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A recent survey by the SAP UK and Ireland user group questioned 296 organisations and showed that 12 percent had never even heard of its 'next generation' business suite S/4HANA, which is built on the in-memory HANA database.

Responding to the results at the annual Connect conference at Birmingham’s NEC centre, Philip Adams, chairman of the SAP User Group UK&I said: “That confused me and I am sure that has created a certain amount of head scratching amongst SAP marketing teams.”

The survey result has certainly kicked off some soul searching among SAP staff, with Cormac Watters, managing director for SAP UK and Ireland telling Computerworld UK: “We have got to figure out how we missed that. It’s very surprising, but it’s a fact. We can’t deny it and we shouldn’t but they are user group members that are inundated with lots of communication and we have missed 12 percent of them somehow."

Watters says that SAP is in conversation with the user group committee to try and get to the bottom of the figure, and will be revisiting some of its communication channels. “We have to have a multi-generational approach," Watters said, "so that the traditional channels that someone of my age will look at may not be the same a twenty something will look at. So are we properly social media-d up to connect with them?

"Do we have the correct account management spread that we are accessing all of the active customers? Or maybe these are so-called dormant customers. That’s one of the changes we are looking at doing anyway, to reinvigorate that dormant account base."

S/4HANA adoption

The rest of the survey showed five percent of user group members are live in production, 34 percent plan to use the technology and a massive 49 percent say they have no plans to use S/4HANA.

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Adams shifted to a more optimistic point of view though, saying: “Most of us are on that path already. We do recognise that migration to the new product isn’t necessarily easy. If we are running ECC6 or ERP of some description now we do have time, it is supported until 2025, so nine years does seem like a long time, so you may think there is no rush. What we do need to understand is how we get there, what are the steps we need to make to get from where we are today to the new product.”

“Migration isn’t easy, it can be scary and it can be disruptive but we need to understand the steps to get there and figure out how our legacy applications and the new applications we are deploying currently from SAP will integrate with the core product.”

Removing barriers to adoption

SAP and the user group hope to remove these barriers to adoption through greater clarity around product roadmaps, integrations and licensing issues. In fact, 70 percent of survey respondents said that SAP had not been clear in communicating its migration path for customers.

Watters spoke about addressing this during his keynote: “In the last few days we have released a new three-year roadmap tool for customers to get a handle on what their journey could be. We believe we have pulled together a self-service tool to help with that. It needs to be clear and concise, needs to be evolving by adding use cases all the time and needs to be consumable by non-techies.”

Read next: SAP S/4 Hana: Users eye migration, but roadmap and migration path lack clarity

These roadmaps are laid out in a blog post by Peter Maier, which says: “At each event, customers ask me for clear guidance to their S/4HANA centric application landscape. They expect information about the applications SAP recommends, the business value they can expect, integration, the available SAP services – and the implications for their licence and subscription agreements. We have listened intently and are working on providing clear guidance for our customers.”

These roadmaps will be available in beta for the time being for selected customers but will be generally available in April next year. They work on a SAP Fiori type interface, where customers can personalise the roadmap according to their existing technology estate.

The roadmaps will be update every three months for cloud products to incorporate new content and useful customer case studies, and once a year for on-premise solutions.

Pace of change

The message coming from SAP itself loud and clear is that S/4HANA adoption is not a simple task because each customer has a bespoke set of needs. Watters says that to get customers thinking about it, and eventually migrating, requires “providing the information that’s needed in a format that is relevant for the customer because there is not one size fit all”, he said.

Read next: Minority of UK SAP users plan to use HANA

Hala Zeine, SVP SAP portfolio said during the conference that it is important for SAP to realised that no two customers will adopt S/4HANA in the same way. She said: “We will not all move at the same pace, it is only natural that we see the distribution that we saw on the survey. We will be leading with empathy but empathy is about listening and taking what we hear and putting it into action.”