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From the keynote kickoff at Sapphire 2016 by SAP CEO Bill McDermott to the final session of the day from the Americas' SAP Users' Group (ASUG), the human dimension of digital transformation took center stage. McDermott announced a covenant with SAP customers that SAP would be more empathetic and transparent in support of its customers and would help them transform their organizations to meet their own rising expectations.

CIOs want greater transparency from SAP if co-innovation is to succeed

Does it matter that Bill McDermott stressed the importance of SAP being more empathetic and transparent with customers? Yes, it certainly does. McDermott told the audience during his kickoff keynote that 30 leading CIOs had called for greater transparency and understanding from SAP. These CIOs believe SAP's vision is credible: "To help the world run better and improve people's lives," supported by the real-time enterprise platform S/4HANA. However, what they were most interested in is how the platform, launched in February 2015, will develop. It is difficult for the CIOs to make plans without a more detailed view of the S/4HANA roadmap.

McDermott has emphasized throughout SAP the importance of empathy with customers, which he defined as helping customers achieve their desired outcomes. This will be backed up with SAP Value Assurance, provided by SAP Digital Business Services.

The importance of skills development in support of digital transformation

SAP also highlighted the critical importance of skills development at the outset of any transformation. The SAP Learning Hub delivers courses based on particular journeys that customers and partners need to undertake to hone their digital skills in relation to SAP products. Courses are delivered digitally to over 300,000 students worldwide and provide certification as evidence of the new skills developed. SAP's Early Knowledge Transfer also supports the rapid development of digital skills so that before any major transformation, organizations can import the skills they need to develop their transformation strategies and roadmaps.

A new data science course was also launched to help the more advanced organizations take advantage and make sense of data to improve the enterprise's sensing capabilities, a critical attribute for those with customer-adaptive and omnichannel ambitions.

Closing the digital skills gap

The SAP Education Network for Digital Transformation provides an extensive ecosystem to help enterprises tackle the skills gap. Apart from SAP's own courses, the ecosystem consists of:

  • more than 2,000 universities

  • SAP User Groups to share best practices and enable peer-to-peer recommendations

  • a SAP Partner Network that can contribute to the education network

  • an open network for start-ups, accelerators, and innovators.

SAP's range of educational support capabilities must be one of the most extensive globally. Most of the courses can be delivered in all major languages.

The first day of Sapphire 2016 firmly placed the human into the digital transformation equation.


Further reading

The Customer-Adaptive Imperative, IT0020-000091 (March 2015)

The Customer-Adaptive Imperative in Knowledge-Intensive Industries, IT0020-000166 (November 2015)


Jeremy Cox, Principal Analyst, Customer Engagement

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