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SAP In 2024: What To Expect

As 2024 unfolds, the SAP services industry is at a crucial juncture. This year is pivotal for SAP consultants as they adapt to SAP’s strategic cloud shift and the integration of technologies like generative AI.

As we start the year IgniteSAP is focusing on what SAP’s transition from traditional on-premise systems to a cloud-centric approach means for the industry. This change presents unique challenges and opportunities for SAP professionals, especially as the deadline for legacy SAP system support approaches.

We will look at some of the primary trends in the industry alongside SAP’s move towards cloud services, such as how new standards in clean and accessible data, AI, enhanced UX, and increased mobile access is improving SAP’s offerings.

We’ll also examine the implications for SAP customers and consultants of these changes, as they will require most SAP users and consultants to undertake further training to be relevant for upcoming cloud-based SAP projects.

SAP’s Shift to Cloud-Based Services

Over the last few years SAP has been shifting to a cloud-first strategy, marking a departure from its traditional on-premise systems. This aligns with the global trend towards cloud computing, meeting demands for more flexible, scalable, and cost-effective solutions, while also providing access to the necessary processing power required for technologies such as generative AI.

This transition isn’t just technological but also strategic, and requires SAP consultancies and their clients to adapt. The 2027 deadline for ending SAP legacy system support (with options for extended support to 2030 for some customers) highlights the increasing urgency of migrating to the cloud.

While the shift brings agility and faster market responsiveness necessary for businesses to thrive, it challenges SAP clients, especially those reliant on customized and on-premise solutions, to reimagine their operations in a cloud-based environment.

It also presents the SAP services industry with it’s own challenges: including making the business case for cloud migrations for SAP customers, preparing data landscapes to be able to leverage new technology effectively, and also ensuring there are enough qualified and competent consultants to facilitate the migration.

SAP’s cloud shift has created controversy in the SAP user community. User groups like DSAG and ASUG have raised concerns about the impact of this transition, particularly regarding protecting large customer investments in previous SAP systems, and the need for substantial and extended SAP support for those still running on-premise or hybrid systems.

These concerns reflect a broader sentiment within the community, weighing the very real need for innovation with the practical considerations of such a significant shift. SAP’s challenge is to balance innovation with clients’ needs for a smooth transition to cloud services.

The cloud shift is creating a vastly increased demand for SAP consulting services. The question is whether sufficient SAP talent specializing in SAP cloud services will be available for all those customers migrating to cloud deployments in such a limited time.

The Impact of Generative AI in SAP Services

The integration of generative AI through 2023 into most SAP services represents a significant advancement in ERP and business management software, and is set to transform standard procedures in SAP system operations and implementation.

By embedding generative AI, SAP is creating a cascade of enhancements in the efficiency and intelligence of its product suite. This enables SAP systems to go beyond mere data processing: they can now predict outcomes and provide insights that were once out of reach. This is evident across various SAP modules like supply chain management, customer relationship management, and human resources, where AI-driven analytics facilitate more informed decision-making, and copilots are speeding up daily tasks.

For SAP consultants and users, it means automating processes that previously required manual intervention. This not only saves time but also allows for more strategic and creative utilization of human resources.

With AI’s introduction, SAP project implementation becomes more agile. AI algorithms offer insights for faster and more effective system configurations: a crucial advantage in rapidly changing business environments and market demands, and aligns with a strategy of continuous improvement of SAP systems as opposed to monolithic, multi-year implementation projects.

Consultants and businesses need to gear up for a future where AI plays a central role in their SAP systems. This involves not only understanding the technology but also carefully rethinking business processes to fully leverage AI’s capabilities, with a greater focus on managing AI-driven systems and interpreting AI-generated insights, so new skills must be acquired if SAP consultants want to remain relevant.

Another key SAP product, SAP Datasphere, has been developed as a successor to SAP Data Warehouse Cloud, and promises to provide the required centralized clean data landscape for optimal use of SAP Cloud services and AI.

A User-Centric Approach

SAP is also placing a significant emphasis on enhancing user experience (UX) and mobile accessibility. Initiatives to improve UX are centered on creating more intuitive, responsive, and personalized interfaces.

By adopting the latest UX design principles, SAP aims to simplify complex processes, making them more accessible to a broader range of users. This approach is important as ease of use can significantly impact productivity and user satisfaction.

Features like customizable dashboards, simplified navigation, and interactive reporting tools are just a few examples of how SAP is transforming the user experience.

Mobile Accessibility

Due to the growing need for mobility in the business world, SAP has also been enhancing the mobile accessibility of its products and services, so that users have seamless access to SAP functionalities, irrespective of their location or the device they use. This effort is not just about making existing applications available on mobile devices but also about optimizing them for mobile use in various lines of business.

