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RISE with SAP Gives CIOs a Simpler Path to S/4HANA Cloud

SAP has announced a package of technologies and services under a single contract designed to ease enterprise CIOs' paths to digital transformation and its flagship software S/4HANA in the cloud.

Enterprise organizations were already on a path to digital business transformation when COVID-19 hit last year. Facing a change in how they operated, C-suite executives reevaluated priorities, recognizing the ability to transact business online and to work remotely -- and to be good at both those things -- had become essential. That put digital transformation and the move to cloud at the top of the list.

It's in that environment that RISE with SAP is hitting the market. The offering packages a number of SAP technologies and services together with the services of relevant partners into an offering that is designed to be simpler for customers to use and consume. For instance, there is just a single contract for all those SAP technologies, services, and partner services.

In conjunction with the RISE announcement, SAP also said it plans to acquire Signavio, an enterprise business process intelligence and process management company. The acquisition, combined with SAP's existing business process intelligence unit, will become a key part of the RISE offering, too, as SAP helps customers "quickly understand, improve, transform, and manage their business processes at scale."

"Political tensions, environmental challenges, and the ongoing pandemic are forcing businesses to deal with change faster than ever before," said Christian Klein, SAP CEO, in a statement announcing the new offering. "Companies that can adapt their business processes quickly will thrive -- and SAP can help them achieve this. This is what RISE with SAP is all about: It helps customers continuously unlock new ways of running businesses in the cloud to stay ahead of their industry."

Simplifying complex technology and services such as those offered by enterprise software vendors like SAP is no small feat. Omdia chief analyst for AI and data analytics Bradley Shimmin told InformationWeek that companies like SAP have tentacles into multiple discrete business processes and that makes matters difficult. You can't just lift and shift to the cloud anymore. SAP is looking at a multihorned beast.

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Bradley Shimmin

"One horn is the complexity of each business process within each unique organization and how expensive and unique it is to digitally transform them," Shimmin said. "The other horn is how do you integrate and support all the underlying infrastructure that's required to make that possible?"

SAP's RISE is looking to tackle all these problems simultaneously and simplify the processes for customers, providing a path to digital transformation and cloud.

The technologies and services in RISE, which is cloud-based, include SAP S/4HANA enterprise software, which was a major update to SAP's flagship software introduced 6 years ago. Migration to S/4HANA is costly and time consuming -- a 2- or 3-year undertaking -- for enterprises in an era when agility and speed is celebrated. While many existing SAP clients have made the move to S/4HANA, plenty of others have delayed their moves. They are satisfied with the previous version of software and not ready for such a major undertaking. As a result, last year SAP announced an extension of maintenance support for core applications of SAP Business Suite 7 until the end of 2027.

"SAP has been promoting S/4HANA, and their success there has not been as strong as they would have liked," Liz Herbert, a VP and principal analyst at Forrester Research, told InformationWeek. "You've seen customers struggle with 'what is the business case.'"

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Liz Herbert

In part, RISE with SAP is an effort to help speed the migration of customers to this newer flagship software. Herbert told InformationWeek that RISE with SAP is a path to S/4HANA for customers. Customers can opt to move even just a part of their operations to RISE, which incorporates a cloud-based version of S/4HANA.

SAP has been slower than other major technology vendors to move to the cloud, but that's in part due to the complexity of the enterprises they serve, customer inertia, and the geographies they serve, Herbert said.

"This announcement of RISE looks to address that," Herbert said. In addition, the pandemic has accelerated an already heightened interest in the cloud among enterprises.

"One of SAP's reference customers is Moderna," one of the companies that has created an effective COVID-19 vaccine, Herbert noted. "They need to go faster than ever. Making this more of an as-a-service offering should help companies go at the speed they need to go."

Here's what SAP says is included in RISE: SAP S/4HANA Cloud, business process intelligence and process discovery, embedded tools and services, consumption credits for SAP Business Technology Platform, SAP Business Network Starter Pack, and infrastructure as a service. Tools for RPA and AI will be embedded into workflows, and there are more than 2,200 APIs to integrate systems.

All of this is included in a single offer bundle without a high upfront investment, according to SAP. In addition, RISE lets organizations manage their SLAs, operations, and issue management from SAP in a single contract. SAP also says that customers can realize up to a 20% reduction in TCO over 5 years for S/4HANA Cloud private edition as compared to a traditional ERP deployment.

All the components together, including the business process intelligence acquisition, are what brings the value in this offering. There's no new technology here.

"What we are looking at there is not the introduction of a car alternator or a car carburetor or gear box," Shimmon said. "It's about taking all these disparate parts and making the engine hum. Now instead of taking a wrench out to start your car, you just hit a button."

Read more about enterprise software and digital transformation here:

How to Negotiate with Software Providers for the Best 2021 Deals

IT Leader Profile: Upgrading ERP During a Pandemic

SAP Gives Enterprise IT Customers an Extension

2021 Outlook: Tackling Cloud Transformation Choices