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Rise with SAP will continue to evolve in 2022

Experts see Rise with SAP as a mixed bag. The program has the tools to provide a path to S/4HANA, but SAP still needs to show the value of an S/4HANA cloud migration.

Rise with SAP will continue to drive the narrative for SAP in 2022, but opinions vary on whether Rise will fulfill its mission to convince SAP customers to move to S/4HANA and the cloud.

For some industry experts, Rise, a bundle of SAP products and services centered on the digital core of the S/4HANA Cloud, is evolving steadily and gaining value by adding new elements and providing customers with more flexibility in deployment options. For others, Rise remains a work in progress that likely will not move the needle for companies that are still determining their migration strategy.

One year after it launched, Rise with SAP remains unclear to the SAP customer base. For example, a survey released in November 2021 by the U.K. and Ireland SAP User Group indicated that fewer than half of respondents were familiar with Rise, and one-third had never heard of the offering.

While analysts agree that Rise with SAP offers customers a credible way to move to the cloud and S/4HANA, it still has work to do to convince them that this is the best approach.

Rise is evolving

Rise with SAP began as a way to make it more advantageous for customers to move to S/4HANA from legacy SAP systems, but SAP continues to revise and refine the initiative, according to Joshua Greenbaum, principal of Enterprise Applications Consulting, an ERP industry consulting firm in Berkeley, Calif.

Joshua Greenbaum, principal, Enterprise Applications ConsultingJoshua Greenbaum

"Rise isn't just about S/4HANA, as they are putting in more pieces of SuccessFactors, Ariba and other things in there," Greenbaum said. "I think they're going to continue to move forward with that, because ultimately, SAP's sweet spot is trying to get these ERP customers to upgrade, and they certainly need to do that."

The Rise program, which allows customers to choose their preferred cloud hyperscaler and simplifies the cloud relationship with one contract through SAP, shows that SAP is trying to change the framework around licensing and contracting to make them more advantageous for customers, he said. Rise also offers customers access to the SAP Business Network, consisting of SAP Ariba Network, SAP Logistics Business Network and SAP Asset Intelligence Network; cloud credits for the SAP Business Technology Platform (SAP BTP) development environment; and Signavio, a business process management system.

The packaging of platforms under the Rise umbrella is a double-edged sword, Greenbaum said. The inclusion of SAP BTP in Rise will be a crucial tool for SAP to keep developers working within an SAP development platform, he said.

"SAP desperately needs developers -- both internal and external IT -- to start looking at SAP BTP and get them off the low-cost [offerings] that they're getting from Amazon and Azure," Greenbaum said.

However, SAP should also be clearer about the value of initiatives, like the SAP Business Network, that don't need to be used in conjunction with Rise.

"The SAP Business Network has snuck in as something that you can do with Rise," Greenbaum said. "It would be better if SAP pulled that out and [talked up] the innate value of the business network instead of as a tag-along value to Rise."

More education needed

SAP is still struggling to make customers understand the full value of Rise with SAP, in part because it involves many moving parts, according to Jon Reed, co-founder of Diginomica, an enterprise computing industry analysis firm.

Jon Reed, co-founder, DiginomicaJon Reed

For example, in addition to the core mission of providing a way for customers to manage a relationship with cloud hyperscalers, Rise includes elements like access to the BTP and Signavio, which can help companies understand the current state of their processes and re-imagine how they can work in the transformed system.

This has led some observers to dismiss Rise as SAP's next version of SAP Leonardo or SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud (HEC), two previous initiatives that looked to introduce advanced technologies and cloud hosting services but wound up confusing customers, Reed said. However, Rise has a better-defined purpose and value proposition for customers, but SAP needs to step up educational efforts to alleviate confusion, he added.

It will also be vital for SAP to show real examples of customers that have benefited from Rise, such as how Rise has helped manage cloud hyperscaler relationships or how having S/4HANA in the cloud has taken the burden off of IT staff, according to Reed.

"By the time they get to Sapphire [SAP's annual user conference], they better have some success stories of customers who are fairly far along and can speak to the benefits, because that's what gets other customers' attention," he said.

Many SAP customers have longstanding relationships with systems integrators, and they will need to evaluate where they stand on Rise, according to Reed. Some may be all-in on Rise, using it as their preferred S/4HANA cloud migration method; others may support it, but support other approaches as well.

"A lot of these services firms have their own cloud offering -- for better or worse," he said. "There are some firms that have taken that position that they don't think Rise is a good value proposition and that their own cloud offering is better."

SAP needs to show path to S/4HANA

At this point, it's still too early to judge the overall impact of Rise with SAP, said Eric Kimberling, CEO and founder of Third Stage Consulting Group, an independent ERP consultancy in Lone Tree, Colo. The initiative has not made an impression on Third Stage's customer base.

Eric Kimberling, CEO and founder, Third Stage Consulting GroupEric Kimberling

"[Rise with SAP] is the latest in a string of initiatives from SAP over the years to neutralize the perception that the technology is bulky, cumbersome, expensive and risky to implement," Kimberling said. "While it can't hurt customers, it's important to recognize that Rise is largely a presales tool designed to help convince customers that they should deploy S/4HANA and other SAP products."

Rise with SAP likely won't be truly successful until SAP offers a real migration path to S/4HANA in the cloud, said Predrag Jakovljevic, principal industry analyst at Technology Evaluation Centers, an enterprise computing analysis firm in Longueuil, Quebec.

Predrag Jakovljevic, principal industry analyst, Technology Evaluation CentersPredrag Jakovljevic

However, SAP faces a thorny question about whether the skills for the developer language SAP ABAP will transfer to the new world of S/4HANA in the cloud, he said.

"Sure, ABAP can be done in the cloud, but developers want to work in JavaScript or Visual Basic, not an IBM RPG-like language," Jakovljevic said. "CIOs will have high re-implementation costs, high retraining or possibly high retirement rates, and then also have to pay for the new cloud licenses."

Issues like these that make it hard to migrate to the cloud may lead at least parts of the SAP installed base -- as well as rival ERP giant Oracle -- to flee for other systems such as those from IFS, Microsoft Dynamics or NetSuite, he said.

Holger Mueller, analyst, Constellation ResearchHolger Mueller

There's also another potential issue for SAP, one the company has little control over: COVID-19. Holger Mueller, principal analyst at Constellation Research, said the future success of Rise with SAP will depend on how the overall economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Business and IT leaders are less inclined to think about upgrading ERP systems as long as they are dealing with pandemic-triggered regulations, new business processes and new business plans, Mueller said.

"The good news for SAP is that it has time to improve the value proposition of S/4HANA," he said. "If this is done right, it will make the upgrade more attractive to leaders. But in the meantime, SAP needs to manage expectations around Rise."

Jim O'Donnell is a TechTarget news writer who covers ERP and other enterprise applications for SearchSAP and SearchERP.

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