SAP’s mobile solutions are designed to provide a consistent and synchronized experience across all devices, ensuring that users can access critical business information and perform essential functions on the go. This includes real-time analytics and transactional capabilities. By doing so, SAP is breaking down the barriers of traditional office-bound software, enabling a more agile and responsive workforce, with profound implications for business operations.

With more intuitive interfaces, users can complete tasks more efficiently and with less training. Mobile accessibility allows for greater flexibility and immediacy in decision-making, so information and functionalities are available anytime, anywhere.

These advancements are evolving in line with the cloud shift as part of a continuous overhaul of SAP’s offerings to make the most of cloud technology.

Safeguarding the Cloud Shift

SAP’s shift to cloud-based services has heightened the importance of cybersecurity in this new environment. As reliance on cloud technologies grows, protecting data and systems from cyber threats becomes crucial for SAP and its clients, who have legal obligations towards their own customers to protect data privacy.

Transitioning to cloud services brings unique security challenges. Cloud environments involve data storage and processing across varied locations and platforms, expanding the potential points of weakness. For businesses, safeguarding their cloud data and operations is critical, as breaches can lead to serious consequences, including data loss, financial damage like fines, and reputational harm.

SAP’s response to this challenge is a cybersecurity strategy for its cloud services incorporating multiple layers of protection. This includes advanced data encryption, secure access controls, and continuous cloud infrastructure monitoring, all requiring qualified and competent SAP security consultants to implement them.

SAP also emphasizes that clients should cultivate a security-conscious culture. Regular training on cybersecurity best practices, awareness of phishing practices, and secure password policies are part of this initiative. SAP also advises clients to proactively engage in regular security audits and risk assessments, helping identify and address vulnerabilities effectively as cybersecurity becomes more of a priority.

Addressing the Skills Gap in the SAP Services Industry

SAP’s move towards cloud-based services like S/4HANA Cloud has highlighted a significant and widening skills gap in the industry, especially a lack of qualified SAP consultants sufficiently up to date with developments in cloud services.

The transition to cloud-based services such as S/4HANA Cloud requires not only proficiency in traditional SAP modules but also expertise in cloud architecture, data cleaning and migration, and cybersecurity tailored to cloud environments.

The complexity of migrating to S/4HANA Cloud involves an in-depth understanding of both legacy systems and new cloud capabilities. Successful migration methodologies minimize risks like downtime or data loss.

The skill set necessary for today’s SAP consultants includes: deep knowledge of S/4HANA Cloud architecture, configuration and customization, competence in data migration, including strategies for data cleansing and validation, familiarity with cloud infrastructure, scalability, and security, change management skills including user training and support, and familiarity with various lines of business in order to optimize deployments for context.

Cultivating SAP Talent for the Cloud Era

Addressing this skills gap necessitates investment in comprehensive training and certification programs by SAP and its partners, focusing on both technical skills and the broader business implications of cloud-based services. Encouraging continuous learning and adaptation is essential for SAP professionals to keep pace with technological advancements.

Above all, training and certification must be backed up with initiatives to allow consultants to gain extensive experience of SAP cloud environments.

Recruitment consultancies specializing in SAP services such as IgniteSAP are instrumental in bridging this gap. By identifying talent with the appropriate skill set and helping consultancies to place them in the appropriate roles, they play a crucial part in ensuring that SAP customers have the expertise needed for a smooth transition to cloud-based services.

A collective effort is fundamental for the SAP services industry to navigate the new landscape of cloud-centric SAP solutions.

Navigating the Evolving SAP Landscape

As the SAP services ecosystem undergoes significant transformation, key trends such as the shift to cloud-based services, integration of generative AI, and a focus on enhanced user experience, mobile access, and cybersecurity will shape the industry’s future. Skilled SAP consultants are vital in guiding this transition.

For SAP professionals, adapting to these changes requires: continuous learning around cloud migration, understanding the impact on business operations in various contexts, and a renewed focus on soft skills as frictionless communication between stakeholders will be extremely important.

The future of the SAP services industry is both exciting and challenging. The trends that were set in 2023 can be expected to accelerate rapidly. For SAP professionals, this is a time of unparalleled opportunity for growth and innovation. By embracing the changes, continually enhancing their skills, and staying adaptable to the evolving demands of the industry, SAP consultants can play a pivotal role in guiding their clients through this transformative period, and can expect compensation for their own services that corresponds to the value of their skills.

The road ahead may be complex, but with the right preparation and mindset, SAP professionals can navigate these changes and thrive in this new era of cloud-based, AI-enhanced SAP services.

Are you an SAP professional looking for a new role in the SAP services sector? Our team of dedicated recruitment consultants are able to match you with your ideal employer and negotiate a compensation package which reflects the importance of your talent in this era of rapid change, so join our exclusive community at IgniteSAP.