Exploring SAP Innovation and Technologies at the SAUG Summit Online 2021


The four-day digital conference of the SAUG Summit Online 2021 held from August 30 to September 2 wrapped up with an excellent lineup of presentations and high-impact sessions about the latest SAP innovation and technologies.

This year’s SAUG Summit Online Speaker Series featured three engaging presentations packed with the most valuable insights, running for — a short but sharp — one hour per day. The event has included live polls after each session and allowed attendees to send queries through a questions tab, enabling them to connect with the presenters and other delegates.

InsideSAP, the official media partner of the conference held by the SAP Australian User Group (SAUG), grabbed the opportunity to join SAP customers, partners, and other industry experts in an interactive, all-digital environment. 

SAUG Summit Day 3 — INNOVATE

Starting off Day 3 of the summit was a stimulating Thought Leader Keynote Interview between SAUG CEO Jason Hincks and David Roberts, National Vice President of Business Architecture at SAP (US). Roberts discussed how working for Under Armour, a global sporting goods manufacturer, has shaped his experience in building an organisational innovation culture. Delving into the key strategies for customer engagement, he said that it is not merely focused on making great products for people. He continued:

“You also have to have the ability to manage the data so that you can connect and engage with customers and consumers in a way that you would if you were having a face-to-face conversation with them in this highly virtualised world.”

Expounding on the major trends in organisations’ transformation journeys today, Roberts stressed that it should not be just about technology. He added that analysing business processes plays a crucial role as well. Roberts believes that transformation means looking at things across the entire value chain, which includes moving products through distributed networks, building and managing demand for it, executing on the sale, and running all back-office operations such as finance, accounting, and HR.

“When I see innovation today, it really is a focus more on the business process and then allows itself to cascade through, down to the technology,” he emphasised.

Furthermore, Hincks noted that SAP CEO Christian Klein and SAP ANZ President and Managing Director Damien Bueno have spoken a lot about the idea of creating a culture of innovation. For Roberts, SAP is “doing a great job” in achieving this by hiring a diverse set of innovative people, communicating the company’s goals at the board level to its employees regularly, and taking into consideration the importance of Special Interest Groups (SIGs) in the SAP ecosystem.

“I’ve always felt that an organisation like ours, a user group, is pretty uniquely placed to understand the needs of the user across products like SAP,” Hincks shared.

Putting a Spotlight on the Latest SAP Innovation and Technologies

Meanwhile, Snehanshu Shah, Managing Director of SAP Solution Engineering at Google Cloud, ran us through the close partnership of Alphabet and Google Cloud with SAP. In an Expert Keynote Presentation, he provided insights into how the two tech companies are pushing the boundaries of what is possible for SAP customers. Highlighting that innovation is at the core of Google and SAP’s relationship, as well as helping customers facilitate better planning and gain new insights, he detailed:

“Some of this is by taking very powerful technologies that SAP has like SAP Analytics Cloud or SAP Data Warehouse Cloud, and bringing together Google technologies such as BigQuery and other Vertex artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities.”

During the session, Shah also talked about the moving of Alphabet and Google’s core financial systems from Oracle to SAP. As part of the complete migration to SAP’s real-time system, it has successfully transferred over 870 million records and eliminated more than 100 boundary conditions.

“So we were looking for something world-class that would provide us with different industry templates and what better solution to use than SAP,” he stressed.

Aside from the two-year implementation, Google also partnered with Accenture and Deloitte to foster SAP innovation. Additionally, the company looked at how to do real-time integration with SAP, along with its analytics solutions. Citing the case of PayPal that leveraged SAP S/4HANA for Financial Products Subledger (SAP FPSL) delivered on Google Cloud to process transactions at scale with high performance for large data volumes, Shah shared:

“That’s the beauty of S/4, they have all that data to be able to do real-time analytics. So one of the innovation projects last year with SAP was to create a scale-out environment for S/4HANA so that PayPal could basically grow their S/4 footprint today.”

Moreover, Shah said that Google has created the Cloud Acceleration Program for SAP to help reduce the complexity of SAP migrations to the cloud and accelerate upgrades to SAP S/4HANA. 

