Making Your Business Future-Proof Through Digital Transformation: Experts Share Insights at SAPHILA Conference
After a four-year absence, delegates and presenters alike were delighted to be back for the 2023 iteration of SAPHILA, the African SAP User Group’s (AFSUG) official biennial conference for SAP users, taking place at Sun City, North West Province, on 10 and 11 July 2023.
The conference was opened by Master of Ceremonies, 702 journalist Bongwani Bingwa, who noted: “Technology is moving ahead in leaps and bounds and changing the way we live and work. It plays a huge role in helping to make the seemingly impossible, possible.”
SAPHILA is a highly-regarded platform for communication, collaboration and connection for the local SAP community, with this year’s theme ‘ASPIRE’ being defined as ‘directing one’s hopes and ambitions towards achieving new heights and goals’. The ASPIRE theme is also closely aligned with the ‘RISE with SAP’ offering, which encourages driving business innovation through collaboration, with the aim of building intelligent, sustainable enterprises in the cloud.
Bingwa, who was speaking to the over 1,000 delegates who packed out one of Sun City’s largest venues, was joined briefly by fellow 702 presenter Aki Anastasiou, this year’s MC of the virtual conference, being run in parallel with the physical event for the first time.
Reg Barry, SAPHILA Chairman at AFSUG, thereafter clarified during his welcome address: “It is a privilege to come together as a community again after four years, in what we are proud to present as SAPHILA’s first true hybrid event, thereby allowing more delegates than ever to join the community, including participants from around the world and not only in South Africa.”
Barry commented that, while the conference is of course primarily aimed at African SAP users, delegates from outside the continent also included representatives from Germany, the UK, Sweden, Denmark, the United Arab Emirates, India, Australia, Kazakhstan, and Canada.
Having briefly welcomed the delegates, Barry then introduced the newly-appointed Managing Director of SAP Southern Africa, Kholiwe Makhohliso, who acknowledged the importance of the delegates, as SAP’s customers and partners, and how SAP takes pride in assisting them on their AI and sustainability journeys, ‘confidently, responsibly and mindfully’.
Keynote speaker: Vusi Thembekwayo: ‘Speaker, Investor, Leader: Future-Nomics’
Renowned local speaker Vusi Thembekwayo, who is a previous World Championship Public Speaking winner, centred his presentation around the theme of ‘How is greatness achieved?’ – while noting upfront that, in his opinion, it is a choice. He further clarified that: ‘If you change the context, the competencies don’t translate’, advising that it is important, during ongoing periods of change, for businesses to understand which core competencies need to stay, and which must be stripped from the business, when planning the future of your company. He further noted that, in building a system of connected intelligence, it is important for members of the business to trust each other, collaborate and share information and resources.
Thembekwayo concluded his presentation by presenting four factors which should be taken into account in the economic context of turning the business into a success:
· Find the truth: Here he said that the former chairman of Pick n Pay, Raymond Ackerman, made a point of walking around his stores weekly in order to be able to talk to his customers personally.
· Size is not everything: Thembekwayo advised businesses to ‘Be your best self, not necessarily your biggest self’.
· Vision excites people, not numbers: “Martin Luther King said: ‘I have a dream’ – not a spreadsheet!” noted Thembekwayo
· Lead by the business case: He advised that companies should take care ‘not to hold the future hostage to the present because they prefer the past’.
Finally, Thembekwayo concluded with an anecdote from a previous meeting he had held with former South African President and Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Nelson Mandela, when he himself was aged 15 and had asked: “Tata, what is your hope for South Africa?”
Replied Mandela: “South Africans need a little bit of faith,” to which the young Thembekwayo responded: “What is faith?”, to be advised: “Faith is the ability to believe in the impossible, see the invisible and trust in the unknown.”
Keynote speaker: Sven Denecken: ‘How to Manage the Dynamics of Industry Digital Transformation’
Sven Denecken, Senior Vice President, Chief Marketing and Solutions Officer for Industries and CX, SAP SE Germany, advised that SAP places a critical emphasis on its customers and partners, and addressing their needs in order to facilitate the best possible customer experience.
Said Denecken: “Technological innovations are able to facilitate significant impacts on business models, operations and productivity. Today, there is a growing demand for innovation, real-time data analysis, and faster response time. There is so much that we need to learn together about the speed of everyday transformation: it is a journey and not a destination.
“At SAP, we do know industries, and are aware that the industries you work in define your business. At the vertical edge this is often a game changer. With SAP’s 50 years’ of experience, we want to make our customers’ businesses future-proof.
In Africa, we are well connected to the rest of the world, and know that Africa can leapfrog experiences that others have made using today’s technology. In this way, SAP assists in making you future-ready – we help you to navigate the trends.”
Denecken added that we are today seeing an industry convergence, whereby companies are realising that they are not necessarily in only one sector.
“Industries are coming together and being more creative,” he explained, “and this is blurring the lines between the value chains a business is part of. As an example, SAP has spearheaded an example whereby e-mobility is also able to venture into retail. By facilitating the presence of an electric vehicle charger next to a grocery store, the energy company involved is enriching the customers’ experience by combining e-mobility requirements with a retail experience and, further, contributing additionally by adding in the potential of a rewards system.”
With regards to the growing popularity and influence of artificial intelligence (AI), Denecken noted that organisations must understand the business relevance of the AI possibilities. “AI should built into the company’s processes,” he advised. “Don’t bolt AI onto your systems, but instead ensure that you make it an integral part of your business processes in a way that is relevant.”
“Where is the technology of AI going, and how can it help us?” asked Denecken.
“SAP believes that, by powering innovation, we are able to shape industries in a collaborative manner. We look at the possibilities of interacting and sharing data and expertise – together.
This is how we see the future unfolding,” he concluded