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Sapphire 2021: Unlocking an intelligent business community

Supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic enabled SAP to rethink business networks. Now its strategy is to reduce friction so businesses can work together as a community.

SAP has gone through massive transformations over the last several years, so I was particularly excited for the Sapphire 2021 conference. The online keynote, led by CEO Christian Klein, spoke of the pandemic and its impact on businesses and communities. COVID-19 has impacted the way we work, the way we learn, the way we interact and the way we consume information. Global communities have been forced to transform and technology has been the foundational component that has held communities and businesses together.

Market leaders are embracing data and collaboration. They are embracing AI and migrating to the cloud. But even those organizations that have become more digital, more agile and more reliant on data are forced to manage complex relationships between suppliers, buyers and manufacturers. No matter how intelligent an enterprise is today, no business does business alone.

Having a front row seat to the global supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic has enabled SAP to rethink the networks of massive businesses that rely on each other to make the world function. As SAP continues to work with customers that have been forced to reimagine their business models, create new customer experiences and enable remote work, the ideas of community and resiliency have been at the forefront of many conversations. Why not bring the idea of a community, working together toward a common goal and achieving a greater good to the business?

For years, SAP has served as the underlying connective tissue of business across global supply chains. And SAP's strategy going forward is to reduce the friction between those businesses so they can collectively work together as a community. The idea is that when businesses turn into communities, collective value can be achieved by all of the community members. That means the entire supply chain can experience real-time transparency across a collaborative supply chain and better respond to the needs of the business in real time through a connected network.

Sustainability woven into the fabric of business

Another dimension of a community is sustainability. SAP rightfully tugged on this string throughout the keynote, with the idea that sustainability should be built into the fabric of how we do business. That means zero emissions, zero waste and zero inequality should be focal points of businesses moving forward, just as they should be in global communities. Technologies within the SAP portfolio can enable higher levels of sustainability across the supply chain and will provide reporting on all sustainability metrics put forth by the World Economic Forum to help establish them as the global standard. The concept of inequality is also part of the sustainability portfolio, so SAP is looking to help build business networks that champion diversity, inclusion and human rights.

But what's a keynote without announcements? This year's releases focused on software that can enable transformation into a more intelligent enterprise. Two announcements that stood out to me were about SAP Upscale Commerce and SAP SuccessFactors.

SAP Upscale Commerce is a product relaunch focusing on creating an omnichannel shopping experience in minutes. It is a no-code platform with built-in AI to deliver a 360-degree customer view that incorporates everything from social sentiment to purchase data that can be delivered to retailers. And it integrates with SAP S/4HANA ERP to help deliver a seamless customer experience that includes back-end integration of finance, logistics and fulfilment systems.

New integration between SAP Analytics Cloud and SAP SuccessFactors helps a business link operational, financial and employee data to gain better insight and understanding into the workforce. By delivering operational analytics and planning in association with employees, organizations can better understand what is working and what needs improvement so they can act immediately to better chart employee and workforce success.

The high-level message from SAP about collective businesses working as communities resonated extremely well. Based on the experiences over the last year and half, everything Klein said just made sense. It spoke to the continued need to work together in a collaborative and intelligent way for the greater good. And in this case, the greater good is everyone within a community: your business, other businesses you work with and your customers.

About the author: Mike Leone is senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), a division of TechTarget. He leads ESG's coverage of data platforms, analytics and AI.

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