Embracing the cloud in the post-pandemic digital era

Holographic representation of cloud computing over open businessman's hand
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Over the last 18 months, the world has entered into a state of hyper-digitization as remote working, supply chain resilience and cybersecurity has taken over and driven the business economy.

About the author

Scott Russell, Executive Board Member, SAP.

Estimates today suggest between five and ten years’ worth of transformation have been condensed into just one. It’s therefore not surprising that even the most reluctant businesses have now moved online, while we’ve seen other businesses bring forward their digital timelines and expedite new product development.

However, now that digital transformation has become a baseline for modern business operations, business leaders are facing a common challenge in how they can take advantage of the latest technologies to:

  • Make their supply chains more robust
  • Improve the quality of their products
  • Hire the best talent
  • Optimize the experience of their customers

Regardless of industry or geography, this is the common thread in my conversations with business leaders, and these are the customer questions that we strive to answer each day.

What type of support do these leaders need?

More than ever, they need their partners to emulate the “voice of the customer” and become a digital champion: one that listens carefully to the challenges they are facing, makes the clear case for how and where support is needed, and delivers it.

Now more than ever, business leaders are reliant upon partners that are in the relationship for the long-haul and will challenge them on their transformation steps. A technology provider, for instance, should not simply hand over software like a bag of shopping and wish the customer on their way. Business relationships are a lifetime commitment because the customer’s success is your success.

Today, we’re increasingly finding that leaders are obsessed with the cloud and what it can do for their business. As a result, we’ve adapted our own model to be that “local” source of trusted advice and guidance that helps them get the most of their deployment, whatever the budget or use-case.

Do you find that this is consistent for both SME and enterprise leaders?

Every company wants to succeed in their industry – to be competitive, to find that edge, and serve their customers to the best of their ability. That applies to the new market entrants all the way up to the large enterprises. But in conversations with our own customers, we like to take a detail-oriented approach.

We like to ask: Where are they in their digital transformation? What are the specific challenges facing their industry? And, for an SME, what are their areas for growth? In the midmarket, the CEO is the CMO, CFO, CIO - they are very astute and understand the different moving parts and fundamentally how tech will support their strategy. They want the simplicity and ease of consumption.

Our approach is, if you can serve the midmarket with simplicity, then that helps you to build the very foundation of what you can provide to those larger customers. That’s why we treat midmarket customers exactly the same as those in the enterprise.

Additionally, in the midmarket we are truly passionate about partner growth. This is especially valuable for SMEs, who rely on our ecosystem of trusted partners to help them drive these digital initiatives. We offer a vibrant ecosystem with partners who support our ambitions of crafting game-changing customer outcomes.

What kind of new business models and revenue streams are expected?

Many companies think that digital transformation will happen just by performing a technical migration or by buying new technology. So much so, that the need to change how an enterprise runs with the help of new business models and more intelligent processes is often ignored. We’re finding that our customers are asking us to help them innovate faster, to become more agile and more resilient. By running full cloud, organizations are better able to modernize, standardize, and digitize. It’s a full transformation, and the results are transformative as well.

How can companies differentiate themselves from competitors?

While every company may move to adopt the cloud, they certainly won’t do it all the same way. In fact, how a business uses or adopts the cloud can itself be a key competitive differentiator. For example, there are specific challenges depending on industries and where companies are starting their journeys. These can be security concerns, complex existing architectures, multiple providers and varying contractual obligations, or legacy system investment and amortizations.

To maintain that competitive edge, a company should partner with a provider that goes beyond offering software-as-a-service to offer what we call business-transformation-as-a-service, which eliminates most common barriers to the cloud, and enables a holistic business transformation and accelerates the customers’ move to the cloud at the same time.

Through RISE with SAP, we can now take customers by the hand and guide them through the transformation, no matter what their starting point is. But it is more than just a move to the cloud. Nearly all of our customers are in it for the transformation – taking this as an opportunity to reassess their business processes and optimize them in a way that helps them future proof their business.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Ultimately, now that the pandemic has placed digital transformation firmly on the business agenda, leaders need to think one step beyond the infrastructure itself, and decide how they will use digital solutions to maintain and create a competitive edge for years to come. This is a challenge that is company, sector, or market agnostic – as relevant to retailers as it is to financial institutions.

More than ever, they will need to lean on business partners and expert consultants to understand what the next steps entail for the volume of data at their disposal or how they can best deploy hybrid cloud to deliver better business outcomes. As, fundamentally, this is how they will pioneer the future of work and business operations, and future-proof themselves against tomorrow’s challenges.

Scott Russell, Executive Board Member, SAP.