SAP established the global standard for enterprise resource planning (ERP) software with the introduction of SAP/R2 and R3. Today, SAP…

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SAP established the global standard for enterprise resource planning (ERP) software with the introduction of SAP/R2 and R3. Today, SAP S/4HANA takes ERP to the next level by using the power of in-memory computing to process vast amounts of data, and to support advanced technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning. It’s the realisation of a global strategy to democratise technology through accelerated innovation… 

Innovation in the cloud 

Abhay Kumar, Senior VP – Global Development & Ecosystem, is working with his team to drive innovation and growth for SAP to support solution availability and go to market strategies for a diverse set of customers.  

“We approach innovation in three ways,” explains Kumar. “From a technology standpoint, one of the key principles is that we must innovate to democratise technology (I2D) – that focus helps us make our technology accessible by all of our customers, partners and users. When we do this it also creates further innovation as the technology becomes readily available. That I2D goal with our approach to technology allows us to innovate faster too, because now we have a better understanding of the market and customer requirements.”  

These two steps have combined via the cloud which has driven the adoption of SAP solutions. “Cloud allows us to further democratise technology by making it accessible across markets. As customers, partners and users engage with our technology, they have specific inputs coming into SAP which, in turn, allows us to innovate faster and deliver on their requirements,” says Kumar. “The mechanics of going back and forth develops the culture of democratised innovation. It’s very important because if we look at some companies in the past, such as Motorola and Blackberry, their relevancy rapidly vanished because they could not keep up with the innovation trends in the market.” 

Kumar points out that the disruption driven by the likes of Netflix is challenging traditional cable operators by providing technology from a completely different angle. “So how do we keep up with that type of innovation in our market? How do we focus on where technology is headed? It’s all about understanding the various dots that are available through technology, and then connecting those dots. By democratising technology, we are not only able to create more dots, but also connect them in unique ways that create innovation faster and drive accelerated growth for SAP.” 

Kumar’s team are responsible for managing strategic partnerships with hyperscale cloud providers like Microsoft, Amazon and Google, while tasked with expanding SAP’s ecosystem for the next generation on a quest to complete the last mile execution needed to fully realise the vision of the intelligent enterprise. “We’re focused on building our business network and process intelligence and improving the logistics of how these services are deployed in different regions. We do this by providing points of presence for our solution around the globe via the cloud,” confirms Kumar who is excited about the creation of new business models that encourage innovation, keeping customers and partners aligned in the pursuit of their transformation goals. 

A customer-centric Business Technology Platform 

SAP’s business software is recognised as a leader across all categories – ERP & Digital Core, CRM & Customer Experience, Network & Spend Management, Digital Supply Chain, Human Capital Management and Analytics – serving 91% of the organisations making up the Forbes Global 2000. Kumar points out that a staggering 70% of all global transactions touch an SAP system. 

“If we look at SAP’s presence in the market, we have over 440,000 customers, and from a core competency perspective, we have created the entire ERP market. SAP is offering solutions to run a complex organisation from end-to-end with sales & distribution, materials management, finance, accounting, and more. Our core flagship product S/4HANA is the next generation ERP platform available to all of our customers – in the cloud, as a service model, or as an on-premise solution. We’ve got everyone covered depending on the customer’s choice for deployment and consumption models.” 

It’s a customer-centric approach focused on offering choice says Kumar. “Whatever way they want to deploy, they can. Whichever market and whichever cloud they want to leverage to run their solutions, they are able to do that. Customer choice is at the heart of what we do. And we provide that choice not only at the core application level, but also at a business technology level. We have the platform running not only on SAP cloud, but also on our partner’s cloud (hyperscaler), which allows our customers to innovate on the last mile by extending and customising solutions within, and outside of, SAP, to develop a bespoke solution for their business requirements.”

The glue that brings SAP’s offering together for customers, partners and users is the company’s Business Technology Platform. “It allows for the seamless integration, extension and customisation of SAP solutions for any business requirements,” affirms Kumar. “On top of that, with our partners, we provide differentiation through multiple industry specific solutions that offer unique capabilities across numerous industry sectors.” 

