In the weeks after SAP first announced RISE with SAP—its subscription offering that will help customers migrate to the cloud and transform into intelligent enterprises—many organizations are most likely wondering how this bundle will help them and if it is even a fit for their journeys. While SAP is trying to simplify the migration process, this undertaking is still significant.

ASUG recently sat down with DJ Paoni, president of SAP North America. He answered questions about the value of RISE with SAP and how it helps organizations. Read our conversation to learn more about the specifics of RISE with SAP.

ASUG: Start off by telling us about your current role at SAP and what you do.

DJ: I am the president of SAP North America, responsible for the strategy, day-to-day operations, and overall customer success of one of the most important regions in the world. North America has more than 200,000 customers in 25 industries with 25,000 employees supporting them across 50 locations. I’ve been with SAP since 1996.

ASUG: In your own words, what do you think the biggest value for RISE with SAP is for your customers?

DJ: Our customers have faced so much disruption in the last year that forced them to reinvent what they do and how they do it. We offer RISE with SAP as a service that helps them unlock the full value of those major transformations sooner. It’s important to make clear this isn’t a change in the technology. RISE with SAP maps a series of steps that simplifies the journey by providing one offer and one contract to begin the process. We aren’t just telling our customers what to do or where to go. We are embarking on this journey with them, to shoulder the burden and help them along the way.

ASUG: SAP wants its customers to be “intelligent enterprises.” RISE with SAP is a way to make that happen. Why do you think intelligent enterprises are so vital, given the current business climate (and the events of the last year), and how are they important for the future?

DJ: In my view, when an organization becomes an intelligent enterprise, it’s effectively an insurance policy against future disruption. Last year, we learned that customer expectations can change on a dime. At the end of the day, disruption can come from negative things, like a global pandemic, or opportunities, like innovation that are unlocked by the market. Being an intelligent enterprise makes organizations agile and ensures technology isn’t an obstacle for innovation and growth.

ASUG: Where did RISE with SAP come from? Was this something customers asked for? I’d love to know about how it was first conceived.

DJ: Customer feedback was crucial in this process. CEOs saw the potential growth that came with new business models. CFOs knew that efficiencies through automation created higher margins. Across the board, customers required simplification, end to end, to make the move to the cloud.

Our customers told us that when they do the migration to SAP S/4HANA and to the cloud infrastructure, it is simply a technical migration, and not a change in business process. This didn’t sit right with us. RISE with SAP is our response to that feedback. It’s not just a technical migration. It is a holistic, end-to-end approach to helping our customers transform their businesses to be more resilient, regardless of their starting point or complexity.

RISE with SAP provides a single offer on a single contract, simplified procurement, and a way to manage vendors more easily—exactly what our customers were asking for.

ASUG: When you’re looking at the average North American SAP customer, what do you think the biggest barriers to digital transformation are for them? How does RISE with SAP address those barriers?

DJ: The beauty of SAP in North America is that there is no “average customer.” Challenges largely depend on the industry. Oil and gas and automotive manufacturing barriers will differ from consumer packaged goods. The timing of disruption also varies. For example, if you’re in the automotive manufacturing space, disruption is happening right now. Consumer packaged goods struggled largely at the start of the pandemic. For this reason, our business transformation model begins with industry. We are acutely aware of each industry’s challenges and requirements.

Across industries, though, we know that moving our customers to the cloud offers a level of flexibility in how they deploy technology, but some are overwhelmed at the idea of making this move. RISE with SAP eliminates some of the barriers to the cloud by presenting our customers an end-to-end, holistic offer and plan. Through this new model, we can take customers by the hand and guide them through the transformation and help them take full advantage of being an Intelligent Enterprise.

ASUG: I’d really love to know how you all got the hyperscalers on board with RISE with SAP. SAP obviously has some great relationships with a few of the hyperscalers, but how did you all pitch RISE with SAP to them, and what do you think made them want to participate?

DJ: We have a long history of working side by side with hyperscalers to help our customers. SAP has over 23,000 partners and we rely on them for co-innovation every day. The RISE offer is no exception. Customers will benefit from our extensive partner network here as well. And partners will contribute Application Management Services for RISE customers, which represents a massive opportunity. This is great for everyone, and the reality is we need each other to be successful.

ASUG: Systems integrators and their implementation services aren’t included in the RISE with SAP bundle. In a Q&A webcast with ASUG, Robin Manherz talked about how a lot of those organizations have been consulted so that they can hit the ground running with RISE with SAP customers. What has that process been like? How did you all work with them to make sure they were familiar with the offering and could assist customers when the time came?

DJ: The systems integrators are an important group and have been a part of the consultations. We have always been clear with our SIs. With their industry domain and technical expertise, we’ll need this group to help us transition customers to become intelligent enterprises with SAP S/4HANA as the digital core.

They will be able to build extensions—based on their business process knowledge and technical knowhow—on top of our enterprise applications. With the right amount of oversight and accountability, we will continue to work hand in hand to make end-to-end business process transformations possible.

The key here is oversight and accountability. SAP wants and needs to remain part of the customer journey process, and that’s what RISE is all about.

ASUG: Christian Klein was asked this during the media and analyst Q&A, but I’d love to get your take. I’ve seen some comparisons between RISE with SAP and SAP Leonardo. Can you tell us how the two offerings are differentiated and why this maybe isn’t an apt comparison?

DJ: SAP Leonardo offered AI developed on the platform for certain scenarios, but it wasn’t introduced in the context of business processes or embedded in our applications. Customers aren’t looking to buy AI as a separate function. They wanted AI embedded into intelligent business applications seamlessly. RISE with SAP is able to do this.

The addition of Signavio can also help continuously improve processes and get more insights from them as well. This brings together business process intelligence with business configuration of the system, which is unique to RISE.

ASUG: What does success look like for RISE with SAP?

DJ: Success is our customers trusting us and taking the first step in their transformation journey. It’s migrations to the SAP S/4HANA platform, adoption of the technology that will change the way they do business. It’s embracing industry cloud and capabilities like embedded AI and automation to become more efficient, agile, and resilient—all at their own pace.

ASUG: I know that RISE with SAP was literally just announced, but I like to end all my interviews looking forward. What should SAP customers be expecting in the coming months as you all continue to roll out RISE with SAP and get more companies on board?

DJ: What’s best about RISE with SAP is that it’s hyper-tailored based on each customer’s needs. No two customers will have the same experience since they won’t have the same challenges or opportunities. With time, we’ll get even better at anticipating next steps, and we’ll be able to pivot faster. We’ll learn from the elements that weren’t a perfect fit and continue the process of improving and evolving the offering. We will keep our ear to the ground since so much depends on the feedback we receive. I encourage ASUG to keep the lines of communication open and tell us where we are missing the mark and how we can do better. Together we’ll make more possible.

Stick with ASUG for more information on RISE with SAP. ASUG has upcoming two member-exclusive webcasts. The first, on Feb. 16 at 2 p.m. ET/1 p.m. CT, will focus on North American businesses and what RISE with SAP means for them. Then, on Feb. 17 at 12 p.m. ET/11 a.m. CT, ASUG CEO Geoff Scott will be joined by Josh Greenbaum, principal at Enterprise Application Consulting, and Jon Reed, co-founder of Diginomica, to give an analyst’s perspective to this new SAP offering.