by Peter Sayer

SAP brings new tools and modularity to Rise

Jun 04, 2021
Cloud ComputingERP SystemsSAP

SAP has added HR and vertical industry support to its hosted S/4HANA offering, while furthering its forays into process intelligence and AI for expense auditing.

SAP sign
Credit: Peter Sayer/IDG

SAP kicked off 2021 with a bold bet on migrating its customers’ core ERP applications to the cloud. Introduced in January, “Rise with SAP” offers to move customers’ systems of record to S/4HANA on their choice of cloud provider and manage them there with a single SLA.

Now SAP is adding new applications to Rise with SAP, including support for more business functions and for five industry verticals.

“We are expanding our initial offering beyond S/4HANA Cloud. Customers want a holistic, modular ERP cloud solution. That’s why we are including HR and procurement capabilities,” CEO Christian Klein told attendees at the company’s Sapphire Now 2021 customer event, held online for the second year running.

In addition, SAP is offering to host industry-specific applications for retail, consumer products, automotive, utilities, or industrial machinery and components (IMC).

While SAP is upbeat about the uptake for Rise, most customers are waiting to see what it is all about, according to Ilona Hansen, a vice president and analyst in Gartner’s applications and software engineering group.

There has also been some initial confusion among SAP’s partners about the role they will play in deploying Rise, which the company has done much to clarify, she said.

Klein addressed that in a call with journalists: “With Rise, what we are saying is, you can still have choice, the partners and the operators are still there, but there is one SLA, and in case you are in trouble then there is SAP who is managing that for you.”

Partners will lead enterprises’ technical migration to the new landscape, he said. With applications sharing a data model on the new platform, and all application services using the platform for identity and security, “the partners are more than happy to develop new innovations on the platform because they just can seamlessly extend it,” Klein said.

‘Choice’ is now SAP’s favored hyperscaler

Another cause for confusion was SAP’s flip-flopping on whether it supported running S/4HANA in any public cloud, or whether it favored one particular hyperscaler. Last month, SAP redrew its Embrace agreement with Microsoft to clarify that it favored customer choice.

“With the hyperscalers, the partnership has never been better with all of them, because of Rise. We are not exclusive, we are inclusive, and we want to give customers choice. No matter if it’s Azure, GCP, AWS, or Alibaba, we are offering choice and flexibility,” Klein said.

Gartner’s Hansen said Rise has scored its greatest successes in attracting small to midsize organizations to SAP for the first time, particularly businesses that are not product-centric and not asset-intensive. “They love it,” she said.

The new HR module, which the company is calling Rise with SAP for Human Experience Management (HXM), is essentially a rebranding of its existing cloud human capital management (HCM) platform, SuccessFactors, with some additional functionality from its Qualtrics survey tool rolled in.

Julia White, the chief marketing and solutions officer SAP poached from Microsoft in January, said, “With the integration of SuccessFactors and Qualtrics, employee understanding is available any time. Employee experience data identifies what is going well, and areas for improvement, in a data-driven way.”

Hansen welcomed SAP’s change of focus from HCM to HXM. “SAP is leading in that space by admitting that employee experience is in first place,” she said.

She was more guarded about the inclusion of the industry-specific applications under the Rise umbrella. “It’s a wonderful move, but complicated. I think it’s a little too early,” she said. She expects customers will have more questions for SAP before they are willing to hand the company control of more than their finance systems.

White hinted that SAP itself still has plenty of questions about the part industry-specific solutions will play in Rise. “The intention is to get started with some key areas and learn,” she said. “We have expertise across over 20 industries, so there’s more we can bring to bear.”

Rise and beyond

All the Rise offerings are built on the company’s Business Technology Platform, which provides a shared data model, and offer access to its SAP Business Network, which aims to simplify procurement and logistics by making information about suppliers accessible through a single portal.

“Our offer is, for all our large buyers, we will onboard their 100 most strategic suppliers and SAP will take care of making sure they have that trading partner network as they get started,” White said.

“It includes our business process insights capability so that as our customers move to the cloud they modernize and optimize their business processes; they don’t just take the same things forward,” she added. That part of the Rise package will draw on SAP’s acquisition in March of business process intelligence specialist Signavio, and could be delivered by partners, she said. The offerings are modular, so customers can pay for what they need, she said.

Sapphire Now wasn’t just about Rise, though.

SAP also presented new products built with AI, including an automated auditing tool for Concur, its expense and travel management platform. Verify, set for release later this year, will automatically flag expense claims in which it detects a problem, referring them to a human for investigation.

Upscale Commerce is another AI-based tool, offering midmarket retailers a no-code approach to personalizing online sales.

The company also announced new tools aimed at improving enterprises’ sustainability, including a tool for measuring carbon emissions across the web of a company’s suppliers, and tools for sustainability reporting.