Saphila 2023 was held at Sun City in June, bringing together SAP users and solution providers for three days of conferencing and networking.

The biennial African SAP User Group (AFSUG) event has been on hold since 2019, so delegates seized the opportunity to reconnect with their peers for the first time in four years.

Kathy Gibson was there, and filed these reports:


Technology and the future of business

There has never been a more important time to talk about artificial intelligence (AI).

“AI is making headlines all over the world,” points out Kholiwe Makhohlosi, newly-appointed MD of SAP southern Africa, opening Saphila 2023 in Sun City this morning.

But the concept of AI is useless unless it is deployed properly.

“SAP is looking to implement AI confidently, mindfully and responsibly,” she says.

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Partnering key to industry innovation

Digital transformation is a critical requirement for companies and industries around the world. But the realities of doing so can be challenging.

Sven Denecken, senior vice-president, chief marketing and solutions officer for industries and CX at SAP, points out that there are some trends that are common across all industries – and this gives us the opportunity to learn together.

“I believe that at SAP, together with our partner ecosystem and customers, knows industries. This gives us to ability to develop solutions that help make customers future-proof.”

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BMW boosts modernisation, productivity with automation

BMW South Africa has saved a massive 60 000 days in application modernisation as a direct result of intelligent automation.

Intelligent automation can help to address challenges in SAP custom codes, says Arndt Hoffman, chief customer officer at smartShift, and BMW has achieved some major inroads.

The SAP modernisation story to SAP S/4 HANA is pretty simple on the surface, he says. The end result should be a new SAP system with custom code neatly decoupled from the system.

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AI and the human factor

Artificial intelligence (AI) still needs people to be able to function properly.

This is the word from Peter Blignaut, manager: pre-sales at SAP South Africa, who points out that computers can do nothing without instruction. And when it comes to AI, they need developers and they need governance. “We need people thinking about how the computer is going to do things,” Blignaut says.

Indeed, when we talk about machine learning, which is where the machines learn from people, Blignaut thinks this should be called people teaching instead.

At the same time, people need AI, he adds. “But what are we trying to get out of it?”

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Business intelligence, data key for innovative enterprises

Generative artificial intelligence (AI) is the latest big move in the technology space. It is exploding and it’s going to make a massive difference in how companies do business.

While ChatGPT might be the best-known example of generative AI, there are dozens of large language models (LLMs) now available, says Timo Elliott, global innovation evangelist at SAP.

“At SAP, we want to use the best of these models to further your business processes.”

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Digital technology key to surviving global challenges

Global uncertainty and inflation are just two of the challenges that every enterprise in the world has to deal with. In South Africa, these are exacerbated by power and political issues.

As enterprises strive for the resilience to counter these challenges and pivot to new opportunities, digital transformation can be a critical weapon in their arsenal.

The way companies think about how they plan for technology has to take these macro-economic factors into account, says Nihmal Marrie, MD and partner at Boston Consulting Group (Johannesburg).

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Why moving to S/4 HANA makes sense

The 2027 deadline for users to migrate their legacy SAP systems to SAP S/4 HANA is drawing close – and those customers that haven’t begun the journey may be cutting it fine.

But apart from the stress of having to migrate for the deadline, there are huge benefits to making the move to S/4 HANA, says Dr Uwe Grigoleit, senior vice-president: SAP customer evolution.

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SAP’s IT organisation goes digital

SAP tells its customers how they should be transitioning their businesses using SAP technology – and the company makes sure this technology works by running it in-house.

“In our vision, every organisation and industry will become a network of intelligent, sustainable enterprises,” says Dr Oliver Gutzeit, vice-president: experience technology SAP at SAP.

“When we talk about business transformation, we talk about business agility, supply chain resilience, and sustainability outcomes.”

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Pick ‘n Pay modernises its POS

When your retail business has a national footprint with outlets varying in size and offering, having a single point of sale management system can get complicated.

Pick ‘n Pay is a leading grocery retailer, with stores ranging in size from small garage stores to hyper storage, liquor stores, the Qualisave network, container outlets, franchises and a clothing store. On top of that, the retailer has a home store online, a clothing website, and groceries available via Mr D, Pick ‘n Pay ASAP and Takealot. Adding to the complexity, the group offers services like the Smart Shopper programme, money services, mobile offerings and more.

“It become a big blur to deal with all these point of sale transactions,” says Anja Leonard, enterprise solutions architect at Pick ‘n Pay.

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Trusted and agile business processes enable transformation

Any digital transformation or business transformation exercise boils down to business process transformation.

“The end of the project is not the end of the story,” says Wassilios Lolas, global vice-president and head of the Signavio Centre of Excellence at SAP. “It is the beginning.”

SAP has been in this business for a long time and customers all tell them the same things: it is hard to get the business excited about IT transformation and that transformation is often IT-driven not business-driven.

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