Sapphire 2023 AI proven keynote

Published by Tobias Hofmann on

12 min read

For Sapphire 2023 onsite and virtual SAP opted to split the keynotes from day 1 into two keynotes. The first keynote I already covered in my post Sapphire 2023 keynote. The 2nd keynote was at the end of the day and featured Jürgen Müller and Thomas Saueressig. The recording is available on-demand. Having two keynotes was definitely a good decision. It is better to focus for one hour on a keynote featuring a few people, than having a 2 or 3 hours keynote with a countless number of people presenting. From the content it wasn’t two different keynotes. The second one can be seen as an extension of the first one.

Artificial Intelligence everywhere

The keynote was interactive in a way that it featured demos. Recorded demos, but something to see what is possible. What SAP can provide. First demo was about sustainability, how to lower CO2 emissions across the supply chain. Seems that you only get this with Ariba – SAP Business Network. Meaning: you must go to the cloud. Nice demo, and it offers a feature that is on the list if a company wants to align with some EU requirements. What I do not understand: is this only available in the cloud? If so: why? Or how will this work for on-premise customers? Buy a SAP Business Network license and start using it?

Next integration, analytics, SAP Datasphere. Get access to your data from everywhere, and analyze it with SAP. As Saueressig said: “democratization of data”. Short: opening up SAP. Of course: if you use SAP to consolidate data access and analytics. Getting data from other sources analyzed by SAP software. I am not so sure that SAP’s lawyers will support the opening up and democratization of SAP data when you do it the other way around and not use SAP for analytics. Remember Diageo? At least SAP understands that their software is not the center of the universe and that they must act to not lose any more importance in the customer landscape. Analytics is where value out of data is generated. It is more important to be the provider of the analytics tool than to be the data provider.

10 minutes into the keynote, AI took over. I was watching the recording with subtitles enabled. And look what happened to the subtitles exactly when Saueressig was saying that SAP is an AI company? Unfortunate. Yet, it does not seem that these are live subtitles. What’s not working here? And can this be fixed?

SAP is embedding AI in their solutions from some time now. The intelligent Enterprise is a reality since a few years. You can see this by the statement, that 130+ use cases with AI are already embedded natively in SAP solutions. I tried to find a detailed list of these 130 use cases and failed. I found some high level information (sales, supply chain, HR, procurement, etc.), yet a detailed list about the why and how I am not able to find. “Increase likelihood to close with discount recommendations” means exactly what in regards to AI with SAP?

Keynote was about OpenAI and generative AI. SAP is evaluating 80 business cases. Meaning: not available. That SAP was caught on the wrong foot with the recent AI trend gets obvious as the stress the fact that SAP is making sure that their AI is going to be responsible: “responsible AI is absolutely key”. Ethics in AI is not new. But serves as a nice gap filler. Everybody can agree that ethics is important. And it is a nice excuse when you miss out on shippable products. We had this with Blockchain when SAP suddenly was pushing out solutions using Blockchain. And is now putting some EOL tags on them. SAP stated a few years back that quantum computing is important. When quantum computing is going to be a hype in a few years, I wonder what the odds are that SAP will get caught again off guard and unprepared and overcompensate with a wide range of product announcements?

SAP Analytics supports natural language. Yes, once this was expected with SAP CoPilot, yet never fully delivered. Maybe this time it will work. One problem with CoPilot was the focus on cloud customers. As it was not available to their on-premise customers, usage adoption is simply below what is possible. SAP Analytics is cloud, so this should not be a problem. Fingers crossed. In fact, the shown sneak preview of Continuous Intelligence is something I expect an analytic software to offer already. Compare current data with historic data? Isn’t that one of the feature that is possible in HANA with PAL? But now easily usable for the end user? Win-win.

AI for app development

The keynote got interesting with AI for coding. Interesting topic. The approach SAP chose for how to use AI in coding is not what I think is a wise decision. Technology is definitely not ready to write complete solutions. I think the focus should first be at empowering developers (recorded a video about this a while ago – in German). Helping them to write better software: supporting in unit tests, test data, documentation, code cleanup, specifications, etc. I understand that the shown prototype is exactly what the audience at Sapphire might want to see or expect. This is like quantum computing ERP. That SAP comes up with a ChatGPT powered demo. I don’t know. Why not featuring iADT (intelligent ADT. Requested by me already in November, but the EOB deadline I set was ignored)? Why not AI powered refactoring of code to make it cloud ready? That’s the problem customers face currently. The irony here is: at the first keynote, Christian Klein talked about a lift and shift S/4HANA migration that had to deal with a legacy code base. Why not show a demo where such a common use case is eased through AI code adoption?

SAP Build

Signavio was also part of the keynote. Shown in the keynote earlier in the morning, and now again. Understood, it is an important topic. Nice to see some animated screenshots. But how do I get Signavio up and running? Because, seriously, this needs to be free and plug and run. If I have to buy and integrate SAP Build first, well, than SAP might first think about an AI that helps me to get through all the red tape and negotiations with SAP – and customer. API management or whatever the current name might be was presented in a mode I think is best described as: we have 2 minutes left, let’s put it there. Or some important person demanded that API or AppGyver – sorry: SAP Build Apps – is part of the keynote. Nice use case, but: to be able to adapt a standard process, APIs must be available. That SAP has a small feature gap in that regards, let’s ignore this.


