example, a large drinks company used SAP Data Hub to integrate social media monitoring with their core data warehouse. SAP Data Hub was used to manage the process of collecting data from many different social data sources, load it into HDFS, and then analyze it with SAP Vora and SAP HANA.

For more details on the new SAP data hub and other Big Data developments, you can download Karsten’s presentation here.

Next Gerald Lewin and Rickard Antblad presented their work implementing S/4HANA at Bacardi, the largest family-owned Swiss company. The company produces many well-known brands such as Bombay Sapphire, Martini, Grey Goose, and Dewar’s.

Gerald Lewin talked about the importance of technology for companies like Bacardi today — and how hard it can be to keep up with the latest trends while maintaining current platforms.

He then reviewed their pragmatic roadmap for implementing S/4HANA, delivered as modular projects, delivered in phases over the next few years.

Bacardi believes that S/4HANA is a big opportunity for the company, allowing them to simply, consolidate, harmonize, and standardize data across their complex system landscape.

Then Rickard Antblad explained how the company used the SAP Cloud Platform for agile, iterative development, creating an easy-to-use, mobile-focused “InnovApp” for product managers throughout the company.

They had more questions from the audience than other presenters — maybe because they were giving away free bottles of their products to any attendee brave enough to ask!

In the afternoon, there was a great session by Laurent Rieu and Christian Michel covering all the different services available through the SAP Cloud Platform.

Customers are using these to create new business models, linking companies in new ways. For example, Post NL uses the SAP Cloud Platform to provide delivery and other data out to customers, and precision-tool maker Mapal is using the SAP Cloud Platform (and the Apple/SAP SDK for native iOS apps) to create c-Com, a platform to share information across the industry.

They also use SAP Analytics Cloud to analyze data for customers — see more in the video below!

In the evening, I hosted an an CIO discussion with representatives of local companies Rolex, Bacardi, LDC, and Mercuria Energy Training. We discussed what Digital Transformation meant in the context of their organizations, who was responsible for leading change, and what more SAP could do to help.

The CIOs also asked for more assistance in promoting the “new SAP” within their organizations, who tended to still associated it with back-end systems, rather than digital business.

And one of the biggest takeaways for me was that more work needs to be done to spread the innovation message across the SAP ecosystem — the attendees mentioned that while they were very excited about new opportunities, many employees and partners seemed be less keen to promote the new ways of working.

The day ended with an exclusive concert from Swiss superstar singer Bastian Baker. He did a great job, with actress girlfriend Naomi Harris (aka Ms Moneypenny in Spectre) discretely looking on.

Overall, it was an value-packed, information-rich event. If you’re based in Suisse romande, I thoroughly recommend you try to attend next year!

And, of course, Geneva was beautiful!