SAP is doubling the time between major releases of S\/4HANA Cloud private edition from one year to two \u2014 at the same time promising to release new feature packs every six months or so to keep up the pace of innovation. It is also extending maintenance to seven years, from five today.\n\nThe changes will take effect with the 2023 release of software, which is now generally available.\n\nThe good news for SAP is that many of the customers adopting its cloud-based S\/4HANA offering are net-new, meaning more market share. The bad news is that many of them are net-new, meaning that the mass of customers still using its legacy ECC system, or running its modern S\/4HANA system on-premises, are not migrating as quickly as the company would like to cloud offerings such as Rise with SAP, its subscription package of licensing, hosting, and application management.\n\nSlowing the pace of major releases for the private cloud edition of S\/4HANA to once every two years, so that CIOs experience less disruption in keeping their systems up to date, is one of the ways SAP is seeking to make it more tempting.\n\nThis change alone would have sent a mixed message after SAP\u2019s CEO Christian Klein\u2019s recent pronouncement that only customers buying the cloud editions of its products through its Rise offering would see major innovations, particularly in the generative AI space. The promise of six-monthly feature packs in the intervals between platform major releases will go some way to reassuring customers that the cloud is the place to be.\n\n\u201cA feature pack is less disruptive than an upgrade, because you\u2019re just adding it right into the current release,\u201d said Eric van Rossum, chief marketing and solutions officer for SAP Cloud ERP.\n\nCapability gap\n\nSAP has also \u2014 finally, eight years after the launch of S\/4HANA \u2014 closed the capability gap between the private cloud edition and its legacy ERP Central Component (ECC).\n\n\u201cThere's really no functional reason not to move now,\u201d Van Rossum said.\n\nThat\u2019s just as well, as SAP is only promising mainstream support ECC through the end of 2027.\n\nThe biggest remaining difference in capabilities between the two platforms is around service management, enabling companies to track and bill for things like subscriptions or contracts for service or maintenance.\n\n\u201cWe closed the gap on all the functional capabilities, what you would require from a service management process, and modernized it to better reflect how a services business is run today,\u201d Van Rossum said.\n\nMore help with modernization\n\nGetting customers onto the public or private cloud editions of S\/4HANA is SAP\u2019s first goal; its next is to sign them up to Rise with SAP.\n\nThis can be a tough sell for enterprises that bought a perpetual license for their ERP system years ago, and have the cost of maintenance indexed to that, as moving to Rise involves giving up that license and taking out a subscription. Customers who subsequently become dissatisfied with Rise will need to buy back their perpetual license if they want to stay on SAP\u2019s platform.\n\nDavid Lees, CTO at SAP service provider Basis Technologies, warned, \u201cSAP is not going to make it attractive in terms of reselling them that perpetual license that they gave up, so you\u2019ve got to be very confident around Rise being right, long-term, and SAP having the customers\u2019 best interests at heart, which for me is one of the biggest risks with Rise.\u201d\n\nBasis recently polled 200 enterprises using SAP in Europe and the US about their upgrade plans, and found that 50% of them were putting off migrating to S\/4HANA because of a perception that the 2027 end-of-life deadline for ECC is still some way off. In reality, though, four years is not all that long to plan and execute a migration from one system to another, while simultaneously moving into the cloud.\n\nAlongside the change in update schedule for S\/4HANA Cloud private edition, then, SAP is giving itself a few new levers to overcome such doubts and to enhance Rise adoption. One is the introduction of a new adoption framework to help companies plan their conversion, backed up by use of its Signavio process insights tool to help build the business case for change. Another is what it calls the \u201cCustomer Evolution kit,\u201d including sessions with SAP experts to quickly build a personalized transformation plan.\n\nThe additional help will be available to customers still using ECC, or already using S\/4HANA, but on premises.\n\n\u201cWe're going to be working with our customers in one-to-one workshops to really see where they are, so that we can get a specific offer and roadmap for them to move,\u201d Van Rossum said.\n\nGenerative AI to the rescue\n\nSAP is also looking into how AI can help reduce the time and cost of the migration process, he said, particularly with tasks such as test automation or document creation.\n\n\u201cGenerative AI can help a lot there,\u201d he said.\n\nThat technology is the focus of another big change for Rise with SAP: the arrival of a new price tier, Premium Plus. This will give customers access to new capabilities such as the automation of goods receipts for transportation management, he said.