The final presentation for Day 3 of the summit was a Panel Discussion touching on the subject of developing a strategy and culture of innovation with an organisation. It is joined by previous presenters SAP’s David Roberts and Google Cloud’s Shah, as well as Sunjoo Kim, Digital Strategist and Innovation Advisor at Transport for NSW, and Dr Nicholas Nicoloudis, Senior Director of Innovation Technology and Strategy, APJ Innovation Office at SAP ANZ.

Regarding the importance of user experience, Kim believes that it’s all about people and human-centered design mindsets, as well as creating the right experience using technology. In Australia, more customers are leveraging technology to improve their business operations, according to Nicoloudis. He said that they are looking at automating processes such as accounts receivables rather than having to manually go through invoices. Instead of going through these labour-intensive tasks, he explained:

“We can use technology such as document information extraction and robotic process automation (RPA) to kind of capture that information and quickly enter it to SAP for us.”

SAUG Summit Day 4 — OPTIMISE

The fourth and final day of the SAUG Summit Online 2021 kicked off with a Customer Keynote Presentation by Travis Smith, SAP Domain Architect at SA Power Networks, on how the organisation modernised its billing and CRM systems with SAP S/4HANA for Utilities, SAP Sales Cloud, and SAP Service Cloud. The session gave insights into SAP Power Networks’ transition to a modern self-managed meter-to-cash solution and the shift to predictive and advanced analytics.

Smith explained that S/4HANA for Utilities was deployed as its core billing solution into Microsoft Azure, giving the organisation a cloud-based architecture that is scalable and resilient to meet the ongoing growth demand of the system. Additionally, the solution has facilitated inbound and outbound transactions to the market.

According to Smith, the metadata within the network billing system allowed the company to seamlessly integrate and optimise the meter-to-cash processes, further improving operational visibility. SA Power Networks has shifted from a previous “rear view” type of reporting to real-time capabilities by leveraging embedded analytics.

“The project was a huge success for us. One that was delivered on time and on budget and with an incredibly smooth landing from an operational perspective,” Smith stated.

Moreover, Smith commended Microsoft and SAP for their involvement — all the way back from explore to deploy — and doing multiple quality assurance reviews for the project. This has allowed the company to find issues early on and address them with the most appropriate solution.

Fostering Innovation Across Various Industries

For the Expert Keynote Presentation, Jim Dugger, Senior Technology Evangelist at Basis Technologies, provided insights into how organisations can utilise the latest DevOps methodologies for better SAP project delivery. In the session, Dugger highlighted the fundamentals of DevOps practices and demonstrated how an automated DevOps workflow looks in a typical SAP landscape.

“One of the challenges is that SAP is a relatively closed system. It has an architecture that was really designed traditionally around a waterfall style release model and it doesn’t have the kinds of capabilities to be particularly agile,” he explained.

According to Dugger, this architecture has led to a requirement for entirely different kinds of tools and technologies to tackle the said challenges. He noted that DevOps tooling aims to give organisations the option to recourse and have the ability to back out changes and revert production to a previous state.

The last leg of the digital conference ended with a Thought Leadership Panel Discussion with SAP ANZ’s Jonathan Fogarty, SA Power Networks’ Judith Caball and Travis Smith, Alicja Mosbauer, SAP Analytics Cloud Consultant at TasNetworks, as well as Dugger from Basis Technologies.

Caball went on to share that the major objective of SA Power Networks’ CX strategy was to become more customer-centric and that its CRM platform played a key role in enabling that initiative. On the other hand, Mosbauer said that for TasNetworks, fostering innovation means enabling people across the organisation to have better access to data, allow them to be confident in that source of truth, and build out their own views on the business.

Fogarty noted that an increasing number of organisations are now looking at data as a valuable asset and are improving the way they utilise analytics. In terms of innovation, Dugger believes that the progression in this aspect was due to the unusual circumstances the world has faced over the past years. He continued:

“But time to market has never been something that we ignored as professionals. So we have to be able to deliver change. Quality is something that we’ve never ignored.” 

Finally, Caball finished off the last session of the SAUG Summit Online 2021 with a very interesting message for the summit attendees:

‘Things are just changing constantly, especially with cloud products in the SAP landscape. Quarterly upgrades, it’s killing us. But you know, we need to move fast, think big, and start small.”

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