It’s been just over one year since SAP unveiled RISE with SAP. To mark the occasion, ASUG recently discussed the 12-month mark with Jason Schaps, senior vice president and head of cloud for RISE with SAP in North America, and Mary Sibley, regional vice president of SAP S/4HANA Center of Excellence. We discussed the first year of RISE with SAP progress, advice for RISE with SAP potential customers, and what the future holds for the offering.

ASUG: How do you characterize the first year of RISE with SAP being on the market?

Mary: I would describe it as exhilarating. Globally, more than 1,000 customers selected RISE with SAP in 2021 to guide their journeys to the cloud. RISE with SAP has unlocked a new level of partnership between SAP and our existing SAP ECC customers, and it is proof that SAP is leaning in even more to support our customers. We saw a record number of ECC customers move to SAP S/4HANA Cloud. In addition, RISE with SAP caught the eye of new organizations, companies that are just starting their cloud journeys. For example, RISE saw significant adoption in the EV [electric vehicle] startup space.

Jason: The critical word here is “evolution.” One of the best-kept secrets about RISE with SAP is that despite RISE with SAP being one year old, SAP has been in the cloud ERP space for about 11 years. I always want to make that point because customers are constantly asking us, “Why would I trust you with my crown jewels when this is a brand-new offering?” The good news is that RISE with SAP is the culmination of work we’ve already been doing for the past 11 years—learning, refining, and evolving the service offering.

In addition to all the customer adoption and success that Mary mentioned, I’m proud of how the solution offering has grown in the market. The SAP cloud development and services teams behind the service offering are delivering more than 45,000 systems (45% year-over-year growth), and we have more than 1,500 customers with hyperscaler infrastructure (200% year-over-year growth). Our system availability is averaging 99.99%, and we are delivering over 18,000 service requests per month. For me, these numbers are a testament to the rocket ship that is RISE with SAP.

ASUG: What is your sales pitch to SAP customers that are considering using RISE with SAP?

Jason: RISE with SAP represents SAP’s fundamental shift as we transform from a software company that sells products to a services company that sells outcomes. With RISE with SAP, we are putting our customers at the center of every decision we make and answering their requests to be more involved and accountable for the success of their investments. In shifting this operational responsibility to SAP, we have created a massive opportunity for customers to de-risk and accelerate their cloud-based business transformations. This unlocks an opportunity for customers to realign highly valuable internal resources to focus more on strategic, top-line initiatives. RISE with SAP also offers tremendous commercial flexibility, helping customers better align costs and benefits upfront via cloud subscription terms as well as the ability to adjust their asset usage to reflect business needs. These are some of the things we talk about when we meet with customers that are considering the service offering.

Mary: Agreed. You have the four traditional value levers--revenue, productivity, asset utilization, and strategy support. But there are also opportunities around system rationalization, which is an important differentiation from simply moving workloads to the cloud. Optimization is essential and RISE with SAP unlocks this value.

ASUG: We saw (SAP announce) a 76% increase in the current cloud backlog for SAP S/4HANA and it seems as though (SAP CEO) Christian Klein indicated that RISE with SAP played a significant role in that increase. To what do you attribute this increased interest RISE with SAP in the cloud?

Mary: I think it's a combination of things. First, there is the draw of cloud economics. Second, the pandemic has dramatically changed the speed and approach organizations take to innovation. The fit-to-standard approach offered by the cloud is the perfect fit for this changing environment. Lastly, an important feature is the ability to minimize technical debt by developing any needed customizations into the business technology platform layer instead of the ERP layer.

Jason: I think it is an affirmation for us that the strategy is working. At the start of 2021, when we first introduced RISE, our working hypothesis was that our customers wanted us to be more involved and more accountable for the success of their investments with SAP. We saw clear evidence that our customers were looking for opportunities to offload risk and accelerate business transformation. In my view, the increase in CCB (Current Cloud Backlog) validates our hypothesis. We are seeing massive adoption of RISE at a hyper-accelerated pace because customers are seeking exactly these opportunities.

ASUG: How was SAP able to partner with the hyperscalers and how has this year been for them?

