As head of SAP’s Customer Services & Delivery Board area, Thomas Saueressig holds global responsibility for long-term customer value in the cloud.

A member of the Executive Board of SAP SE, Saueressig has held various key positions across the organization, including chief information officer (CIO) and global head of IT services, since first joining SAP in 2004. Prior to his most recent appointment, Saueressig led the SAP Product Engineering Board area and was responsible for the entire SAP application portfolio.

As SAP emphasizes cloud adoption to its customer base, the company recently announced Saueressig’s transition from the Product Engineering Board area to the newly created Customer Services & Delivery Board area, where he’ll oversee all business areas in customer services, in addition to cloud infrastructure, cloud operations, cloud lifecycle management, and private cloud delivery for SAP’s global customer base. As Saueressig moves into this new role and prepares to speak on one of the keynote stages at SAP Sapphire & ASUG Annual Conference, ASUG caught up with Saueressig to discuss his current areas of focus and the state of cloud adoption in the SAP ecosystem.

This interview was conducted via email and edited for publication.

ASUG: In your new role at SAP, you lead the Customer Services & Delivery Board area with global responsibility for long-term customer value in the cloud. What can you tell us about the immediate focus and goals of your role and what factors led to its creation?

Thomas Saueressig: Our immediate focus is solely on our customers. For over 50 years, we have run their mission-critical processes and helped them with significant technology shifts, including the internet, mobile, and cloud. That has not changed.

Today, however, sustainable growth comes from a high level of business agility and resilience. The technological foundation for this is the cloud—no doubt. But that’s not all. Every customer conversation is about a true business transformation journey, which means to rethink and redesign business processes, to modernize systems, and to harmonize data.

That’s a really complex undertaking. Our customers seek advice on how to best manage this journey across their complex operational environment—often with lots of dependencies within the IT landscape. This requires a highly integrated approach across various corporate functions, which we brought together under the roof of the Customer Services & Delivery Board area. SAP customers will benefit from a more holistic and active support in their transformation with the best cloud infrastructure, operations, tools, services, and support to facilitate the successful introduction and adoption of innovation, especially artificial intelligence (AI).

With that, we are certain to reach our ultimate goal: customer satisfaction.

You previously led the SAP Product Engineering area within SAP. What were your proudest achievements in that role, and what are you most looking forward to from that organization with Muhammad Alam assuming the role?

To be honest, it is difficult to pick only a few achievements. The last five years with SAP Product Engineering were an exciting journey for me personally and my entire team. Most importantly, I sincerely hope that these achievements have become visible to our customers.

What stands out for me personally is that, with SAP S/4HANA, we have seen ERP becoming intelligent, sustainable, networked, and collaborative. That’s the foundation for ground-breaking innovation such as the green ledger.

Furthermore, we integrated our entire cloud portfolio, with more than 3,900 APIs and 3,400 integration flows to date. That is, by the way, the foundation for embedding AI and generative AI use cases specifically in our solutions so quickly, with over 35 generative AI use cases delivered in only the first quarter of the year. With that, we are well underway to offer the broadest and most integrated cloud suite on the planet. Across our solution areas, including Industry & Customer Experiences, Human Capital Management, and Intelligent Spend & Business Network, we delivered tremendous capabilities for our solutions and connected many of them to SAP Business Network while significantly improving our operational excellence and availability across all categories.

In addition, I would also like to highlight some achievements that are sometimes the “unsung heroes.” For example, we introduced the Horizon theme across our portfolio and introduced mobile innovations, lifting the user experience to a whole new level. We continued to keep our solutions tailored to many markets.

All this takes a team effort, and that is what I am most proud of: our incredible talent and remarkable team spirit across design, engineering, and operations. I look forward to seeing the team grow, and I know that Muhammad will take SAP Product Engineering to even greater heights.

As RISE with SAP has evolved, especially with the launch of the RISE with SAP Migration and Modernization program last fall, SAP has provided greater clarity on how customers can navigate this transformation path, as well as more incentives designed to remove barriers. How do you see the state of RISE adoption for SAP customers today, what challenges remain for customers with RISE, and how do you anticipate the offering will continue to evolve?

Thousands of our on-premises customers have already started their journey with RISE with SAP. We continue to see double digit growth in the cloud, which is a clear indication that our customers are embracing the cloud strategy.

