ASUG extends its SAP leadership interviews that are important to our members and customers in this recent discussion with Lou Meshulam, Head of Cloud, SAP North America. Meshulam discusses SAP cloud strategy, business and technology opportunities, and the cost-value equation for enterprise cloud migration.

This is an edited version of the complete conversation.

ASUG: What are an organization’s business and technology considerations when they first look for a new and different cloud solution?

Lou: If you look at what led customers to move to the cloud 10 or 11 years ago, customers normally started with standalone solutions for HR, procurement, and expenses. What you see today is our customers are moving core, mission-critical systems, such as core ERP, supply chain systems, and data and analytics, to the cloud – and they’re doing it at a faster rate.

The customer mindset has also shifted significantly from what we call ‘lift and shift,’ where they simply pick up their environment and move it, to a more holistic business transformation approach. RISE with SAP is our comprehensive solution designed to help customers innovate, develop new business models, transform mission critical systems, and maintain an innovation curve at the customer’s pace in support of their unique business outcomes.

ASUG: What are the key components in building a business case, initially for cloud migration, and then for continued transition into the cloud for mission-critical systems?

Lou: I work with customers every day and it all comes down to business value. We talk about outcomes that our customers are trying to drive and use that as our true north star. We are consistently working with customers to define use cases that drive real and significant customer outcomes. Ultimately, moving to the cloud is about ensuring resiliency, efficiency, and agility while supporting strategic transformation of key business processes.

Customers should focus on time-to-value, identifying early wins, and having a plan for continuous innovation. There may be some capabilities that you choose to leave out of scope for your initial go-live, but because of the nature of the solution, you’re able to bring that in later in a cycle of your choosing. As part of their journey, customers will likely want some additional support from their partners and SAP. It’s critical to leverage the experience of the SAP ecosystem to ensure our customers are achieving their desired business outcomes.

ASUG: What are some common outcomes that customers in transition are seeking?

Lou: It depends on where they want to start. The beauty of the cloud is that you can start anywhere. Most of our customers, when they're looking at the cloud, and looking at making a holistic change, they're looking at the macro level. They are asking, “How do we enter into new markets? How do we drive better outcomes for our customers? How do we increase our revenue? How do we optimize our business processes?” Every customer has their own unique desired business outcomes and SAP offers the flexibility to support their transformation efforts.

ASUG: Can you tease that out a little bit more in terms of the conversation SAP has with customers?

Lou: As an example, let’s talk about what’s happening in the supply chain at a global level. Disruptions in the supply chain are at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Customers are asking how to increase visibility into their supply chains to assess risk and sustainability. SAP’s Digital Supply Chain and Procurement solutions enable greater visibility and transparency into all aspects of the end-to-end supply chain.

In addition, customers are laser-focused on attracting talent, retaining their people, engaging their customers through new channels – the list goes on. In each of these areas, we have world-class solutions to help our customers achieve their goals.

ASUG: You also mentioned innovation and the cloud enabling innovation. Tell us a little bit more about that and, if you could, mention some specific examples.

Lou: If you take a look at what just happened over the last two years with the pandemic, it caused a lot of change that will continue after it's over. I'll give you one example. All the brick-and-mortar customers had to change their business model overnight. They had to reimagine how they go to market, how they support their customers, and how they enable their employees to work in the new normal. While the innovation was driven out of necessity in response to the pandemic, the new models will allow our customers to grow in the near- and long-term.

ASUG: Are there particular companies to mention?

Lou: SAP is proud that 18 of the 20 vaccine makers use SAP to run their core mission-critical systems. If you think of the things Moderna is doing around all the issues with counterfeit drugs. Their track-and-traceability systems rely heavily on SAP.

I think it points to our mission statement: Help the world run better and improve people’s lives. It’s been our mission for 50 years and it’s never been more true than in the last two years. We've enabled our pharma customers like Moderna to make and distribute vaccines safely, and in our own small way make a difference in an incredibly difficult time.