SAPPHIRE NOW 2019: Bringing DevOps & Test Automation to Orlando
“The world is changing. The economy is moving faster than ever. Our businesses are expanding. We’re mobile. We’re global. We’re innovative. And we need our partners to innovate with us. My request to SAP and all of you is to meet us where we need to be and not where we are.” Eric Hutcherson, Chief HR Officer of the NBA
It’s become standard practice for SAP to roll out the big guns at SAPPHIRE NOW, their money-no-object annual showcase in Florida, and 2019 was no exception. Tony Blair; Tim Cook; Bear Grylls; Sandra Bullock and more were on stage, along with a variety of high-profile customers. Post-show entertainment came courtesy of Lady Gaga. The exhibition floor was bigger than ever. Attendee numbers were up. It was quite the event.
Following a hugely successful presence at SAPPHIRE NOW 2018, the Basis Technologies team decided to follow the theme of bigger and better this year, with our largest-ever booth, more team members present and a wider range of customer speakers. So what did we learn?
SAP customers were front and center at the show this year - a fact highlighted by the quote at the top of this post. In a surprising break from convention the 90-minute keynote that started day one was opened not by Bill McDermott - a man who’s definitely not shy of an audience - but rather by Eric Hutcherson, the Chief HR Officer of the NBA. Eric’s words were music to our ears, given that Basis Technologies’ pioneering DevOps vision felt very much ‘where SAP users need to be and not where they are’ when we began to promote it a few years ago.
Perhaps this emphasis on end users was due to a lack of major product announcements, or maybe it’s just that SAP have belatedly realized attendees would rather hear directly from their peers than listen to what SAP wants to tell them. Either way, customer stories and use cases were everywhere. Under Armour, Tapestry, Coca Cola, BMW - there were plenty to engage with.
The Basis Technologies booth also followed this trend. Nowadays DevOps is proven to deliver value and is being adopted by an increasing number of companies, so Interpublic Group (IPG) joined us to present on how automation has helped them move from annual to weekly releases into production systems. Gulfstream Aerospace, ATB Financial and Lockheed Martin Aerospace were also on hand to share their experience with Basis Technologies’ products ActiveControl and Testimony.
All about the XO (that’s data, not hugs and kisses)
Although SAP didn’t have any product announcements on the scale of 2018’s C/4HANA launch, in a sense they announced their newest product in January this year when they completed the $8billion acquisition of Qualtrics, an ‘experience management’ (also known in some parts as market research) platform.
Apparently ‘experience’ (X) data from the Qualtrics platform will combine with the ‘operational’ (O) data from core SAP systems to enable SAP users to ‘deliver a unique end-to-end experience and operational management system to power the economy.’
Whatever that means.
This ‘customer experience’ angle was very much the main theme of the show, which also presumably contributed to the drive for more SAP user stories. No doubt many thousands of words will be written on the integration between SAP and Qualtrics and the benefits it might or might not deliver, but that’s not going to happen in this blog. You can always check out the replay of the day one keynote for more details.
‘We have to accelerate at the speed of innovation’
“There’s only one way forward: do what the Googles and the other ones do. Basically, permanently update the system … The only way forward is to update as quickly as we can … We have to accelerate at the speed of innovation - everybody told me that … The only way forward is in the cloud, rapid cycles of innovation … Not slower release changes; much faster release changes.” Hasso Plattner, Co-founder, SAP
Well, what more can I say? Maybe Hasso has been reading the Basis Technologies website. We completely agree with these sentiments, as do more and more of our customers, which is why we’ve spent years espousing a DevOps philosophy for SAP systems.
Our DevOps and test automation platform is specifically designed to free businesses from the shackles of slow, infrequent SAP release cycles so that they can safely deliver change on a continuous basis. No more innovation freezes. No more months of waiting before responding to shifts in the market. No delay in customer feedback.
Just like ‘the Googles and the other ones’.
A cloudy view of S/4HANA?
Somewhat surprisingly, this year it felt like there was a bit less focus on SAP’s latest ‘core’ products - S/4HANA, BW/4HANA and C/4HANA - and more on the cloud in general.
A large part of the day two keynote was given over to an explanation of the new SAP HANA Cloud Services by Gerrit Simon Kazmaier, SVP SAP Analytics & Database and Data Management. Meanwhile, in a separate presentation Christian Klein, SAP COO, emphasised the importance of the cloud in bringing together the increasingly disparate products in SAP’s portfolio when he stated ‘the integration layer of all of our applications will be SAP Cloud Platform’.
It also seems that SAP have softened their position towards so-called ‘hyperscale’ cloud providers like AWS, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform (perhaps not surprising since in our experience this is the route that the vast majority of firms are choosing as they move to the cloud).
Moving to the cloud and S/4 (and subsequent updates like the recently-announced S/4 1905 release) are ideal opportunities to adopt automation and benefits it can bring. To that end, Basis Technologies’ customer ATB Financial presented at the show on their soon-to-be-completed transition to S/4HANA on GCP, sharing some of the challenges they’ve faced and how our automation tool, ActiveControl, is proving to be an indispensable part of their successful transition.
Software integration is not a fundamentally exciting prospect for most people but as I’ve just mentioned, it’s critical to SAP’s future success. There’s a strong technical component, of course, but data, and how it moves across different products and platforms in a unified, consistent way, will also be a key element.
So how do you make anything exciting for the technology crowd? Add an Apple, of course.
To be fair, securing Tim Cook for the main stage keynote was something of a coup given that the enterprise isn’t exactly Apple’s core market. I wonder whether access to Apple Machine Learning tech via the SAP iOS SDK, or a redesign of SAP apps for Mac desktop, will get many hearts racing, but it was certainly a customer endorsement of the highest possible profile.
Another great SAPPHIRE NOW
Sometimes people question the value of trade shows but there’s no doubt that SAPPHIRE NOW 2019 was a huge success for us here at Basis Technologies. We continued to see growing interest in agile and DevOps for SAP - this year even SAP appeared to acknowledge their existence with a number of dedicated sessions - while regression testing clearly remains a huge problem for many.
Obviously the show is a great chance for us to showcase our unique technology and how it helps brands all over the world to innovate faster, but the real benefit is the chance to connect with a massive range of SAP users. As a business that strives to ‘meet our customers where they need to be’ it’s an invaluable opportunity to listen to what they’re most concerned about and excited by - whether that relates to SAP or business in general.
We’ve taken away a raft of feedback that will inform our future product development. If you didn’t get a chance to speak to us, feel free to get in touch to discuss how DevOps and regression test automation could help your business, or join us at all of the upcoming SAP user community events across the globe!