As SAP seeks to secure its long-term success by driving net new name acquisition, the company’s executive leaders continue to emphasize the importance of increasing SAP S/4HANA Public Cloud adoption, and of connecting midmarket customers to SAP Cloud ERP solutions.

Earlier this year, in March, to heighten its focus on this area, SAP leadership announced a new SAP S/4HANA Public Cloud & Midmarket (S/4HPC MM) organization, to be led by president and chief revenue officer Bernd Brandl. In his new role, Brandl is responsible for driving SAP S/4HANA Public Cloud revenue and profitability, with an emphasis on driving new customer acquisition and reviving dormant accounts across the midmarket segment.

Brandl joined SAP in 1997 as a sales representative, becoming a member of the SAP Germany Management Board in 2003. After holding several executive positions in Industry Sales, and founding the first Database & Technology, Business Analytics, and Mobile Solutions division within Germany, he was appointed Managing Director for SAP Switzerland in 2014. From there , he transitioned to lead Digital Core Sales for the Middle- and Eastern Europe (MEE). In 2020, Brandl became the leader for Digital Supply Chain sales globally before assuming the leadership for S/4HPC MM earlier this year.

In announcing his appointment, SAP’s Scott Russell—Head of Customer Success, and a member of the SAP SE Executive Board—said that Brandl “innately understands the power of Cloud ERP and the potential it offers customers to transform their business, grow and differentiate from competitors.” Speaking with ASUG in a recent interview, Brandl reflected that, “You could say I was with Cloud ERP from its first hour at SAP.”

Below, in the first half of our two-part interview, ASUG asks Brandl about his perspective on expanding integration capabilities, helping customers to navigate supply chain disruption, and more.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Q. What is your vision for driving SAP S/4HANA Public Cloud revenue and profitability in this new role?

A. From my global position, it's very important that we are still doing our business locally. I truly believe in this. I will enable local teams to serve our midmarket customers very well, supported by regional and global organizations that can generate value for the daily business with colleagues in the field. 

And, of course, based on this strong emphasis that we have on Cloud ERP, and especially on the Public Cloud, I think we will convince more and more midmarket customers that S/4HANA Public Cloud is the right solution for them to choose, in addition to SAP BTP and other public cloud solutions. What’s very important in this area is our steadily growing partner community; the goal is to leverage our partner organizations as much as possible in the midmarket area.

I’ve been focused on midmarket for many years, during my time in Switzerland especially. Midmarket customers are very agile and innovative, and lots of these customers have challenges similar to those faced by larger companies. They’re global, and they deal with strong competition everywhere. They need an easy-to-use solution that supports their global businesses. They have limited resources available, and so this solution has to be easily maintained, but they nevertheless need permanent innovations. 

Luckily, public cloud solutions fit their need exactly—not just ERP, but also in areas such as planning with SAP Integrated Business Planning for Supply Chain (SAP IBP) and manufacturing with SAP Digital Manufacturing Cloud (SAP DMC). From a midmarket customer perspective, an ERP public cloud solution is exactly what they need to meet their requirements.

Q. You have a strong background in digital sales and digital supply chain. With supply chains still under pressure throughout the world, how can SAP make a difference in helping customers navigate the disruption, and how has your familiarity with these topics informed your approach to leading S/4HPC MM thus far?

A. When you look at SAP Digital Supply Chain, which is a very broad area of functionality that we deliver in our Design to Operate lifecycle of products, what SAP wants to deliver to the customer is an integrated supply-chain solution that serves each and every need they have in this area. For customers that need a digital supply chain, we cover a lot of ERP functionality for them as well. 

If you’re looking at a manufacturing company, it encompasses finance, digital supply chain, HR, perhaps also digital sales; and so, we think of supply chain as a core part of ERP. In addition to this core supply-chain functionality that we have in S/4HANA Public Cloud, we offer add-ons, such as SAP IBP, SAP DMC, SAP Enterprise Product Development (SAP EPD), and others. For supply-chain customers, we have a market-leading solution.

Q. Since the introduction of GROW with SAP to drive sales of SAP S/4HANA Public Cloud in the midmarket, what have you learned about this sector’s position on cloud adoption and any specific obstacles its companies face?

A. Companies of every size are moving into the cloud. Midmarket companies are even faster in making this move, for several reasons, but what I’ve observed in midmarket is the huge cost pressure that they face in optimizing what their business does, especially in HR-intensive areas of the world where the cost per person is very high. By moving to public cloud, they save money through not overly customizing their systems; the CFOs of these companies are well-aware that they spend a lot of money on integrations. They can get rid of this by using SAP products. 