SAP’s strategy achieves go to market over 26 industries supporting customers with specific requirements and industry content. SAP also offers its Business Network solution to unify all the transaction points of interaction and integration across trading partners to help business move faster and smarter via a cloud-based collaboration, capable of transforming disconnected supply chains into a unified, intelligent network. 

“When we talk about customer choice, we look at our solution portfolio and ensure we have our solutions accessible in the cloud, packaged together with our cloud platform partners’ infrastructure as one single bundle offered by SAP with RISE – our subscription-based offering for business transformation in the cloud,” adds Kumar.  

Customers can also access a number of SaaS offerings, available on multiple clouds to experience the benefit of those solutions in different geographies while meeting the regulatory requirements of different industries. “For example,” notes Kumar, “A market like China has specific requirements. Here, we work with partners like AliCloud to drive three things: scale, economics, and customer specific requirements from a regulatory and regional standpoint. SAP’s enterprise-grade cloud solutions (S/4HANA Public Cloud) along with its Business Technology Platform running on AliCloud helps our customers in China realise the vision of Intelligent Enterprise.”  

Accenture Strategic Program

Accenture and SAP have been collaborating at a deep level – from development through delivery – to fully unlock the potential of SAP S/4HANA with a strategic program supporting the road map from product innovation to delivery excellence. Accenture was named a Leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for SAP/S4HANA in 2020. Kumar elaborates… “We work with our largest services partners, Accenture, Deloitte, Capgemini, PWC and a number of Indian offshore partners such as TCS, Infosys and Wipro, very closely. These partners help us not only deliver SAP solutions through their set of expertise and skills, but they also have their own IP which allows customers to get the benefit of both worlds – the SAP solution mixed with our service partners’ IP. Programs like Accenture co-development, where we have worked very closely with Accenture, and which is now widely available, are focused on driving faster time to market by accelerating time to value and decreasing effort, cost and risk with the help of our partner ecosystem.”

What’s next? 

Kumar believes that by embracing cloud there’s a great opportunity for customers to address the issues of the last mile. “SAP solutions drive all the core capabilities the customer has,” he adds. “Additionally, in today’s world, everything is getting connected – the rise of 5G is delivering information from the edge. We are working with our largest partners on the telecommunications side to deliver connections that leverage the Internet of Things (IoT). Bringing all that information from the edge and seamlessly uniting it with the core for the insights that drive faster decision-making for business is crucial…” 

Advice for customers on business transformation 

What advices does Kumar have for those hesitant about innovating with technology? “There will always be early adopters and those who think through all the aspects before jumping in… In today’s market, there are customers who still believe they are happy with on-prem deployment, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The challenge is how could can we move customers and how do we safeguard their journey to the cloud? It requires a disciplined approach where SAP has worked very closely with a number of our partners helping customers make that move successfully.” 

SAP is promoting that vision to its customers, a vision it believes makes economic sense and provides more elasticity in the way they deploy solutions and how they want to leverage them in solving various customer requirements. “Most importantly, running SAP’s flagship product S/4HANA in the cloud allows customers to free up resources and deliver innovation faster by not being tied to the management of a legacy system in a legacy environment,” adds Kumar. “It’s about freeing up time and resources to drive innovation faster, and then get the scale of the cloud with SAP’s backing, safeguarding the customer journey and making sure the only disruption is positive.”

SAP helps deliver a controlled transformation with a set of service level agreements allowing customers to achieve their goals and get things fixed in a much faster way. “The security of the systems has improved significantly over the years,” says Kumar. “Companies that are still reluctant to move to the cloud can see many success stories that show how this can actually help them grow their business faster, innovate quicker, and meet their customer requirements in a seamless way. It’s the overwhelming trend, and the benefits are now clearly evident.” 

2021 and beyond… 

“If we look at the lessons learned during the pandemic it has taught us to be resilient and underlined the importance of innovation,” reflects Kumar. “It’s vital to understand the changing market requirements and appreciate that what we may not have thought would happen, could happen… Being able to look at things with that broad lens with the ability to tap into innovation will always keep us focused and prepared to deal with change as it happens in the days ahead. We distill it down by specific SAP solutions, markets and customer requirements, to build the links that will allows us to deliver on our next generation promises in a seamless way.”

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