On May 16 and 17, I attended the 2023 SAP Sapphire conference virtually. Held in person in Orlando, the conference and analyst sessions were very focused on two strategic areas of focus for SAP: artificial intelligence (AI) and SAP’s Green Ledger, which allows organizations to account for ESG (environmental, social, and governance) goals through increasingly standardized methods. SAP discussed three recent partnerships with IBM, Google, and Microsoft that will deepen their partner ecosystem in very interesting ways. Another area of focus was the increasing breadth and interconnectedness of SAP’s cloud offerings, with the core being its ERP offerings, but increasingly augmented by other products and SAP’s cloud implementation offerings.
From an AI perspective, SAP was excited to talk about its AI heritage and advances, as every software vendor is in 2023. SAP has been advancing the strategy of surfacing AI through business functionality for years but has recently upped its game by partnering with Microsoft, to embed the Microsoft CoPilot functionality within SAP SuccessFactors, and IBM, where SAP will use IBM Watson capabilities to power its digital assistant in SAP Start.
An extended partnership with Google will provide SAP customers with a method (via SAP Datasphere) to perform large-scale and broad data analysis on the Google Cloud Platform (GCP) by building a bridge between the Google-housed SAP BTP and SAP HANA Cloud environments and Google’s BigQuery toolset. This will allow analysis of SAP data, with metadata context, in BigQuery without exporting the data from the SAP environment. It will also allow analysis of SAP and non-SAP data in a single environment, which is very heavy lift in the current architecture. By building the integration for customers, SAP and Google are providing a high-volume, pre-created data fabric capability on the GCP platform.
A really interesting discussion with multiple executives was the announcement of SAP Green Ledger, which will enable organizations to account for their carbon footprint through the ERP, similarly to how they account for dollars or inventory. With the extended network of SAP customers in a particular supply chain and sales network, SAP envisions increasingly complete and accurate carbon accounting through this effort. It was clear from the discussion that SAP sees this as a business and a moral imperative. As SAP continues its reinvention as a cloud company, its investments in innovating the adoption process are sound, partnering with leading AI and data companies to building an ecosystem that is much more modern than the company’s on-premises legacy. The question now is, when will SAP look to US higher education as a growth industry for its products?
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