We tend to describe the early part of our conference cycle as “under the radar”, meaning that we are generally working on internal, non-public activities, many of which were discussed in my previous blog . The current process began just after #itelli2017 with a series of debriefs and early planning discussions leading to a number of small, low profile activities designed to encourage registrations. At this point we have no public final agenda, and have made no speaker announcements, yet are more than 50% of the way towards our target registration number with 6 months still to go until #itelli2018.
So what is the trigger for exiting the “under the radar” phase?
For us, it is the announcement of the key theme for the 2018 conference.
What is important about a theme and why does it matter?
Of course, having a theme is important from a branding perspective, it gives us something to include in our communication to registrants and potential attendees, but it is also about much more than that. The chosen theme should encapsulate and reflect both the current business backdrop as well as our goals for the conference. Finally it should plant a seed in your mind, an expectation, and hopefully a degree of excitement about what we have planned.
Let us pause for a moment and look back on the themes of our previous 2 conferences.
In 2016, it seemed like everyone was talking about digital transformation, but not really saying very much! This made things easy for us, our theme was “making digital real” and our goal was to explain what SAP meant when they talked about products like SAP S/4HANA enabling Digital Transformation. The feedback from you was encouraging, we were talking about the right things but many of you felt that it was too early to implement many of these solutions within your organisations.
Roll on to 2017 and an increasing number of you had begun working with us on your SAP transformation journeys; we were all learning that perhaps it was not as easy as some would have us believe. Our theme was “transition” and we focused on the real practical steps that you could take in order to understand, plan and accelerate your adoption of the next generation SAP solutions.
Fast-forward 6 months to now. Having recently returned from SAP TechEd where I spoke to numerous SAP employees and customers, it is clear that we have reached a tipping point. As we near the end of 2017 and I think forward to #itelli2018 there are a number of things that are clear to me.
- The flagship “Digital Core” SAP offering; S/4HANA has reached a level of maturity where it can no longer be considered a risky, early adoption solution. Whether we are talking 1709 on premise or 1711 Public Cloud, we now have a functionally rich, stable product that is ready for the mainstream.
- The real innovation opportunity comes “beyond the core”; SAP are being bold with their Leonardo strategy, using Design Thinking to unlock the potential of innovation topics such as IoT, Machine Learning, and Big Data. What is equally interesting is the approach to leveraging technologies beyond the traditional SAP stable in order to create new ways of delivering value. This new “open platform” approach from SAP makes sense to me and we will be paying a lot of attention to it at #itelli2018.
- The challenges of the “connected cloud”; many of you are either asking about, actively planning for, or already adopting cloud technologies. Once again, we have seen a rapid maturing of what is on offer, with technical barriers falling away. The result being that the economic and technical benefits of a Cloud first approach are no longer an ambition but a reality for many of our customers.
This democratization of rapidly maturing technology, combined with a desire to innovate in order to compete is unlocking new opportunities in ways that many would have thought impossible.
Consider the hotel room that comes with an app that will check you in before arrival, then allow you to control lighting and temperature, or the car that learns your most common journeys, or even the online banking application that uses machine learning to intelligently predict your personal budget.
Many of these “science fictions” have now become facts in our everyday lives. Every day we are casually using services that leverage connected devices, big data, machine learning and consumer grade applications. These innovations are opening up new competitive fronts, organisations are competing on their connected services just as much as their products. However as the author William Gibson noted; “the future is already here, it’s just not very evenly distributed”.
This non uniform distribution of innovation is something I see all of the time. I am lucky enough to regularly talk to organisations of all sizes and types, many of whom have been relying on SAP software for many years. Time and again I hear a variation on the same theme:
- It’s too early for us to adopt the new solutions
- I know SAP, these are new products, they won’t be ready yet
- We are not an early adopter
- I can’t put our existing solution at risk
- etc, etc
However there is, most often a parallel conversation going on, a conversation within upper echelons of the organisation, a conversation about how to adopt new business models that identify, develop and drive differentiated services, how to attract and delight customers, how to avoid being disrupted by new competitors and most importantly, how not to be left behind in this new reality.
SAP has been focused on solving a specific set of problems for as long as most of us care to remember. But as the world around us is transforming through the application of new technology, so is SAP. For the last half decade SAP has been on a journey to design and develop (or acquire) new solutions that address not only the evolution of their core competency in business process, but also the previously mentioned innovation topics such as IoT, Big Data, Analytics, and Machine Learning. We now have a new SAP, an SAP that is different, one that embraces open source to drive innovation and an SAP that releases and iterates products more quickly. A cloud first SAP, an SAP that is already powering the new reality for many organisations all over the world.
Now it is the time for your journey, and it is our job to help you. If you are stuck, struggling to see how SAP fits beyond the back office, or need help to shape initiatives or accelerate activities then we want to help.
Attend #itelli2018 to see and hear first-hand how organisations of all shapes and sizes are leveraging and extending SAP technology to redefine success for the next 10 years.
Join us and experience “The New Reality” at #itelli2018. Register here.
Also, if you missed the first blog post on #itelli2018, you can read it here.