SAP is ready to “future-proof” customers for whatever challenges they may face, CEO Christian Klein said during his expansive opening keynote at SAP Sapphire Orlando, setting out the company’s vision for customers and announcing that SAP is “doubling down” on artificial intelligence (AI).

“When we work together, we will conquer any mountain,” Klein said in a speech that began and ended with climbing metaphors and was punctuated with customer stories, demos, and new product announcements.

SAP Chief Marketing & Solutions Officer Julia White joined Klein from the Orlando show floor during the keynote to highlight SAP’s groundbreaking supply chain and sustainability initiatives, enterprise-wide automation, as well as how SAP solutions answer the challenges that senior business leaders across all industries face.

Microsoft, Unilever, Pfizer, Schneider Electric, and Google Cloud were among the big-name partners and customers that appeared on stage or via video during the event. In addition, the keynote featured a recorded video message from John Kerry, United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, about how we can solve the climate crisis together.

Klein and White framed the keynote around how the CIO and their key business stakeholders — like the chief people officer, chief commercial officer, and CFO — respond to the challenges they each face, and how SAP solutions are helping solve those challenges.

Future-Proofing Businesses in the Age of AI | SAP Sapphire 2023

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Future-Proofing Businesses in the Age of AI | SAP Sapphire 2023

Klein told the audience in Orlando and those joining virtually: “Climbing the highest mountain requires a strong team and, let’s face it, the same is true for transforming businesses. It takes a strong team between the business, IT, and SAP… If we are in this together as one team, we will conquer any mountain.”

SAP’s vision is focused on the needs to build resilient supply chains, to become an agile intelligent enterprise, and to run a sustainable business, Klein explained. “We deliver on this vision through our cloud portfolio.” 

Early in his keynote, Klein said SAP will double down on its AI strategy because of the tremendous impact AI will have on our private and business lives. For 50 years, he noted, SAP software has been running the world’s most material and workforce-intensive business processes: “This is why we are convinced that embedding AI in SAP software will deliver enormous value for your business.”

Today we have already embedded AI in many of our applications that are being used by over 20,000 customers,” he said, “SAP AI is built for business.”

As an example, he noted that in SAP’s finance solution, AI helps to predict and safeguard financial performance by analyzing a company’s pipelines, workforce, and other profit and loss drivers.

“We have delivered many AI use cases that boost business process automation and increase productivity by another 15%. Now we see the incredible potential to take AI to the next level,” he said. “With generative AI, we will increase the productivity of every end user by changing the way people work with our software. For example, our software will be able to answer any business-related question and recommend actions to improve your company’s performance.”

Klein noted that SAP has already increased its own R&D investment to develop additional AI use cases and is also entering technology partnerships to expand its AI offerings, including the generative AI partnership announced earlier this week with Microsoft. 

After a demo showing how embedding generative AI into SAP SuccessFactors software can enhance recruiting, ongoing learning, and the re-skilling and upskilling of the workforce, White, speaking from the SAP Sapphire show floor, spoke with Aaron Rajan, global vice president of Customer Experience Technology at Unilever, about how the company is working with SAP to address the growing demands for sustainable vanilla ice cream.

“Thanks to the integration across SAP Ariba, SAP Business Network, and SAP S/4HANA Cloud, we can see a full view of the supplier’s performance metrics — including cost, reliability, and sustainability — making an informed decision not only on supply chain fit, but also on carbon impact,” White said. 

Expanding on the business network theme, Klein noted that it is more critical than ever to not only connect one company with another, but to bring entire industries together, because each industry has its unique challenges and requirements. He also unveiled the new offering SAP Business Network for Industry.

To demonstrate the power of the network, Klein cited the life sciences industry. SAP has 80 of the largest customers already in the network, with more than 255,000 trading partners managing over $200 billion in commerce every year. He welcomed Lidia Fonseca, chief digital and technology officer at Pfizer, to the stage to explain the value of SAP Business Network.

Klein then described the management of a company’s overall carbon footprint as another key pillar for the success: “In addition to the top and the bottom line, consumers, your employees, investors, and auditors, they all want to support enterprises that care about the planet. Today, CFOs and chief sustainability officers need to ensure compliance with 20 times more climate regulations than they had in the past.”

But he noted that hardly any enterprise has a comprehensive view of greenhouse gas emissions. “The SAP sustainability portfolio will enable you to record, report, and act on actuals, not on averages, based on a green ledger — including scope three.” 

To explore this message, SAP CFO Dominik Asam spoke in a prerecorded video with Hilary Maxson, CFO of Schneider Electric, about the challenges CFOs face with carbon accounting and sustainability disclosure. Additionally, White detailed a new set of SAP innovations to track and manage emissions, as well as a new green ledger that will work with SAP’s cloud ERP to “provide natively integrated financial and environmental decision making at the required point in time.”

After introducing John Kerry’s video message to attendees, White added, “We can meet the climate challenge with a potent combination of technologies, partners in government, and all of you.” Klein then turned to the crucial role that data plays in running enterprises today and the recent launch of SAP Datasphere, which enables customers to bring together and harmonize SAP and non-SAP data sources. 

After White and Klein explained how SAP Signavio software enables end-to-end business process automation and the unique benefits of RISE with SAP and the GROW with SAP offering, which targets mid-market customers moving to SAP cloud ERP, Klein wrapped up the keynote with an invitation to those in Orlando: Today we have seen that conquering the mountains we face requires the wide use of technology and one team. And we invite you to experience the full capabilities of these innovations for yourselves over the next few days.

“As the famous climber once said, ‘Better we raise our skill than lower the climb.’ At SAP, we are not lowering the climb, we are raising the skills for every role in every line of business to future-proof your business for whatever mountain you need to climb next.”

This article first appeared on the SAP News Center.