There’s a favourite Thomas Edison quote, picked as the opener of many a keynote speech: “Vision without execution is hallucination”. I like it because it’s a good reminder of the critical role CIOs play in turning concepts into reality.
Today’s CIOs might relate more promptly to another thought also attributed to the great American inventor: “Hell, there are no rules here. We’re trying to accomplish something”. In the race to be the next disruptor, business leaders strive to think differently and to break the rules to re-invent entire industries. The challenge for IT departments is no longer just to keep up with the pace of innovation and implement new solutions efficiently. IT leaders need to become rule breakers themselves, heading up the innovation agenda – not responding to it .All the while keeping on top of the day job of running the more mundane business functions. How can they make that happen?
Continuous business innovation
SAP has just announced the vision and product roadmap for SAP S/4HANA Cloud, SAP’s next generation Cloud ERP solution. At the SAP Capital Market Day launch last week, we presented the latest product developments for SAP S/4HANA Cloud, and how it fits with the overall SAP strategy to drive our customers’ digital transformation. The innovation roadmap is ambitious, and fits into the demand for continuous business innovation.
The Cloud ERP
It is a tempting picture. A Cloud ERP maintained and updated by SAP, with new functionality released every quarter, deployed seamlessly. But if I were in charge of running and planning IT, I’d challenge that proposition before making a decision to move to the Cloud just for the sake of it: how will moving core processes to the Cloud push my business to innovate? While the hassle-free idea of becoming the ‘consumer’ of business applications and let SAP run operations in the Cloud is an appealing one, how does that encourage business innovation? And let’s be honest, the question on everybody’s mind is, do I really want to embark on a major SAP implementation? How much time and effort will that take, what could go wrong, and what are the benefits?
Be Unique by being Standard
Let’s start with the deployment. In the Cloud world, go-live is a matter of weeks. There’s no such thing as year-long ERP implementations. How do we make that possible? By removing complexity. Gone are the days of intense customisation. Because whether you are a car manufacturer, a retailer or a bank, backoffice functions mostly follow very similar requirements. It is not a beautifully designed procure-to-pay or order-to-cash that differentiates your business. A key principle of SAP S/4HANA Cloud is to ship fit-to-standard functionality. By commoditising and automating core processes, you free up brain power dedicated to keep those functions afloat and channel them into what will make your business truly stand out .
IT: from business cost to business value
How is this new? Optimising business process has always been a key objective for IT departments. By streamlining a procurement workflow, for example, we may remove operational costs, but we’re still not generating revenue. The real business value here is in investing those savings into engaging IT closer to the business and steer them into opportunities for innovation.
From big bang to continuous innovation
With SAP S/4HANA Cloud, we go live quickly. On one hand, we reduce the initial scope to allow for fast deployments. On the other, we adapt to a world of continuous business change, with quarterly releases of new functionality, and agile delivery of business value through incremental adoption.
Using standard solutions gives you instant access to the business benefits of innovations shipped with every quarterly release of SAP S/4HANA Cloud. With a standard, best-practice Accounts Receivable process in place, for example, you could benefit from new S/4HANA A.I. technology to enable intelligent invoice matching.
Your road to the Cloud
It has become a truism to say that the Cloud offers flexibility. At SAP, we want to extend that flexibility to the way we work with customers and help them succeed. Even though we ship a ready software solution, our partnership with customers doesn’t end there.
Through our standard Preferred Care model for Cloud solutions, we offer a collaborative Service & Support model with prompt access to expertise and enhanced reaction times.
With the Value Assurance model, we go a step further to provide closer partnership with customers, from safeguarding your implementation, to integrating SAP S/HANA Cloud to 3rd party solutions, to conducting thorough business reviews to maximise your organisation’s innovation potential.
In my 15 years at SAP, I speak and listen to customers of every industry, every size, every market reality. This is what I’ve learnt. CIOs always wanted to work at the cutting edge of technology. You want to extract real business value out of software. Too often you had to put innovative ideas on hold to react to day-to-day crises. What if you had the time to focus on new projects that will make your business fly? To build unique capabilities, unique algorithms behind revolutionary business models. SAP gives you that time back by providing the standard building blocks that integrate perfectly together: core business applications run in the Cloud, an IoT platform, embedded analytics, machine learning capabilities, and a sleek user interface. Your contribution is your knowledge of the business and your imagination. With that, CIOs can have the vision, and execute it.
Paul Helms, SVP, Digital Business Services, SAP S/4HANA Cloud
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