There are still some areas where integration is needed, but over-customizing past ERP systems has produced costs that nobody wants. Speaking more broadly, the public cloud approach is exactly what the midmarket needs, because it provides that cost security. And as we’re shipping new innovations and major releases every half year, the public cloud scenario gives all of us at SAP the ability to react faster than we were able to do in the past to new requirements. For the midmarket, that velocity is very important.

Q. Even with a 2027 end of mainstream maintenance deadline for SAP Business Suite 7 looming, every customer is on their own business and IT evolution journey. Not all of those customers favor public cloud solutions. What are your views on the position of “cloud yes, cloud-only no,” as ASUG and DSAG members put forth in recent research?

A. At the end of the day, every company has to decide for themselves what’s the right way forward for their business. We certainly can help, and we have partners that help them find the right way. SAP offers various solutions that customers can choose. In significant numbers, our large enterprise customers are going with a private cloud approach, which makes sense for them for them to do. On the other hand, they can also use our public cloud solutions, and a lot of them are using SAP IBP as their planning solutions or other add-ons we provide. 

There are also other software companies on Earth, and a hybrid route that one can travel. From a customer perspective, everything is there that they need for a bright future, but they have to act. 2027 is getting closer, but those customers will manage. Nobody will be left behind. That’s not the way SAP is acting. We have had partnerships with our customers and their companies for decades, and we will help them wherever we can. But, on the other hand, S/4HANA is the leading ERP system on the globe. It’s time for everybody to move on.

Q. Most SAP customers, in pursuing cloud migration, run hybrid environments. As SAP embraces cloud as the future of its ERP, what is your perspective on the role of hybrid scenarios in SAP’s roadmap and support for them in different forms?

A. Hybrid scenarios have been with SAP forever. It rarely was the case that a company was doing everything with SAP exclusively, and so we support this. We have our APIs that customers can use. We even sell interface software to various solutions, to make it easier for our customers. We also have partnerships with other software companies, in niche areas where we are not able to solve all requirements for our customers. There were always hybrid scenarios, and they will stay with us.

Nevertheless, I think customers would like to have as much as possible running in one system and, in principle, that’s the goal our customers are looking for. Integration was always one of the key advantages that SAP was offering. But especially in the midmarket, where we think this is possible, we want to serve our customers with a complete ERP solution. That’s what they want, at the end of the day.

Q. As found in ASUG's most recent Pulse of the SAP Customer research, integration between SAP and non-SAP systems is a topic of interest to ASUG members. What is your position on integration, from the SAP S/4HANA and midmarket perspective?

A. SAP Business Technology Platform allows customers to integrate easily with other SAP solutions. Nevertheless, in today’s volatile situation, you have to bring the necessity to integrate with other systems to a minimum. In principle, it takes away velocity, if you have to change quickly. If you do integrations with a platform like BTP, which is maintainable and upgrade-proof, that’s the best way to do it. If you do it in a less upgradable way, you will always have the challenge that it makes everything slow and costs you a lot of money, if you have to change quickly.

If you think about supply chain volatility, and all the challenges associated with climate change, all the emerging requirements that we must comply with from authorities, the less complicated integrations you have to do, the faster you will be, and the cheaper your business will run. Delivering an integrated system was always a key factor of BTP, and that is still what we’re after. And if you use specific add-ons from our side, they’re seamlessly integrated. I remember a lot of discussions with CFOs, who love the S/4HANA Public Cloud approach, because they see that they can get rid of all these integration costs and that we really have the market-leading finance system with S/4HANA Public Cloud they see that they can save money while still being innovative and agile. 

Q. With cloud migration moving customers away from customized landscapes and toward a fit-to-standard model, do you see SAP prioritizing expanded integration and end-to-end automation of development and operational processes within the SAP standard?

A. We have finance-led processes we support across each and every industry, and we can deliver operational processes for the major industries. We are working on others. We are enhancing this functionality day by day, shipping additional functionality two times a year. 

We are also growing our partner community, which will use BTP to add on industry-specific functionality. One manufacturing company is not necessarily doing it the same way as another manufacturing company, even if they produce the same product. Most of their processes look completely different, and so they are all adopting to a certain extent. Partners play a very important role in the future of SAP S/4HANA Cloud. I have seen at SAP Sapphire conferences in Orlando and Barcelona that our partners are already very active in this area, and customers were receptive to that approach.

For the rest of our interview with Bernd Brandl, click here.

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