The customer session was a highlight of both keynotes. Talking from the practice. Not just reading some text from the monitor, but actual talking. The talk went from an overall overview of what Schwarz Group does to security. Unexpected, but very good topic. And SAP is now partnering with the same company Schwarz does to secure them: XM Cyber. SAP wants to increase their resiliency and see how a “hacker” sees SAP infrastructure. But where is the benefit for SAP customers? Is this now an SAP specific security product? I do not get it for free, or? Personally, I’d more than happy to see an OData scanner and explorer tool from SAP. A tool that shows what the service is exposing. Or a tool that scans footers to see if they match the companies privacy document and EU requirements / law.

Panel discussion

Next was a panel. If you want to kill a keynote, do a panel with too many guests and ask basically the same question: how great is SAP or product ABC. And when the talks go on like: Oh, SAP was right, standardization, the services helped a lot, the problem was us, not SAP. Nice for marketing, but who is listening to this and founding any business decision on such statements? These are nice for filling 10 minutes between sessions. As an introduction for later sessions so people get to know speakers better. At a keynote?

(The next time someone tells me an event I am organizing is not diverse enough, I’ll present the above screenshot)


What I still find amazing after all these years SAP is offering events virtually is: the sound was not as good as it should be. There are many talks about diversity and inclusion, yet the audio is only English, no real time translation, subtitles only in English. No sign language. Well, some talk, others do (hint: check out Microsoft Build keynote videos). The video player? Skipping a few seconds back or forward? Chapters? Someone does not like the audience.

The competition

Microsoft ran their Build conference shortly after Sapphire. It was a different experience. On site, virtual, didn’t really matter. A session catalog filled with content. Featuring industry leaders. Accessible. The video? Wide range of subtitles, ASL, you can download the video (!!), transcript available.

Build Keynote

The keynote featured Satya Nadella and he introduced the audience in only 30 minutes to the 5 most important new features made available, out of 50. The keynote was short, the demos were focused on the added value of each feature. It was a jaw dropper keynote. SAP killed kittens, Microsoft blew my mind. Full of energy. Watching the keynote unfold, clearly these features were in the making for a long time, that the teams were working on them knowing what they wanted to offer. Sapphire aims at business managers and decision makers, while Microsoft Build is target at a technical people. Yet, the demos shown are not only for developers. Bing search powered by AI? From a recipe to a shopping list to a grocery store order that gets delivered to your address. At the same time in the SAP keynote we were introduced to a pre-alpha that does nothing and won’t go live 2023. SAP is thinking about possible AI use cases, Microsoft gives you an AI studio. The ethics part? Included. And while SAP is hoping that DataSphere makes customers be happy working with SAP as value is generated with it out of data, Microsoft delivers Microsoft Fabric.

Will be hard for SAP to position DataSphere when customers are already part of the Microsoft universe. Accessing Microsoft products is made easy by Microsoft. Why do all the additional work with SAP when you get it delivered seamlessly by Microsoft?

Developer Keynote: Scott and Mark learn to code

I’ll add another keynote from Microsoft Build. It fits very well as the SAP CTO showed a demo how AI can be used to develop apps. Only to state that this is in early development, or short: this won’t be ready to use soon (think: years). Microsoft decided to do some real coding, live on stage, with AI. The possibilities and limitations were demonstrated while the presenters created a – working! – multi player Asteroid game. Yep, a working game. Live on stage. 1 hour. Versus: what do you mean, present something on stage, we have nothing. That’s the difference. To be fair, the Microsoft presenters are living legends. But that’s what’s on the salary list at Microsoft vs. SAP. Fair to use the best you have.

If you are an SAP fan you’ll be happy with Sapphire and be convinced that SAP is doing a great job. Your strong belief is rooted because you are mostly attending only SAP events. That’s OK. In case you want to broaden your horizon, I suggest watching other events, like the ones from Microsoft, Oracle, Google, AWS. If you want to be a senior consultant, this is what you must do anyway, no excuse. Or you are not senior or you do not care about your customer / employer / project. Just don’t start your transition to senior by watching the Microsoft Build on-demand sessions. It will be too depressive to see what others are already offering in regards to AI, and what SAP is doing. Wait until SAP Teched. I am sure SAP will come with something super cool and mind blowing, jaw dropping, kitten save presentation at TechEd.

Let the world know

Tobias Hofmann

Doing stuff with SAP since 1998. Open, web, UX, cloud. I am not a Basis guy, but very knowledgeable about Basis stuff, as it's the foundation of everything I do (DevOps). Performance is king, and unit tests is something I actually do. Developing HTML5 apps when HTML5 wasn't around. HCP/SCP user since 2012, NetWeaver since 2002, ABAP since 1998.


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