Admittedly, this journey can take time depending on how complex the business environment is. There are two primary issues that our customers are facing in their move to the cloud: scope and cost. We are well aware of the challenges our customers have to deal with. With the RISE with SAP Migration and Modernization program, we have removed entry barriers so our customers can start small and move forward at their own pace. With the RISE with SAP Methodology—used by both SAP and partners—we ensure predictable timelines for projects and project progress transparency, with key milestone checks. This gives customers the confidence they need to plan such large-scale projects. And we are continuing to evolve and adding new enhancements to the RISE with SAP overall framework offering.

But that’s only the framework. From the very beginning, RISE with SAP was supposed to be a business transformation as a service. It’s not a tool or a service to do a lift and shift to the cloud, but a comprehensive set of the right mix of cloud infrastructure, services, advisory, support, and tools to lead our customers through a seismic shift in their business. This is both our ambition and our commitment.

As SAP seeks to expand its customer base in the midmarket, what will SAP do to address the challenges and needs of that audience, especially specific to the scalability of SAP solutions?

To address the midmarket, we introduced GROW with SAP in 2023. Companies turn to GROW with SAP because they seek solutions that can be implemented quickly as greenfield implementations and to expand their business significantly.

The offering includes a preconfigured package of resources that allows customers to use tools, methodologies, and services to help them get up and running within four to eight weeks. And with SAP S/4HANA Public Cloud using AI and over 50 years of industry best practices to deliver rapid deployment and agility, they are best positioned to scale up.

Outside of driving customers’ business transformations, how will the Customer Services & Delivery (CS&D) Board area help SAP customers optimize their existing investments in SAP?

In the new area, we brought all functions together to enable a seamless customer experience and deliver business transformation as a service. This is complemented by proactive advisory through enterprise architects that are part of every RISE with SAP subscription. They help our customers craft the right architecture for business innovation.

Ultimately, the new area makes sure the great innovative capabilities in our solutions are reaching the customer as quickly and efficiently as possible. Generative AI capabilities are a great example here. So, we help customers to swiftly adopt and consume innovation, maximize the benefits of our cloud solutions, and realize the value of SAP’s integrated portfolio, all while utilizing existing investment wherever possible.

But it’s not about a board area. At SAP, we work across all teams to ensure a great customer experience and engagement, as we follow one customer value journey approach. So, the areas should be transparent to the customers—we are one SAP.

Many SAP customers are running heterogeneous landscapes that involve integration between SAP and non-SAP systems. How are you helping customers reconcile technical issues across their technology landscapes, including those that will play a factor in those customers’ ability to migrate effectively to the cloud?

That is true. Sometimes the dependencies are highly complex, and the landscapes have grown over decades. But this is not a barrier to change. That is why it is so important to really engage with our customers, to understand their starting point and the roadmap for their business transformation.

Again, the RISE with SAP program considers all of these aspects and we tailor the program to the individual customer’s needs. We look into each and every solution and at each and every process. For that, we offer tool-based support and capabilities for our customers’ transformation, such as SAP for Me or SAP Cloud ALM. Additionally, we are combining the ability of LeanIX to get transparency into the IT landscape with SAP Signavio’s process transformation capabilities.

This is an important step towards a clean core, which helps achieve a more central, actionable, and measurable standard for all implementations—and still allows for extensions and customizations in the cloud.

You’ve vowed to increase customer satisfaction via “comprehensive and innovative post-sales technical delivery services and partner-led implementations.” In evaluating customer feedback and setting a vision for customer satisfaction at SAP, what factors or feedback informed this approach?

Customer feedback is invaluable. We gather feedback through multiple interactions.

First, we collect user feedback through usage metrics and in-app feedback.

Second, we measure the overall customer satisfaction via the net promoter score.

Third, we of course engage with our customers directly and very much value and evaluate customer feedback gathered regularly through our user groups. Here, we have listened to your feedback and that of other customers. Customers say that it is sometimes hard to consume our innovation quickly and easily. They wish for even more support in their complex transformation and would value a single point of contact to gain value even faster and get issues resolved quickly.

And if you have followed SAP over the last couple of years, we have always listened to our customers and factored in their feedback in our product strategy and roadmap – because we can only be as successful as our customers.

