Whilst at UKISUG CONNECT 2017 last week, our spy on the ground, Sarah Miller, busied herself talking to SAP users and uncovering their hopes (and fears) for their future SAP ecosphere.
What a difference a year makes. Having just returned from Birmingham, I’m struck by how dissimilar the same event can feel from one year to the next. Perhaps Brexit was weighing heavily on people’s minds last year, or the thought of Trump being in charge in the United States was dampening spirits – who knows? By comparison, this year’s delegates were full of energy, life and engagement for all things SAP (and for SUGFEST – of course).
The changing SAP S/4HANA tide
Mention SAP S/4HANA to SAP users in 2016 and the majority would cloud over. Whether it was worry, ignorance or boredom I don’t know, but the appetite to enter into discussions regarding SAP’s latest Enterprise Resourcing Planning (ERP) solution was not there. Conversely, this year there was significant interest around this subject matter: the move to S/4HANA is firmly on SAP users’ horizons, as they look to digitize their core over the coming years.
What was really interesting (and exciting) was discovering that users clearly “get” the importance of fully engaging the business for this project. Eureka! I’ll be honest, this was music to my ears. I can often be heard waxing lyrical about the importance of people – be that in a team environment, in business or in projects. Whether you’re undertaking an Analytics Workshop
or an ERP project
, it’s vital to engage the business and bring them on the journey with you …. easy to say, but not so easy to put into practice.
Engaging the customer
“Engagement” (this time the customer variety not the business one) was the focus of the 2018 vision for SAP’s new CEO, Mike Slater. After acknowledging user frustrations around licensing issues, he assured his audience that “we [SAP] do hear you” and revealed that “Customer Intimacy” was centre stage for 2018.
To realise this vision, Mike’s leadership team will be focusing on:
- Winning advocates – to allow SAP to truly scale their business
- Developing a value-based approach – addressing users’ key business challenges and quantifying the value that SAP is adding
- SAP’s partner strategy – ensuring a coordinated approach
- Customer success – setting up a team whose sole focus is on successful outcomes for SAP customers.
This struck a chord with attendees. “Many at C-level view SAP licensing as complicated and expensive, whilst the projects can be seen as lengthy, and sometimes fail to meet business requirements, making approval for SAP projects difficult” commented Paul Jackson, SAP Architect, from Dunelm. “It’s all about relationships” Paul went on to explain, “if Mike Slater can put his promises into action it will be of immense value to SAP users, leading to easier and increased senior leadership buy-in”.
Deriving value from SAP investments
“Value” wasn’t just a topic for SAP - many delegates were wanting to gain a deeper understanding of how to make their SAP assets “sweat”, and maximise the worth they were getting from years of investment. From HR teams wanting to get their hands on the data within their systems for reporting purposes, to IT teams wanting to understand SAP’s future roadmaps to ensure the right focus in the right areas, many users I talked to were wanting to get as much from their current SAP real-estate as possible.
Consolidating and preparing
It would appear that multiple companies in the UK and Ireland are consolidating, taking breath, and preparing for their next big SAP investment – S/4HANA. This is exactly the way it should be. ERP implementations are a big deal. But by taking the time to plan, build a solid business case and choose a partner who is the right cultural fit with the right expertise, will ensure that success will follow.
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