UKISUG CONNECT 2021 – S/4HANA, RISE and customer relationships

Despite the travel disruption caused by Storm Arwen and the Omicron variant, it was fantastic to see so many people from across the SAP community come together at UKISUG CONNECT last week. It has been a long and challenging two years. But from listening to many of the customer sessions during the conference it’s clear that organisations haven’t stood still when it comes to their usage of SAP.

In fact, our latest member research revealed that 26 percent of organisations are using S/4HANA, which is an increase from 16 percent from 12-months previously. So, while the pandemic has delayed some organisations’ plans to move to S/4HANA, in some instances it has had the opposite effect as it has led to organisations accelerating their digital plans. It was definitely very noticeable the uptick we had in S/4HANA customer speakers at CONNECT compared to previous years.

With the 2027 maintenance deadline for ECC 6.0 approaching much of the conversation was about ‘when’ organisations move to S/4HANA rather than ‘if’. Which brings us to the issue of skills and training, both or which remain a concern. The figures from our member research revealed that a third (34 percent) of organisations rated the level of training provided by their partner during their S/4HANA implementation as poor or very poor. Of those organisations yet to move to S/4HANA, 71 percent were concerned a lack of available skills will slow their migration.

Selecting the right partner, managing change (a topic I will cover in more detail in a future post) and putting training in place are all key issues. As a user group we have been working on providing content that helps address these issues and we also know that SAP has been putting pressure on partners to improve delivery quality. It benefits the whole SAP community if organisations have a great implementation experience. SAP needs to help partners provide a better training experience, and partners need to up their game. As customers, we also need to make sure partners are providing us with correctly certified consultants.

Training is critical to a smooth transition to S/4HANA – it’s a new system, where many of us will be following new processes to ensure we drive ROI, but this will falter if our people aren’t properly trained. We as users also have a responsibility to drive better and more tailored training. We can’t expect an excellent experience if we don’t spend time helping partners really understand our unique needs. As one community, we are perfectly primed to make sure we get training right as more and more of our organisations move to S/4HANA.

Did SAP ‘RISE’ to the occasion?

There was no escaping the fact that RISE with SAP was a hot topic at CONNECT and it provided a great platform for users to hear directly from SAP, partners and fellow customers. From a user group perspective, we have said it is still relatively early days for RISE. Every customer situation is different, but many need a much clearer understanding of the commercial impact and how it effects their existing cloud investments before they can make an informed decision.

It was interesting to hear from Simon Carpenter from SAP regarding how RISE is developing and at the same time acknowledge that there is work to be done, as there is still uncertainty as to where responsibilities lie between SAP and the system integrators/partners. From speaking to organisations at the conference, there is definitely interest in RISE but there is still confusion with regards to what it actually is. Is it business-transformation as a service? Is it a means for organisations to consolidate licensing and hyperscaler costs? Or is it simply a channel to move to S/4HANA? Hopefully, as more real-life user cases emerge, the picture will become clearer and by the time of our next conference we will have many end-user organisations happy to tell their story!

Earning the trust of the customer

Another key topic of discussion during CONNECT was customer trust. For those of you that have attended the event in past, you will know that this has been a been a big area of focus for both SAP and UKISUG. Customer trust and confidence is a very fragile thing. Topics such as indirect licensing, end of life for ECC 6.0 and lack of clarity around roadmap for S/4 HANA have not helped the customer relationship in the past.

At a local UK and Ireland level, we have been back participating in joint trust workshops with SAP (after a pandemic induced delay) aimed at building improved relationships between SAP and its customers. Therefore, it was encouraging to hear from Michiel Verhoeven, managing director of SAP UK & Ireland, that customer success is a big focus for him and there will be further changes to how sales teams are incentivised in the future. The customer relationship is more than simply the sale of software licences and should be linked to business outcomes. After all, a happy and successful customer should also mean a successful SAP.

It was great to reconnect with so many people from across the SAP community during CONNECT and we already can’t wait to welcome everyone back next year for an even bigger and better event.