According to the 2024 ASUG Pulse of the SAP Customer Research results, 57% of SAP customers view migrating to the cloud as having a significant impact on their organizations’ overarching digital transformation efforts, secondary only to data analytics/dashboards (62%). How will SAP address the need for customers to enhance their data analytics capabilities ahead of cloud migration?

This is one of the issues we are addressing with the RISE with SAP Migration and Modernization program. On the technical layer, customers need to assess their current environment, to understand the complexity of their data, their extensions, of their dependencies, of what they have mapped.

And we are elevating the tools, methodologies, support, and services to do that into an entire program. What we are adding is transparency: on what it takes, what the steps of migration are, and how you can easily start thinking about and planning your journey.

With the defined RISE with SAP Methodology, we introduce four clearly defined steps, and help customers move from step to step. It’s no longer just up to the customer or the partner to figure it out. SAP is helping both customers and partners maintain clarity in terms of what they need to achieve, where they are in the process, and what it takes to get there.

So, following the SAP Migration and Modernization program closely gives leaders confidence to take even the most complex ERP systems to the cloud by helping to eliminate custom code, data silos, and process complexity.

We consider analytics and cloud as better together. Once customers have successfully migrated to the cloud and to a clean core, analytics becomes so much more powerful. Especially when thinking of the opportunities we have with AI—the models are only as good as the data they use. SAP has the most business-critical data in the systems, and we are committed to ensuring customers can truly generate value out of it.

You mentioned artificial intelligence, and particularly generative AI, as one driver for SAP to emphasize adoption of its solutions. How will SAP balance its mission of Business AI with servicing those customers who must first address data issues and other core concerns, who are not ready or willing to take on a gen-AI initiative?

This is why we are advising customers to migrate to cloud, which will help them achieve a clean core and high-quality data. From there, customers can innovate at their own pace or to start with smaller projects, which includes AI.

Outside of the RISE and GROW programs, what are some other ways SAP is engaging with customers to increase cloud adoption?

We have SAP Enterprise Support, SAP Cloud Application Services, and pre-packaged services on SAP Store. With our SAP ActiveAttention, Preferred Success, and MaxAttention programs we are ensuring strategic long-term partnership for successful collaboration with SAP. With these programs, customers can take advantage of business scenarios to help address specific IT or business events that commonly occur with digital transformations and use proven industry solutions to turn your visions into reality.

With the explosion of generative AI over the last months, customers are generally showing an increasing appetite and readiness for cloud adoption. As we continue to build out generative AI use cases and best practices, as well as new sustainability solutions in the cloud, this trend will only get more pervasive.

During the Q4 and FY 2023 financial results call, SAP unveiled encouraging figures on cloud momentum and growth—including a 25% increase in current cloud backlog, a 20% rise in cloud revenue, and an expected 24%-27% growth in cloud revenue this year. What do you attribute this momentum to: a growing appetite for cloud solutions, customers sensing this is the strategic direction SAP is taking, a combination of both?

Let’s look at our most recent earnings in the first quarter of this year. Cloud revenue increased by 25% to €3.9 billion, and we have a current cloud backlog of €14.2 billion, up 27% and up 28% at constant currencies. We clearly see that customers are realizing the benefits of cloud and the agility and flexibility it offers to them. This is why we continue to innovate at a high pace and evolve our strategic direction. Also, customers know that the cloud is here to stay, and it also is a prerequisite for business success in the era of AI.

It’s the age of cloud, generative AI, and SAP S/4HANA at SAP. What excites you most about the confluence of those technologies and the value they can bring SAP customers?

AI is completely reshaping the status quo, and SAP is driving the AI revolution in enterprise software, with SAP S/4HANA at the core.

To only name a few examples: by embedding SAP Business AI across our portfolio, we can calculate carbon footprints down to the individual product level in a fraction of the time it takes today—and do it much more accurately; we can organize data from suppliers to ensure compliance with regulations like the EU Taxonomy—and provide guidance on how to improve performance; and we can gather and analyze complex data from inside and outside the company to create performance reports as well as regulatory disclosure for diverse reporting frameworks.

Within months rather than decades, it will transform companies and entire industries by enabling smarter and easier business decisions and outcomes, changing the everyday work life of many.

Want to continue reading this article?

Become a member and get access to all ASUG benefits including news, resources, webcasts, chapter events, and much more!

Log in

Not an ASUG member? Learn more