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The spread of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 since the beginning of the year has changed life throughout the whole world. While public life has been mostly shut down, both personal and work life are starting to take place more and more digitally.

In an already constantly changing society, such an abrupt shift from what we had considered “normal life” before to a newly established digital life frightens many people. We as leaders within our company have the duty to respond to this crisis by stabilizing our organization, protecting our people and eventually, unlocking growth by engaging our customers and partners to move to new ways of working.

To examine how to accomplish this and what this change means for our professional life, I have had the pleasure to be interviewed by Paul Clark, Senior Director for SAP Strategic Ecosystem from Palo Alto.

Paul Clark (PC): Sven Denecken, SVP of SAP S/4HANA Product Success, Co-Innovation & Content, thank you for joining me in this interview. Let me start with an essential question: with this very new situation going on in the world, what impact on SAP’s ecosystem do you see?

Sven Denecken (SD): In this time – and probably for quite a long time after – digital life will be the default set up for most of us. In many industries home office is the new norm. Even industries which were not really open to this before the COVID-19 pandemic must comply to this new business model. I am just observing the situation in the education sector, where students now connect with their teachers digitally and have a full virtual experience with the same collaboration tools we use at SAP. This also applies for events: SAP’s key events like SAPPHIRE NOW will offer a 100% digital experience. And it doesn’t stop there; all industries need to rethink their business model and find an innovation. However, the efficacy within this process varies from industry to industry, from customer to customer.


PC: Which of SAP’s customers’ businesses are impacted by the crisis most?

SD: Many of our customers are facing major disruption when it comes to their supply chains of course. This is especially critical for Manufacturing companies, but also for almost all the companies out there which need to protect their end-to-end supply chain processes in order to sustain. The crisis forces us to overcome new challenges around replenishment, stock visibility, and sourcing. Core processes supporting the supply chain like Finance and Procurement can really make a change today and in the future. I am sure many of us have heard about SAP Ariba Discovery, another offering from SAP which connects buyers with suppliers as any buyer can post their immediate sourcing needs, and any supplier can respond to show they can deliver. We are here to help ensure customers can continue to run their businesses as smoothly as possible. A strong core ERP has never been more important than today.


PC: SAP has been supporting companies’ digital transformation for quite some time. What is different now?

SD: Many companies have been transforming and evolving with digital technologies using SAP S/4HANA as the foundation of their business since 2015. For many others, this transformation is yet to come. And it will have to come, because a digital transformation is needed now more than ever. It will help reinvent the global economy and recover from the pandemic.

Individuals, businesses, and societies can interconnect in real time. This leads to a new digital economy which is more collaborative, responsive, and efficient. We just mentioned the impact of the crisis on supply chains and the importance of core ERP processes. SAP S/4HANA helps streamline data models, optimize and transform daily businesses, and adopt new technical trends such as machine learning or robotic process automation. The adoption of these innovations accelerates strategic decision making, which is key to sustain a business during this crisis.


PC: What role is the cloud playing in this scenario?

SD: At the moment, cloud technologies are placed at the center of events, and their usage in companies of all industries, universities, schools, institutions and households is growing as we speak. Customers, employees, and individuals need to share and manage transactions, documents, and information securely. The Cloud enables us to do so. With the Cloud, there is no distance between team members or between co-workers. It helps us get together securely, especially during hard times like these.

The goal of a digital transformation is to offer a new way to solve “old” or traditional challenges by bringing technologies to all lines of business. In short: it brings more value to the employees and more value to the individuals. Showing value to ERP users is the best way for a software and a company like SAP to become part of the new culture of the company. The cloud has been designed for exactly this.

PC: How can your SAP S/4HANA team support this transformation in the current context? How does your organization go beyond what was already there?

SD: Our organization offers a lot already. Of course, we have always engaged mostly directly with customers, user groups, partners, and events. But we have also always been a big digital actor for SAP S/4HANA and are now bringing this to a new level. For instance, we are supporting our customers with a 100% off-site delivery. You may have seen the playbook which provides more details. We are emphasizing SAP’s ability to deliver projects in an off-site delivery model, during this time when we all must work from home. There are many aspects in the guidance which apply broadly for remote work and for the process of leading a team. It starts with the basics: set up a strong virtual team, agree on clear communication channels, have a simple tool landscape. And then, leverage the SAP Activate Template and decide on the overall project governance. This is exactly what people need now, but more importantly, probably also beyond the current crisis.

Second, we have been supporting our customers and partners digitally from the very beginning through Community Engagement, Product Update Webinars, openSAP, Strategic Partners Embracing SAP S/4HANA, and through our Inside SAP S/4HANA Podcast. We will extend this offer with a brand new microlearning for SAP S/4HANA in the coming weeks. This helps our customers and partners stay up to date on the product and offers a channel to reach out to us and to engage with other customers. Communities play a huge role right now. It is a high priority for us to be more responsive than ever. I strongly believe that communities will carry us through the current and upcoming challenges. The current context brings a lot of learnings and fosters innovation that our organization will establish as best-practices for the future.

The vision of SAP S/4HANA is to enable customers and partners to run simple. We as the Product Success, Co-Innovation and Content team have always been at the top of Digital Enablement, providing a wide range of digital offerings to accomplish exactly this goal. We see this new, unusual way of living and working as an opportunity to grow and enhance our products to meet the expectations set on SAP S/4HANA. In times of quarantine and physicial distancing, and even beyond that, it is more and more important to expand and share our knowledge through our variety of offerings. We invite you to engage with us and leverage our Inside SAP S/4HANA Podcast.

You would like to share your own project experience? Contact insides4@sap.com.

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