Soccer team in a huddle

How SAP’s Björn Goerke Became “The Martian”

November 12, 2015 by Derek Klobucher 242

The best received keynote in recent SAP TechEd memory started with moon landing chatter, satellite photos of Mars and wistful science fiction references.

SAP’s Björn Goerke spent the entire hour of his witty and entertaining address alone onstage building an app from scratch — and he did so as the character Mark Watney from The Martian.

“I love science fiction,” Goerke said Wednesday morning at SAP TechEd (#SAPtd) in Barcelona. “It teaches us how to apply technology to achieve things that had been considered impossible before … pretty much like SAP addresses the topic of digital transformation.”

This year’s sci-fi adventure The Martian is the tale of Watney (Matt Damon), a lone astronaut trying to survive for years on Mars after a massive storm on the planet’s surface forces his expedition to flee. Watney must cobble together a means to contact Earth and let NASA know he’s still alive.

We Are Not Alone

“Doesn’t it feel sometimes to you like, with all this new stuff going on, they left you isolated back there in your IT department?” said Goerke, head of SAP products and innovation technology. “We’ve seen that in this storm of digitization; you can either sit and wait and expect to be wiped out by your competition — or you can get to work.”

Goerke’s version of Watney got to work onstage by commandeering a remote-controlled rover. He spent the rest of the keynote finding ways to enhance his survivability alone on Mars. He used SAP ERP, S/4HANA, Web IDE and many other solutions to:

  • Access the rover’s data
  • Visualize all of his data
  • Create a useful dashboard
  • Secure his real-time analytics
  • Forecast future weather problems
  • Predict mechanical failures
  • Diagnose — and fix — a broken IoT sensor
  • Communicate with Earth

And, again, Goerke did this all by himself. On stage. In less than an hour.

“All you need to do is to ‘science the sh*t of it,’” Goerke said, quoting The Martian’s stranded astronaut. Of course, it helps to have powerful technology on your side.

A Giant Leap

Just as SAP’s Steve Lucas did in his SAP TechEd keynote the previous morning, Goerke extolled the virtues of SAP HANA Cloud Platform. The agile IT solution lets users quickly extend the reach and the scope of core processes via mobile solutions, IoT sensor data, predictive analytics, 3D visualizations and much more.

“I believe that for us, as developers and IT specialists, it’s a great time,” Goerke said. “We’re more relevant than ever — we’re more needed than ever.”

But technologists, engineers and developers must stay up-to-speed on cutting-edge technologies, Goerke continued. That means exceling in their domains, building creative solutions for end users, and — just as science fiction inspires — pushing the boundaries of what others think is possible.

“So I want you to use the remainder of TechEd to educate yourself, collaborate and network with your fellow geeks,” Goerke said in closing. Channeling Neil Armstrong on Apollo 11, Goerke added, “it may be one small step for you, but it could mean a giant leap for your business.”

Incidentally, this is the second time I’ve gotten to pair Goerke and Damon in SAP TechEd blog posts and videos. Click here for the first, and watch below for the second:

This story originally appeared on SAP Business Trends.

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