Another SAP TechEd, another super-inspirational keynote from Björn Goerke, chief technology officer and president of SAP Cloud Platform.

The air crackled with excitement from the opening moment, projecting an on-screen blast from last year’s SAP TechEd, reprising for a nanosecond Goerke’s dynamic DeLorean-powered journey as Doc in “Back to the Future.”

Suddenly in a flash of warp speed, he transported the audience to a whole new universe, namely Star Trek, (the Original Series on television for all you trekkies), turning the beloved science fiction franchise into a powerful metaphor for every company’s amazing and very real digital transformation journey.

Firmly planted in the commander’s chair on a near-exact replica of the bridge of the U.S.S. Enterprise, Goerke was Captain James T. Kirk in all his sci-fi splendor. Trekkies weren’t the only people in the audience transfixed from the opening theme song, complete with iconic Star Trek flashing lights and ambient sounds — yep, the haunting bosun’s whistle, door whooshes, ambient bleeps and beeps, and adorable tribbles were out in full force.

Warp Speed Ahead to Digital Transformation

Featuring a cast of genius SAP innovators in the guise of Star Trek’s well-known characters, (Spock, Bones, Scotty, Uhura — spoiler alert, some genders were changed for the better), Goerke took the audience of developers, partners, customers and industry luminaries through a full-on spectacle of dynamic innovation spotlighting machine learning, blockchain, digital assistants, neural networks, IoT and digital twins.

Goerke couched every company’s digital transformation odyssey as a Kobayashi Maru challenge, likening the audience to cadets boldly going where no one has gone before in the spirit of Star Trek. He said that the solution to beating the challenge depended on three elements.

“First, you need truth you can rely on, second you need agility by which to execute, and third you need an experience for how you engage with your teams and customers,” said Goerke. “We created SAP Leonardo as a systematic approach to innovation providing you with the tools, solutions, blueprints and business case to rapidly scale innovation in your organization.”

Noting that it was 25th anniversary of SAP R/3, Goerke said that SAP is now innovating in an entirely new world with multiple systems, platforms and data types and sources.

“SAP dared to dream, and imagined a real-time world powered by a warp speed in-memory computing system called SAP HANA. We’ve added machine learning, and all of a sudden the intelligent autonomous enterprise starts to become a reality,” said Goerke. “SAP S/4HANA allowed us to fundamentally rethink business applications, bringing warp speed to the core of your business, including ERP, IoT and larger business networks to form a future-proof digital core for your biz that is powerful, flexible and agile.”

Consistent, Trustworthy Data Foundation

Goerke spotlighted a series of announcements, punctuated by exciting demos. After sharing the news that there were now 1,000 live SAP S/4HANA customers, he explained how the new SAP Data Hub solution represented a fundamental shift in data governance, pipelining and sharing, providing one system to live-stream multiple data sources, helping developers build agile, data-driven applications. He invited Ian Kimbell, as Dr. McCoy (Bones), on stage to demo how the SAP Data Hub integrates with SAP HANA, SAP Vora and third-party Big Data sources such as Hadoop.

New Partnerships Support Agility

Goerke credited the SAP Cloud Platform with agile innovation. He announced the public beta of the SAP Cloud Platform on the Google Cloud Platform, inviting “Commander Spock” on stage to demonstrate it. “We’re continuing our multi-cloud strategy that supplies better regional coverage, portability and data co-location, integrating with enterprise business processes,” he said.

Providing further proof of SAP’s commitment to delivering an open, co-innovation, platform as a major cloud provider, Goerke announced that SAP has become a Platinum Member of the Cloud Foundry and on the Board of Directors, and has joined the Cloud Native Computing Foundation as a Platinum member. “This allows developers to bring their own run-time and languages, and tap into tremendous Cloud Foundry ecosystem, while retaining SAP’s world-class enterprise support,” he said.

Goerke acknowledged he lacked the time to detail the many innovations SAP has added during the past year, but did invite “Scotty” on stage who demonstrated how developers can use the SAP Cloud Platform Blockchain service to quickly build a blockchain-enabled app that combats odometer fraud in used cars.

While only a relatively small fraction of the millions on ABAP developers were in the crowd of thousands at SAP TechEd, the cheers were loud when Goerke sneak previewed the ABAP solution-as-a-service on the SAP Cloud Platform.

Tribbles and New SDK Embody Irresistible User Experience

Giving people the best experience, from daily users to developers and employees, is where the device-agnostic, context-aware digital assistant SAP CoPilot came in. Goerke invited “Uhura” on stage to show how SAP CoPilot solved a problem of tribbles biting through cables, using natural language and image recognition to reorder replacements, connecting back into SAP S/4HANA.

As part of SAP dedication to a state-of-the-art, easy experience for developers, Goerke announced the release of the SAP S/4HANA Cloud SDK, as well as a number of enhancements to SAP Cloud Platform that unlock business sgility. “Scotty” rejoined Goerke for a mind-bending demo of a purchase order application using Mendix, encompassing sensor-based location, temperature, humidity, movement and other relevant data.

The final demo showed how one of the world’s largest palm tree plantations relied on a neural network powered by SAP Connected Agriculture on SAP Cloud Platform and SAP S/4HANA for sustainable, efficient, transparent operations.

Live Long and Prosper

In appreciation for 10 years of support, Goerke invited the SAP Mentors on stage to present them with a gift of cooing tribbles, renowned like the Mentors for their multiplying powers. Goerke credited his love of science fiction for the inspiration to think beyond daily conventional constraints, taking creativity to a new frontier.

Noting that the most iconic businesses are those that work together to advance humanity, Goerke said that SAP stands for a higher purpose beyond economic success. “We embrace collaboration and innovation with a purpose with our customers, partners, employees, and even competitors, allowing us to tap into the global community to deliver positive impact far beyond the walls of SAP. The need to work together for the well-being of all becomes increasingly obvious. Live long and prosper.”

Goerke and the SAP Jam Band brought the house to their feet at the close, belting out the lyrics of “Everybody Needs Somebody,” alongside lead singer Katarine Fischer, program manager of the SAP Mentors, in a Blues Brothers rendition that would make Jake and Elwood proud (black sunglass included).

Meanwhile, the credits rolled by, crafted to look just like the original television series, celebrating SAP innovators in each role. For the back story on tribbles and more, check out my onstage video interview with Goerke, and don’t miss Fischer’s haunting operatic notes of the Star Trek closing theme song in his keynote replay.

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