Bill McDermott, CEO of SAP SE, had three main messages for the capacity crowd at the company’s biggest customer event this year: Intelligence is only valuable to the business when it’s embedded directly into processes that matter to the organization, and those processes are integrated using consistent data across the company. Oh, and by the way, SAP is leading the industry into the next generation of customer experience with a thoroughly modernized CRM software suite called SAP C/4HANA that leaves sales-only legacy solutions in the dust.

At the SAPPHIRE NOW and ASUG Annual Conference, SAP’s flagship customer event, McDermott bounded on stage after a thought-provoking video pitch for best-run businesses. McDermott wasted no time in hammering home the company’s vision for the intelligent enterprise with a heartfelt appeal to the audience to change the world.

“The world needs you now more than ever,” he said. “People, planet, and profit: Progress for each relies on you as leaders of consequence, because the best run businesses make the world run better, and you are the best.”


Welcome to the Customer-Driven Growth Revolution

McDermott, who called the event the biggest SAPPHIRE NOW of all time, emphasized the $50 billion investment SAP has made in innovation since 2010. Now with 150 million users on SAP cloud solutions, including the company’s signature in-memory solution SAP HANA, McDermott said SAP was launching the next generation customer experience with SAP C/4HANA.

According to McDermott, the customer is every boardroom’s top priority, fueling a paradigm shift in CRM software that provides a 360-degree view of the actual customer.

“We’ve moved from a world where nothing happens when you add a record to CRM, to a world where everything happens. When the entire supply chain is connected to the customer experience, we’ve moved from the first-generation consumer-grade experience to the best consumer-grade experience in the CRM industry. When it comes to CRM, SAP was the last to accept the status quo, and SAP will be the first to change it.”

While leaders want a single customer view so they can predict needs and fulfill orders immediately, McDermott acknowledged companies must also meet strict data compliance regulations. He invited to the stage Alex Atzberger, president of SAP Customer Experience, who generated a round of hearty applause when he succinctly characterized today’s customers as rebels who don’t want to be treated like sales opportunities, have their data abused, or do business with companies that don’t deliver on their promise.

“Customers want their data protected,” said Atzberger. “They don’t want emails they never asked for. Customers are done with creepy. Don’t be creepy.”

End-to-End Integration Impacts Profits

McDermott laid out an expanded vision for the integrated, intelligent enterprise, noting that for most companies a five percent increase in retention translates to a 95 percent improvement in profits. He punctuated his thoughts with the other major announcement of the day, the launch of the SAP HANA Data Management Suite.

“Integration fuels intelligence. It’s time to reimagine end-to-end mega processes in a new suite experience for the enterprise,” he said. “By connecting demand chain to supply chain, we help every part of the business serve and retain the customer.”

Embedded AI is Next Frontier

Underpinning McDermott’s entire keynote was the shift to artificial intelligence (AI), which he saw powering economic growth at the intersection of the speed of machines and judgement of humans.

“SAP is the business process company, and this is how we will augment humanity to unleash a new breed of economic growth around the world. To do that, SAP will help you deliver the intelligent enterprise,” said McDermott.