It's been nearly six months since SAP announced its latest offering, RISE with SAP, which SAP CEO Christian Klein has described as "digital transformation as a service." This subscription-based solution is being trumpeted as a way to easily help SAP customers migrate to the cloud, implement SAP S/4HANA Cloud, and ultimately become intelligent enterprises. 

Yet, many SAP customers are still trying to decide whether RISE with SAP is right for their organization, or still have an incomplete understanding of what the solution does and how it can help with this complicated transformation process. ASUG recently conducted research in collaboration with DSAG focused on RISE with SAP and cloud adoption. We'll be breaking down the results of that research on Aug. 2 at 9 a.m. CT

In the meantime, take a look at this customer story from ECOBAT, one of the first RISE with SAP customers. ASUG sat down with Jamie Lee to discuss how the organization came to use RISE with SAP and what their experience was like. Here are his full thoughts.

ASUG: Tell us about your current role at ECOBAT and your customers.

Jamie: My name is Jamie Lee, and I am the chief information officer for ECOBAT. We're a global company of 4,300 employees across Europe, U.S., and South Africa. Our mission is to lead in the responsible collection, recycling, production, and distribution of resources essential to modern life. But we do that with a purpose to transform resources to power a more connected and sustainable world. Whether you know if or not, batteries are largely not recycled today. Contents like metal alloys and chemistry inside batteries do not get recycled. However, lead acid batteries happen to contain the world's largest recycled product, which is lead. An estimated 130 million batteries are recycled every year globally. Our company started with the lead-acid battery recycling and moved on to other batteries, including lithium.

Those batteries get recycled through us. We take those alloys and process them as inputs to our customers who make batteries. We then turn those contents into mobile stored energy solutions, which you're seeing in data centers today by way of UPS, and backups into mobile power that you see in generators. Everything around you operates off of the grid, but most everything, including the electric vehicles, have backup batteries to operate in case of a power outage. We're positioned really well to lead in this space.

ASUG: What is ECOBAT's SAP story? Talk to us a little bit about what your current IT stack looks like and how long you all have been using SAP solutions.

Jamie: ECOBAT has been an SAP customer since 2007, and we're currently operating SAP ECC with SAP EHP 8. We've recently contracted with SAP to go to SAP S/4HANA in a private cloud. We are hosting on Microsoft Azure. We see this as an exciting time to upgrade from legacy SAP, as well as a myriad of ERPs from Oracle, Sage, Compiere, Exact Globe, and Syspro that are running on IBM AS/400. I have several kinds of custom, homegrown AS/400 solutions. While our U.S. business has been on SAP for many years, we're going to consolidate, collapse, and remove that permutation of all of these legacy, aged systems that are at risk now, and make a major step change to the cloud with SAP. RISE with SAP is part of that process.

ASUG: How did ECOBAT come to the decision to actually upgrade to SAP S/4HANA Cloud?

Jamie: I've been in enough manufacturing companies to see that many of them are behind the times—sometimes by decades. A technology catch-up would require a lot of upgrades and migrations through different platforms on-prem. It's honestly just faster to make a wholesale change to the cloud. If you're going to do that and you're going to carry the old architectures of client server on-premise, you are likely doing more than you have to in order to make that model work in the cloud. For us, it was all about leveraging the cloud along with the capabilities and backend that SAP has over what our current staff was able to deliver and support. So many IT groups are looking at that challenge of funding a movement to the cloud with the resources that they have, rather than saying, "How do I contract and work with a partner to get us there on our behalf?"

We chose the latter and sometimes you just get lucky. SAP came out with the RISE with SAP program. It just made total sense. Historically, my experience with SAP involved a sales agent who had to do a ton of work on their own and had to be that integral part in SAP, working through the channels inside of SAP. Now with RISE with SAP, you get a customer success representative, much like if you had deployed SAP SuccessFactors or SAP Concur. I actually talked to our representative today and she said, "RISE with SAP has evolved from those other models, but is now on the ERP space for cloud for SAP HANA." We saw all that come together, including the simplification of the contracting and the licensing model. That's why we wanted to make a step change and make a jump, to catch up our industry.

ASUG: Tell us about your RISE with SAP journey. How and when did ECOBAT get started?

