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Hasso Plattner: Simplicity, Speed, Collaboration, Security Drive “The Intelligent Future”

Feature Article | May 19, 2017 by Brian Wasson

Although SAPPHIRE NOW offers a seemingly endless menu of sessions, one word (and name) sums up the can’t-miss event for diehard SAP fans: “Hasso.”

A rock star in the enterprise software world, Prof. Hasso Plattner, SAP co-founder and chairperson of the SAP SE Supervisory Board, once again did not disappoint the overflowing crowd with his “tell it like it is” keynote style and deep insight into tech topics. (He even included a few impersonations of German Chancellor Merkel and U.S. President Trump, but you’ll have to watch the replay to see those.)

Part graduate-level university seminar, part SAP sales pitch, and as-always insightful, Hasso’s wide-ranging, 90-minute keynote this year focused on “The Intelligent Future” of SAP software, built on the strong foundation of the SAP HANA in-memory platform and driven forward by SAP S/4HANA and SAP Leonardo.

Moving Forward

Plattner began his keynote at the SAPPHIRE NOW + ASUG Annual Conference by talking about the process of integrating all the components of SAP’s enterprise offerings into SAP S/4HANA, the in-memory ERP suite available on premise or in the cloud. “Most of the challenges are identified, and the resolution already designed and developed,” he said. “I consider this, from my perspective, as basically done. There’s still engineering to do, ongoing development on SAP S/4HANA, and new releases every quarter.”

While much has been done so far, Plattner acknowledged that there may be occasional gaps in functions when compared with past SAP offerings, with retired software in “quarantine.” “Software that is old, probably not up to our standards. We put it aside, but it’s still there,” he said. “If somebody needs it, don’t panic! We can look at it, we can develop it.”

Noting that the “mass exodus from SAP Business Suite to SAP S/4HANA has begun,” and that “the report from customers is overwhelmingly positive,” Plattner discussed the three target implementations for development. New features are first rolled-out to the SAP S/4HANA public cloud, then to the enterprise cloud, and then to on-premise. Describing a list of “5,000 total integration points,” Plattner made sure to clarify that “We’re not sleeping doing integration, it’s just a humongous task!”

Simple Equals Speed

Although bringing all past SAP functions into the new offerings is complicated, the result is worth it: simplification of the system. “We have no pre-aggregation anymore,” said Plattner. This offers “much faster data entry. All processing is transactional data, not looking at aggregates. The Information Management System, a la IBM 50 years ago, is not there anymore.”

This changed model creates a “database system with unbelievable speed,” said Plattner. “With the applications we are looking to now, the speed of SAP HANA is a prerequisite. This is our gift we have now. We have two things: our software installed at a customer’s site. We – together – have the data, a humongous collection of relevant business data.”

The database is fast, and the fact that it is fully indexed means that every attribute of every table in the database is an index. This indexing scheme makes the database administrator’s job much easier, as new functionality is much simpler to implement, said Plattner. “The analytics applications, the collaboration applications, can instantly start using the system at the highest speed, with the greatest flexibility I have ever seen in the enterprise business.”

Intelligent Design

But in today’s end-user-driven world, user interface (UI) is just as important as an application’s features and speed. “It’s a key part of the work when building applications now,” said Plattner. “UI is so important because there is such a huge cost factor for training.”

With “Build,” the “intelligent,” cloud-based development system created by SAP Design that SAP uses to prototype new applications, fast development and quality UI are not mutually exclusive. “We want to be fast in application building, and make everything more intelligent,” said Plattner. Using design thinking principles, SAP prototypes new applications and does real-world user testing of the prototypes. SAP’s system takes a wireframe design and generates a working solution that can be tested with different users and quickly iterated toward the final version.

Screenshot of the Build advantages

Build (www.build.me) is a cloud-based tool from SAP Design that makes it easy to create interactive prototypes and get feedback from end users. Once designs have been validated, Build generates working UI5 code to jump-start development.

 

Close Data is Safe Data

Unless this is the first SAPPHIRE NOW article that you’ve read, you’ve probably heard all about the SAP Leonardo digital information system that integrates breakthrough technologies and runs them seamlessly in the cloud. This new innovation brings together Big Data, machine learning, IoT, blockchain, and other technologies to help companies run live and thrive in the digital economy.  As Plattner described it, “SAP Leonardo is not a system, it is not a program. It is a set of tools to build new-style applications […] and the services around them.”

Professor Plattner clearly explained some of the benefits of developing with SAP Leonardo. In particular, the ability to keep valuable data safe by processing it in the same place it is housed. “What we do with SAP Leonardo is to build new-style applications that can sit inside our products. […] We don’t take data outside our ERP system,” he said. “And there are huge advantages to doing it that way. We do not run around with your valuable data. We do not go from system to system. To keep this data in one place in very important, to safeguard it.”

To further protect data, Plattner noted that “We block the copy of data out of the system. […] We only deliver application-controlled result sets out of the database to an application. […] We bring the intelligence into the system, onto the data, and then we put the intelligence on top. Leonardo is the foundation for these applications.”

 

And this “intelligence” in the system is driven by machine learning. Together with its customers, SAP has an “amazing amount of data to learn from,” said Plattner. “We can derive insights that are surprising. We did this to some extent with analytics. But we can do unbelievable things with AI.”

The Future is Collaboration

One of the hallmarks of SAP has always been its close collaboration with customers and partners. But as business demands continue to grow along with the data created alongside, Plattner called for even greater collaboration. “We need to use design thinking to define what we are going to do together. And first of all, the word is together! […] Customers have the data, the desire, and the in-depth knowledge of their industries.”

And in case you had any doubt of Plattner’s resolve, he reiterated this collaboration exhortation at the conclusion of his keynote. “The future of our collaboration will be very much different from the past,” he said. “We bring the foundation of software. We bring the ERP cornerstone. […] But what we can now do together is much bigger. We have to change how we [SAP] work. We have to reorganize our people serving you, how we work together. This is collaboration at a totally different level.”

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