Jason: Let me just say that our partnership with the hyperscalers is stronger than ever. I can also say that this is a direct result of the 11-year journey we’ve been on and the key insights and learnings this process has afforded us. More specifically, we have learned that success requires focus--meaning, success required us to define a solution framework that provides our customers with the best of what SAP and our partners (the hyperscalers) have to offer.

For SAP, our expertise is in the application layer, the management of our applications, and all the incremental core capability we have built out over time. For the hyperscalers, it’s data center management. From my perspective, this fundamental shift in our go-to-market strategy—partnering with the hyperscalers instead of competing—combined with the continued evolution of our solution offering – is what’s so different about RISE with SAP from our previous offerings. It is also why our partnership with the hyperscalers is better than ever before.

ASUG: How are you articulating the value of RISE with SAP to potential customers that are both inside and outside the SAP ecosystem?

Mary: The early adopters of RISE with SAP—including EcoBat, Energizer, NBA, and Revlon—have been incredible partners whose feedback has helped us continue to iterate to provide maximal value. For example, one thing we heard early on is that we shouldn’t underestimate the power of avoiding value leakage from a messaging standpoint. The truth is that there are so many layers of value to RISE with SAP for our customers: industry best practices, optimization, system rationalization, agility, and continuous improvement.

Jason: At the heart of every RISE with SAP business case is business transformation predicated on SAP applications. With RISE with SAP, we are helping customers dramatically increase their probability of success. The offering is all about answering important questions that are top of mind for our customers: Are we helping them de-risk and accelerate their cloud journeys? Are we offering better operational performance? Is there more commercial flexibility and cost/benefit alignment? Fundamentally speaking, does RISE with SAP offer customers benefits they wouldn’t otherwise receive?

ASUG: What advice would you give to customers that are adopting RISE with SAP?

Mary: Start with identifying your "why." What is the opportunity around people, business processes, technology, and/or data? Establish your “north star” by agreeing on your three to five most important reasons for your organization’s digital transformation. Then identify and quantify the improvements you are expecting from your digital transformation. Look for opportunities to embrace “fit to standard,” saving customization for areas that give you a competitive advantage.

Take the time to ready your data and your organization. Clean data is even more important and change management cannot be underestimated. I would strongly recommend if you don't have a center of excellence to create one. Studies show that a center of excellence allows for knowledge sharing, scope protection, and improved relationships between IT and the business. Choose an innovation partner as carefully as you would choose a spouse. It might be multiple partners based on what the real needs are of your organization. Do you have a bandwidth issue? Or a solution expertise issue? Do you need an external perspective? Lastly, create strategic buy-in via a business case that maps your why, your “north star” to capabilities, and quantifies the business benefits. Thoughtful organizations are reaping the benefits in their implementations.

Jason: The RISE with SAP offering is so much more than moving your workloads from point A to point B. You can go out and find anybody to help you move your workloads. RISE with SAP is about business transformation and holding SAP accountable for the success of the transformation you're seeking, whether it's tactical or something grandiose. You are putting us in the middle and holding us accountable through the introduction of SLAs (service level agreements) and contractual terms. Customers should lean on SAP as that accountability partner Mary was describing. Do your research and hear from other RISE with SAP users. There are tons of articles, events, and other opportunities to hear from other customers that have experienced success with RISE with SAP.

ASUG: What does the future hold for RISE with SAP in 2022 and beyond?

Jason: The success that we are seeing rolling out of 2021, and the momentum that our customers have with the service offering, has me thinking you should expect more of the same! The most exciting thing about where we are is all of the validation and feedback that we're getting from our customers that it's working and the offer is resonating. As we talk about this paradigm shift, moving from a product company to a solution service provider, opens the door to exploring opportunities to help our customers get more value from our partnership which again, is what this is all about.

Mary: We're going to continue to evolve. One important thing is that we take feedback seriously from our customers. We have a customer council, and we listen and act on their input. If you think back over our 50 years, SAP’s ERP solution continued to evolve as technology evolved. SAP R/2 ran on mainframes, and then the SAP R/3 embraced client-server, SAP ECC leveraged the internet and SAP S/4 HANA has embraced the cloud.

Want to hear more about RISE with SAP and SAP S/4HANA? Be sure to register for ASUG Best Practices: SAP S/4HANA — Chicago. Join us on April 20.