This is my personal summary of the Day 2 Customer Success Keynote at the 2023 SAP Sapphire Customer Conference in Orlando, Florida. A replay is available on the Virtual Sapphire Platform.
Day two opened with SAP’s Customer Success leader Scott Russell and a story about bumping into an old friend, who remarked how hard it is for companies to actually change, to take full advantage of the latest technologies. This illustrates an essential truth: leaders in organizations aren’t interested in technology per se—they’re interested in learning how organizations like themselves have been able to make use of the technology to transform their businesses. And so that was the theme of Day 2: five real-world examples of companies showcasing how they became future-proof with some help from SAP — and of course, it’s my own personal favorite topic! See the SAP Innovation Awards and the SAP Better Together series of customer interviews for more great real-world innovation examples!
A Company Based on Awe and Inspiration
First, Nickole Tara, Chief Growth Officer at Cirque du Soleil, spoke about the evolution of the company since its inception almost 40 years ago in 1984. With 32 shows worldwide and approximately 5,000 employees, Cirque du Soleil is a major force in the entertainment industry, despite its challenges. The company was on track for a record-breaking revenue year in 2020, but was suddenly shut down due to the pandemic, reducing its workforce drastically within two weeks. This crisis led to a change in leadership and a reimagining of the company’s direction.
In an effort to grow and adapt for the future, the company decided to “blow it up” and start anew. They set out to better understand their global fanbase, reaching out to people in 20 different countries. The feedback was powerful, indicating that the audience perceived Cirque du Soleil as a leader in the performing arts and expected it to innovate. This led to three main shifts in the company’s approach.
Firstly, they decided to create more immersive and awe-inspiring experiences, employing cutting-edge technology. 45% of the audience surveyed said they would drive more than two hours to engage in these experiences. They plan to launch a business focusing on this in 2024, with more details to be shared soon.
Secondly, they want to forge a stronger connection with their audience beyond the stage. This includes developing a digital platform that encapsulates the energy and ethos of Cirque du Soleil. More information on this initiative will be revealed next week.
Thirdly, they aim to have a deeper impact on the community and the planet, and better communicate their efforts in these areas to their audience. Despite having made positive contributions for 40 years, they feel the need to tell these stories more effectively and emphasize their commitment to social impact and purpose.
As they work on “future-proofing” the company, they also have to consider the transformation of their physical architecture. Throughout these challenging times, they express gratitude to SAP, who stood by them by providing their products free of charge until Cirque du Soleil was back on its feet.
A Brand “Champion”!
Next, Subra Coparaju, the Chief Information Officer (CIO) of Hanes Brands. Based in North Carolina, Hanes Brands boasts a global reach with 51,000 employees across 32 countries. They manage renowned apparel brands such as Hanes and Champion.
The company is currently implementing a strategy named “Full Potential.” The objective is straightforward: to increase revenue and margins and foster the company’s growth. This strategy is grounded in a comprehensive technology transformation.
The primary reason for this change is simplification. The company aims to consolidate its five ERP platforms and standardize business processes. In addition, the brands under Hanes are seeking new capabilities, such as omni-commerce, to remain competitive and innovative.
Hanes Brands has a longstanding partnership with SAP, a relationship that has been integral to their transformation journey. As they strive to become a data-driven enterprise, Hanes has identified key requirements, including a digital foundation, advanced analytics, end-to-end planning, and a resilient supply chain network. SAP has enabled many of these capabilities.
Coparaju mentioned several tools and strategies they have utilized in partnership with SAP. For instance, Hanes has leveraged RISE with SAP to enable enterprise data management and advanced analytics. They have built a system using SAP Master Data Governance (MDG) and Information Steward, ensuring data integrity across the organization. Tools like Datasphere and the SAP Customer Activity Repository have been critical enablers for omnichannel inventory visibility, which is essential for enhancing consumer experiences.They’ve also developed a global integration platform on SAP Business Technology Platform (BTP) for seamless application and data integration.
Coparaju expressed excitement about the value these global platforms will unlock, emphasizing their potential to significantly aid Hanes Brands in its growth and transformation journey.
