What are SAP customers thinking as we emerge from 2021 and forge ahead in 2022? We’ve got the answers with the release of our ASUG Pulse of the SAP Customer 2022 study.

We sought critical pieces of information from our members in North America to create a picture of the state of the SAP customer base: their attitudes and preferences; their successes and challenges; and their thoughts and plans on vital SAP technology decisions. We have comparable historical data trends, which revealed several insights.

For the last five years, we were able to capture the pulse of the North American SAP customer base and answer these questions:

  • What SAP S/4HANA business cases are winning?
  • What emerging technologies are ready for prime time—and which aren’t?
  • Why does SAP talent and training continue to challenge SAP customers?
  • Who’s really making IT buying decisions today?

After reviewing the results and insights from this year’s research, these five topics stand out to me.

1. The Pulse on SAP S/4HANA Implementations and Staffing

This data shows a continuation of ASUG members moving or planning their move to SAP S/4HANA. Of the members who completed the survey, 44% of respondents told us they are already live or have started to move. This is an increase of 11% compared to 2021 – impressive progress given the challenges of the past few years.

What’s especially noteworthy is the focus on SAP S/4HANA skills and staffing. We asked respondents to tell us how they did or how they’ll find skilled talent to work on their SAP S/4HANA projects. The top answer? Permanent staff who learned SAP S/4HANA on the job (54%). Additionally, compared to previous years, more organizations are relying on implementation partners to provide the staff they need for SAP S/4HANA projects (+14%). This isn’t surprising since SAP S/4HANA is the top skillset missing or lacking at organizations, thus the need to fill the gap.

We expect the labor market for SAP-related skills, whether brought in-house or sourced through consultants to continue to tighten over the next few years. For organizations, this will create cost pressures as people costs rise. 

2. The Pulse on Improving User Experiences

Organizations continue to seek ways to standardize business processes, and half of organizations are focused on this in 2022. Again, through the lens of the past few tumultuous years, this comes as no surprise. Standardizing business processes will enable organizations to leverage more out-of-the-box user experiences and automation freeing up time for more value-added tasks and strategic initiatives.

Organizations are turning to automation as staffing and skill shortages impact all facets of an organization. Standardizing and automating processes address organizations' biggest challenges: integration issues and the spread of data errors. Using automation will also free up time for skilled talent to stay updated on moving technologies.

3. The Pulse on Operations During COVID-19

Over the past two years, the ASUG research team kept tabs on the ways COVID-19 was affecting the day-to-day operations of our members. In the early days of the pandemic, our members were reacting to the pandemic and operating in the face of the outbreak. It’s been particularly helpful—and interesting—to learn how the pandemic has affected how organizations function.

This recent data has painted an encouraging picture: 57% of respondents indicated that they were moving forward with their planned initiatives as normal, despite the ongoing pandemic. However, 29% of respondents are delaying planned initiatives, while 13% indicated that they’re beginning to plan or start new initiatives. Only 6% of respondents have cancelled planned initiatives. The recent, rapid spread of the omicron variant is a reminder that organizations will need to learn to operate with COIVD as a constant versus a short-term challenge. It’s encouraging to know that most organizations are still planning for the future and moving forward with planned initiatives.

4. The Pulse on Cloud Journeys

Another aspect of the ASUG Pulse of the SAP Customer 2022 study that I found interesting focused on cloud adoption. Last year, SAP doubled down on the cloud. The company kicked off the year by announcing RISE with SAP, a bundled subscription offering that SAP CEO Christian Klein described as “business transformation as a service.”

In this research, we saw increased interest in the cloud from our members. When asking respondents about their SAP environments, 40% said they were using an on-premise landscape. This was a sizable drop from 2021, when 53% of respondents indicated they were using an on-premise landscape. Across the board, we saw an increase in the usage of cloud environments this year. Of our respondents, 26% are using a hybrid environment (an increase from 24% last year); 16% are leveraging a third-party public cloud environment (up from 12% last year); another 16% are using a private cloud (an increase from 10% last year), and 8% are on a partner-managed cloud (an increase from 4% last year).

Regarding our members’ plans for their on-premise landscapes, more than one-third (37%) of respondents said that they’re planning to use hybrid on-premise and cloud landscapes, while 20% of respondents are moving all their systems to the cloud. Only 12% are keeping their workloads completely on-premise, and 30% of respondents are still determining their plans. This is encouraging to learn, especially as SAP continues to motivate its customers to become “intelligent enterprises.” Unquestioningly, the cloud will continue to be a hot topic that we’ll explore in 2022.

Taking the cloud one step further, I believe that ASUG members should leverage opportunities to take advantage of SAAS versions of SAP’s software as well as encouraging SAP to deliver SAAS solutions. This is the best way to reduce complexity and cost in the software portfolio which will enable greater flexibility as organizations operate in increasing dynamic environments.

As always, I’m eager to hear your thoughts on the results, so please email me your questions and comments. Additionally, please view the list of ASUG resources below. Be on the lookout for a full deep dive into the results of our annual Pulse of the SAP Customer research in a webcast in February. ASUG Director of Research Marissa Gilbert and I will be discussing these topics and more.

The Pulse on IT Purchasing Decisions

This is a trend we’ve been tracking for the past few years. In 2021, we reported that technology buying committees were vital to purchase decision-making; however, the pandemic and remote working situations may be pushing organizations back to the C-level for purchasing decisions. Buying decisions in 2022 are evenly split between buying committees (36% of organizations) and the C-level (34% of organizations) holding responsibility for new technology buying decisions.

While the use of buying committees has declined since 2021, it still remains twice as prevalent over buying decisions when compared to 2019.

Of course, a buying committee brings a mix of peers together with more opinions to weigh in on critical decisions, and foster better alignment and buy-in as the chosen solution moves from implementation to operations. It’s important to understand the various opinions and organizational motivations. Organizations making purchasing decisions this year should absolutely involve those areas of the business that are integral to the success of the software.

ASUG Resources for SAP Customers

Behind the Data webcast: ASUG members can tune in to the ASUG Pulse of the SAP Customer 2022 webcast on February 17, where I’ll be joined by ASUG Research Director Marissa Gilbert. We’ll break down some of the highlights from this research and examine some historical trends we’ve been tracking. Register here to join us.

Study Infographic: Be sure to download the ASUG Pulse of the SAP Customer 2022 infographic, below.

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