Five key takeaways from Australasia’s premier SAP conference

25 Jul 2023 by Andrew Spicer

Mastering SAP: Five key takeaways from Australasia’s premier SAP conference. 

Mastering SAP brought over 800 people together in Melbourne for two days of networking and education. The conference provided plenty of food for thought - here are five takeaways I came home with… 

Being present 

Realtech has been a sponsor of Mastering SAP for the best part of the last decade and we always find it an incredibly useful conference. Covid saw it put on ice for two consecutive years. An online conference in the midst of lockdowns was well attended, but you can’t beat being present in person with fellow conference attendees.  

My approach to the conference was ‘be here now’ - be present, something I learned at a recent customer workshop; I did my best to embrace that, focus on the sessions and keynotes, and engage with as many people as possible. I made at least 60 new connections over the two days at Mastering SAP this year, from potential customers to partners, solutions providers and other SAP consultants. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and learned a lot as a result. We are also a supporter of the New Zealand SAP User Group, which has events coming up in Christchurch (July 21) and Auckland (September 1). If you are a member of the SAP community, I encourage you to get involved in the user group and home to see you at an upcoming meeting. 

SAP is getting simpler to use 

There were some great examples at Mastering SAP of the extent to which SAP is becoming a low code/no code platform, reducing barriers to access in the process. For some time now, SAP has been pushing the idea of the S/4 HANA ‘clean core’ 

SAP’s Louenas Hamdi explains: “A clean core, in the context of an ERP system, is essential for ensuring stable and reliable operations while being agile and innovative. By maintaining a clean core, businesses can future-proof themselves and remain competitive in an ever-evolving business landscape.” 

Modifying an ERP system’s core can lead to the accumulation of technical debt and, at worst, cause system outages. That’s why SAP has key user, on-stack developer, and side-by-side extensibility on the SAP Business Technology Platform. That’s where you can add all of the bells and whistles you need and customise the environment to your needs. 

This is now easier than ever with automated workflows and forms and field based processes that don’t require you to have any coding experience. This is a trend across software development in general and one that can unlock real productivity gains. After all, we don’t have enough SAP consultants globally. If some of the work on the platform can increasingly be handled by business analysts, that frees up consultants and developers to work on more strategic projects.  

T-4 years 

There was a lot of discussion around the conference corridors about the loom end of mainstream maintenance for Business Suite 7/ERP Central Component which is scheduled for the end of 2027. After that deadline, companies will be able to buy a maintenance extension out to 2030, but will need to pay an incremental 2% in maintenance fees. 

This is a big deal because, as Gartner pointed out last year, 70% of Business Suite 7/ECC customers have yet to migrate to S/4 HANA. While migration to S/4 HANA continues at pace, we know that a large number of New Zealand and Australian customers who have invested heavily in SAP over 15 - 20 years have yet to plan their migration. 

As SAP’s Martin Stenzig points out: “everyone who has been working on large enterprise initiatives knows: you must create a business case, allocate funding, work with SAP on a licence agreement, select an implementation partner, perform the implementation itself, roll it out and ultimately drive adoption of the solution to collect the business benefits you originally committed to in the business case. 

“If you are a small organisation and don’t mind big bang rollouts you might be able to execute this in a year, but for most enterprises we work with, you easily look at an average 2–3-year timeline for transforming from ECC to S/4,” he adds. 

We are effectively T-4 years away from the end of ECC mainstream maintenance, so I’d reiterate Realtech’s advice - get to work planning for an orderly transition that is going to be sustainable technically and financially and will ensure full business continuity.  

Big focus on data security 

Every conversion at Mastering SAP inevitably touched on data security. Recent data breaches at Optus, Latitude, and Medibank in Australia have focused the minds of CIOs and business leaders alike.  

Huge reputational damage and real harm to customers can result from sensitive personal details being stolen as a result of ransomware attacks and successful efforts to infiltrate networks. SAP has excellent built-in security if configured and used correctly. It was great to see some innovative solutions from third-party providers in the SAP ecosystem around data security offering good options for testing and development, secure data transfer, and use of anonymised data.  

Hacking activity by cybercriminals, hacktivists, and state-backed actors is rising everywhere. SAP systems are a prime target, so it was a good reminder to us all to make security a top priority. 

10 seconds of courage 

As is often the case at tech conferences, one of the keynote speakers was a highly motivated overachiever with an inspirational message designed to pull our heads out of the tech world and help us see the bigger picture. 

Nadine Champion turned out to be perfect to do that. The Australian and former world title holder in Thai boxing and kickboxing has been a studious practitioner of the Ukidokan martial arts system for around 30 years, which she credits with giving her the confidence to face her fears. 

“It doesn’t hurt any less if you close your eyes. All you need is ten seconds of courage,” the 5 foot six inch tall black belt in karate told Mastering SAP attendees. 

She urged us to tackle something we fear each and every day, as minor an undertaking as it may seem. Is a relationship with a customer going south? Give them a call to chat about it. Nervous about a business decision? Reach out to someone you respect in the industry and use them as a sounding board. Nadine credits her Los Angeles-based sensei, world-champion Benny ‘the Jet’ Urquidez with helping her develop a fighting technique and the mindset to get to the top of the sport.  

She drew on all of those skills in 2015 when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, just a couple of weeks after winning a world title. Cancer turned out to be her biggest fight, but Nadine faced down her fears and overcame it. She is an incredible woman and I’ve taken up her challenge to push myself across the line each and every day by moving outside my comfort zone.  

We can all summon up 10 seconds of courage each day - with the right mindset. Nadine has written a book outlining what works for her. I encourage you to give it a go too and face your own fears.