Business networks ensure competitive advantages through IT

SAP TechEd 2008 Berlin: Connect. Collaborate. Co-Innovate. Highlights from the keynote by Léo Apotheker, Co-CEO of SAP AG.

Zia Yusuf, Executive Vice President Global Ecosystem and Partner Group at SAP, and Léo Apotheker, SAP co-CEO (Photo: SAP)

More than 1,000 people make daily use of the benefits and the know-how of one of the many SAP communities. If SAP Community Network were a country, it would be the “twelfth-largest in all of Europe,” Zia Yusuf, Executive Vice President Global Ecosystem and Partner Group at SAP, said in his welcome address.

Over 4,500 people from 52 countries traveled to the three-day meeting in Berlin. Some 308 study groups, 300 speeches, and more than 530 hours of technical workshops provided attendees with the content to successfully meet the technical and business challenges of the coming year.

The key topic of the event: the increasing importance of business networks and IT to best link efficiency, insight, and flexibility beyond company boundaries.

Efficiency. Insight. Flexibility.

The changing business world dominated the event in Berlin – just as it did influence the SAP TechEd in Las Vegas in September. The main message: boundaries are redefined, with business network transformation (BNT) – the change from traditional value chains to business networks – is becoming increasingly important.

Léo Apotheker said BNT is based on key features, namely:

  • Focus on customers instead of the company.
  • Connect and collaborate instead of command and control.
  • Focus on relationships instead of ownership
  • Shared risk instead of self-contained risk.

To actively meet this change, companies must

  1. Make their processes in- and outside of their business more efficient,
  2. Increase business transparency to bridge the gap between strategy and execution,
  3. Become more flexible to shape business processes and adapt operations to strategies.

To achieve this, the right IT infrastructure is key, he said, adding that SAP supports its customers with a wide range of solutions – from SAP Business Suite, to enhancement packages, Business Intelligence (BI) software, and the SAP NetWeaver technology platform.

Efficiency: SAP Business Suite offers tools for all industries and different divisions (finance, human capital management, etc.), integrated analysis functions, as well as the basis for a service-oriented architecture (SOA) and collaboration in business networks.

SAP Business Suite helps harmonize and standardize processes that are available via different channels and independently from the desktop. “For us, the end user and his experience with the software are of key importance. We want to make usage as easy as possible for him,” Apotheker said.

Insight into data and information is provided by business intelligence software such as the applications from Business Objects, an SAP company, and SAP NetWeaver Business Intelligence (SAP NetWeaver BI). The software transforms, visualizes, and analyzes data, thus ensuring the necessary transparency into the employees’ work environment.

Flexibility: Unlike traditional upgrades, enhancement packages offer regular innovation without interruptions. The packages ease managing and supplying of new software functions and are also available for SAP Enterprise Support services.

SAP NetWeaver is the technology platform that provides maximum flexibility. It can be used to quickly develop composite applications, provides governance functions for SOA, and manages the life cycle of operative data. And finally: The platform is a great communications tool for all members of the network.

It was also announced at the SAP TechEd that Hervé Couturier, executive vice president of the Product Group for Business Objects, would also be responsible for further development related to SAP NetWeaver.

Connect. Collaborate. Co-Innovate!

SAP supports its customers not only with software, said Léo Apotheker. They can also bank on a strong existing community, demonstrated impressively by SAP TechEd. Whether it’s the SAP Developer Network (SDN), the Business Process Expert Community (BPX), or Industry Value Networks – customers and partners are using these interactive communities to talk about ideas, challenges, and potential solutions. Their goal is to improve techniques and identify new possibilities for co-innovation.

SAP EcoHub, the new online marketplace for partner solutions to complement SAP installations, further enriches this network. “SAP EcoHub is a natural extension of SAP’s strategic design for our customer-focused ecosystem,” Yusuf said upon unveiling SAP EcoHub (

The marketplace offers customers thorough and transparent insight into certified SAP solutions/applications in a reliable setting.

Léo Apotheker also presented two new partnerships that highlight the focus on Business Network Transformation. Crossgate and Cisco’s work with SAP serve mainly customers that have chosen a network strategy, he said.

Together with Crossgate, SAP is pushing the design of integrated business networks and SOA. With its “Business-Ready Network,” Crossgate offers its own platform for electronically exchanging business data; teaming up with SAP therefore enables smooth data exchange between partners, suppliers, and customers.

More than 40,000 companies currently exchange data and documents via Crossgate’s Business-Ready Network, which also offers services for SAP NetWeaver.

A joint data privacy application unveiled by SAP and Cisco at SAP TechEd enables customers to adjust their IT and business processes in advanced enterprise networks according to their needs. The application integrates network services that use security guidelines unified for all data. It also protects confidential information from unwanted access and manipulation, reduces security risks, and supports compliance data protection and security guidelines on a global as well as regional level.

The application connects SAP solutions for governance, risk, and compliance (SAP solutions for GRC) with key network services from Cisco.