AI ecosystems, cloud transformation, and sustainable AI lead our key learnings from SAP Sapphire 2024


“The entire world is on your shoulders… We have to deliver. This is the beginning of a new computing age, the beginning of a new industrial revolution. All 100% on SAP.”

Jensen Huang, CEO, NVIDIA

It’s the world’s most valuable company, building AI supercomputers made of more than 600,000 parts and delivering them to hundreds of the world’s most demanding customers. And, as NVIDIA’s CEO Jensen Huang noted, “it’s all on SAP”.

The message from SAP Sapphire 2024 in Orlando was clear. AI is not only the future, it is here today. And now it’s time to use it.

But amid the hustle and bustle of the event, there were lots of nuggets that you may have missed. So, with one eye on the benefits for Asia Pacific and Japan, here are my key learnings from Sapphire.

You can’t win in AI alone – you need a best-in-class ecosystem

The opportunity for AI in the Asia Pacific region is vast. According to IDC, the Business AI market in APJ is expected to grow by more than 26% to $28 billion by 2027.

While the opportunity is huge, so are the choices for your business. That’s why SAP is partnering with enterprise tech and industry leaders to push the limits of what generative AI can do for customers.

In addition to our expanded collaborations with AWS and Microsoft, we announced new large language models with Mistral AI, a partnership with Meta to use Llama 3 in SAP Analytics Cloud, and an expansion of our partnership with Google Cloud to integrate Joule with Google Cloud’s Gemini AI assistant and Google Cloud Cortex Framework’s data foundation.

And that’s not all. As Mr Huang noted on-stage, SAP and NVIDIA are working together on a cross-product partnership to embed cutting-edge technologies into enterprise-ready business applications. That means Joule working with NVIDIA’s state-of-the-art AI models, integrating GenAI into SAP and NVIDIA code generation, and simulating complex manufacturing products and configurations as industrial digital twins.

There’s no cookie cutter approach to making the most of Business AI. That’s why we believe the strength of our AI ecosystem means customers get the very best choices to drive AI benefits unique to their needs.

Keeping clean in the cloud

The benefits of AI can only really be achieved in the cloud. Best practice is what SAP calls a ‘clean core’ – cloud-based ERP infrastructure that separate core applications from custom modifications. The result is a platform that can be easily and quickly upgraded with new capabilities, allowing agile innovation.

Takuya Sakai, general manager of the Digital Transformation Business Group at Hitachi High-Tech, was clear about the benefits of simplification and a clean core. In 2019, Hitachi High-Tech had 9,000 add-ons across its SAP systems, resulting in lots of custom code, errors, and large operational costs every year. The cost of change meant the company only completed a major update once in 12 years.

Moving to the cloud and a clean core solved these issues. With a new system based on S/4HANA Cloud Cloud, Hitachi High-Tech reduced its 9,000 add-ons to just 750, allowing it to easily upgrade its ERP core. “Upgrading our old ERP took about a year and a half from the planning stage,” Sakai said. “However, with clean core, we can now do an upgrade every year in about 40 days.”

And that change means Hitachi High-Tech can plan to take advantage of new innovations more simply. “An upgrade every year keeps the clean core fresh and means new features can be delivered to our business quickly, like AI or process automation,” concluded Sakai.

You can spell sustainability without ‘ERP’… but you shouldn’t

The benefits of SAP innovation are not only financial. They drive real environmental value. And that’s critical in Asia, where we are responsible for more than half of the world’s emissions.

Sustainability and business performance are intrinsically linked. In fact, we believe businesses have to start treating carbon like money by using an accounting system for environmental, social, and governance (ESG) data that is as auditable, transparent and reliable as their financial data.

That means integrating sustainability data into cloud ERP.

And we can then take advantage of the huge innovation provided by Business AI. AI takes complex sustainability tasks reliant on ESG and ERP data and makes them automated and auditable. It enables companies to boost operational efficiency, improve transparency around supply chain emissions, design and plan more effectively, and automate time-consuming tasks.

For example, at Sapphire we launched AI-enabled Emissions Factor Mapping, boosting the speed and accuracy of carbon footprint calculations. And we enabled the automatic generation of ESG reports through AI all based on the data within SAP Sustainability Control Tower. This not only streamlines the reporting process but also helps ensure that the data is reliable and actionable, providing a clear picture of a company’s sustainability performance.

Beyond hype to real-world results through real-world AI 

It’s easy to get carried away by AI hype and excitement. But what I saw at Sapphire was even more exciting – Business AI that makes a real difference to business problems.

Our opportunity across Asia is enormous. But it’s one we can make the most of, especially if we bring together the benefits of best-in-class ecosystems, a clean core, and a focus on sustainable innovation.


Read more about the announcements at SAP Sapphire 2024 here.

Watch on-demand replays here.