Jamie: I actually heard about RISE from our sales agent, Erin Myers, who had just joined SAP in the south region in the U.S. We are both from Indiana. I happened to relocate to Dallas in December. We were having this conversation and she said, "You're going to love this program coming out." This was great of use, because my experiences in getting approval for the SAP S/4HANA upgrade has been somewhat difficult. To better communicate the value, the licensing explanation of the SAP model, and the flexibility for SaaS services and cloud ERP was far simpler than where we used to be years ago with SAP ECC. The partnership was there, the evolution of technology was there, the step change for the company to advance its technology platform was there with a faster timeline.

Erin’s presentation of RISE with SAP really de-risked some of the jump to the cloud from my opinion. I felt as if we had a more competent, ready team from SAP to engage us to make that leap than just, say, the sales agent having to bear the risk on themselves of having to know everybody in SAP and having to solve all these issues. RISE with SAP really arranged a team around the transformation, not just a single person. To me, that was interesting.

ASUG: Where is ECOBAT right now on the RISE with SAP process?

Jamie: We've contracted and we have our partner chosen for our systems integration. As well, SAP is currently building our system. The services arm is building that platform in the cloud. And we expect to see it in two weeks.

ASUG: What are some of the main ways RISE with SAP has helped out ECOBAT with its SAP S/4HANA journey? How has it helped streamline the processes and made the migration easier?

Jamie: Today, business leaders are looking at a menu of options. They want this system, they trust the value of the brand, and they trust the value of the platform. They want to select the components that they need for their business industry, strategic goals, and geographical scale. RISE with SAP presented an ability to look at what's called their EML and select components of SAP for system build. This process was essentially a handshake between SAP and ECOBAT to say, "We want these things for these seven countries. Go." This really felt like a selection process, something that you would expect to order online and expect to pay for, but then get that same system back. We trust that the selections we made are being built by SAP, because it was very clear as to what was expected, and the turnaround time is in weeks, not months. The speed of that is very interesting to us.

ASUG: One of the things that SAP has really touted as part of this offering is sort of this idea of the single contract to take care of a lot of the implementation process. How has that worked out for you all?

Jamie: It's working out well. There still is communication required. I call it the triangle. You need the SAP partnership, you need your systems integration partnership, and you need your internal capabilities and company partnership. Most internal transformations need to be led by the internal people and the internal leadership of the company. SAP and systems integrators have come together in our case and done a great job in communicating with each other and defining roles and responsibilities. I see that communication over email, I see it on Microsoft Teams as we chat and collaborate. Of course, I see it with the ECOBAT employees that are helping set expectations, pick the modules that we're going to deploy off that menu, and then enable the business process.

ASUG: Obviously the SI isn't part of that one contract that SAP is talking about. You have to contract them separately. It sounds like it's been a good experience though. Even though you have those two separate contracts, there seems to be a lot of communication between the two parties and it's still pretty streamlined. Am I correct in that?

Jamie: You are. I'd call it traction. Because of the nature of the team orientation through RISE with SAP, you get better traction because they're moving the communications between each other alongside you, so that it really is collaborative. And if it's collaborative, then the whole team moves together, which means if we say we're going to be here with a built system, and we say we're here with decisions to build that system, then we're all hearing it, we're all moving together, and everybody has their part and things are getting done. That's progress. When you pay a significant amount to get licensing to SAP, you would expect progress. And that's what I'm seeing.

It’s two-fold, first is the contracting. The contractual nature of licensing was much clearer this go-round. It was great getting the contract to a single page, maybe with an addendum or two. That's easy stuff, a lot easier than it was the last three times I've been presenting SAP S/4HANA implementations to companies. The contractual nature was far easier, more interesting to understand and comprehend. Second, the delivery side by SAP has been completely meaningful this time and productive because of the team orientation and having a point of contact that's working and facilitating on your behalf inside of SAP.

ASUG: What advice would you give to other organizations who are either about to make the jump to SAP S/4HANA using RISE with SAP or are currently weighing their options?

Jamie: Get a copy early of the EML—all your menu options and selections—before you complete your contract. Because everybody wants it as fast as possible when they're contracted. You've got to get the value to the business. If you do that, that means that at the end of your EML selection, and when your contract is signed, you can turn that EML straight to the RISE with SAP team and they go off to build. Otherwise, if you contract and then you select your EML options, you insert a gap in your timeline. You could move it up by a couple of weeks or so. But, looking back, I wish we had executed that process in parallel.

Make sure to register for our webcast going over the results from the ASUG/DSAG research focused on cloud adoption and RISE with SAP. Click here to register and attend.