The Company That Put The Silicon in Silicon Valley
Next, Christoph Schell, the Chief Commercial Officer at Intel, took the stage to discuss the company’s plans and partnerships. As a market leader in the technology industry, Intel is synonymous with groundbreaking chip technology.
Intel has a longstanding relationship with SAP and recently made the strategic decision to leverage “RISE with SAP” and transition to the S/4HANA platform. Known for putting the ‘silicon’ in ‘Silicon Valley’, Intel not only manufactures its own wafers in its fabrication facilities, or ‘FABs’, but has also decided to open these facilities to external customers. This move allows customers to design their own chips, reflecting Intel’s belief in the essential role of its technology in an increasingly geopolitical landscape. Where oil was the key resource in the past, the location of semiconductor facilities will be of pivotal importance in the next 50 years.
Intel chose SAP as its partner due to their attentive and responsive approach. It was crucial to separate the FAB operations from the business operations to provide transparency to customers, manage various types of relationships, and accurately allocate costs. Intel is in the midst of this transformation, with SAP playing a central role.
Intel and SAP also share a partnership in serving their customers. What stands out is the depth of engineering talent in both companies, working collaboratively on projects. Their latest endeavor is the 4th generation Xeon processor. Many SAP customers run their systems on Intel Silicon, so both companies are working to improve Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) – aiming for up to 30% energy improvement and better performance. Additionally, they are focusing on securing workloads and ensuring foolproof operations, even as standards evolve in response to emerging technologies like quantum computing.
The Transformer Transforms
Ramesh Razdan, Global CTO/CIO at Bain & Company, appeared next in a prerecorded video. Bain & Company, known for guiding organizations towards successful business transformations recognized the need for its own transformation. To support their rapid growth after numerous acquisitions, they realized they needed a new ERP platform.
After evaluating various options in the market, they decided on SAP S/4HANA Public Edition to aid their expansion. Currently, they’re in the midst of their transformation journey, confident that they’ve chosen the correct path. By eliminating manual processes, they’re freeing up more time to assist their customers. They’re also excited about their new platform’s potential to facilitate transitions to innovative commercial models.
A Supersonic SAP Implementation!
The final customer to take the spotlight was the pre-launch Boom Supersonic. As Charles Valentine, CIO of Boom Supersonic, explained, the company is set to revolutionize travel with their focus on speed, time-efficiency, and accessibility. Their proposed airliner, the world’s fastest, aims to optimize speed, safety, and sustainability. Offering super-fast travel, such as New York to London in just three hours, Boom Supersonic is a name you’ll soon recognize.
Initially, Valentine was skeptical about partnering with SAP. He saw it as a solution for larger, established companies, and didn’t believe Boom Supersonic was quite ready. However, the company’s financial controller stressed the necessity of proficiency in SAP to effectively manage a manufacturing execution system (MES) for jet production. They needed to be well-versed in it before reaching the production phase. This led them to consider “RISE with SAP,” which offered scalability to match their growth and comprehensive packages as per their needs.
Charles emphasized the tenets that had helped guide their implementation:
- Firstly, they minimized integrations unless absolutely necessary, as SAP solutions are built on best practices. They only implemented changes that provided a tangible competitive edge.
- Secondly, they implemented in phases, reducing scope for each phase and concentrating on their priorities at each stage.
- Lastly, their focus remained on operational efficiencies, with process improvement as the top priority.
They achieved a “supersonic” implementation, going live in just 90 days, and recently celebrated their first anniversary of going live. This was possible due to SAP’s assistance and their solution integrator’s support. Valentine noted that while many of his peers have had challenging experiences, they found a better way with SAP, even as a company just starting out. He expressed anticipation for the successful implementation of their MES and looks forward to sharing their progress.
Becoming Future-Proof With SAP
Scott finished off with the top three things he hears from customers:
- Every company wants to do the business transformation at speed.
- They need innovation that is easy to use, that they can use to expand their business.
- Want to work with partners that they trust.
“At SAP we have to earn the trust every day, at every customer, and every location… We know that the kinds of stories we heard today don’t just happen… Every journey is different, but the destination with SAP is secure. Trust us. We are excited to help you become future-proof.”
Finally, I have to share Scott wearing a Cirque du Soleil-provided clown nose, in the SAP Sapphire colors 🙂