Rapidly evolving technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and the cloud have put every aspect of enterprise technology into overdrive – including IT services and support. Digitization has heightened customer expectations, and the shift to the Intelligent Enterprise has created new possibilities for the way SAP delivers benefit to customers.

The transformation of the space has created a rich ecosystem of providers that are working to digitally transform their services and support offerings, coupled with smaller, innovative startups. And as with any ecosystem, its existence — and in large part, success — is defined by how these individual pieces come together to build something bigger.

Dropping the Barriers to Entry

The availability and accessibility of cloud-based resources has led to an explosion of startups across all industries. With the development of technology platforms, application programming interfaces (APIs), and microservices, the barriers to entry in the services and support space have dropped significantly, as it is less costly for smaller companies to take advantage of the IT resources they need to build on top of such capabilities. This has allowed innovators, designers, and creatives to build extensions or complementary applications on top of existing offerings and provide customers with new ways to quickly and effectively identify and solve IT issues.

There is a saying that many hands make light work. The API economy has facilitated a rich set of ecosystem partners that are innovating at the pace of digital transformation. There is a growing number of legacy organizations partnering with smaller startups to pair skill sets and develop solutions together. Management consulting firms are working with digital creative agencies; the services arms of software vendors are partnering with advisory and innovation firms; systems integrators are building platforms and developing sub-ecosystems; and startup application management firms are partnering with hyperscalers. The combinations are endless.

At SAP, this is something we strongly encourage, and have set up startup accelerators within specific business areas to provide innovators opportunities to work with experts to help bring their solutions to market.

The is an ever-growing list of partners specializing in support solutions and providing automation, intelligent tools, and resources specific to various subsets of customers. This makes it easier than ever to meet a growing demand for personalization. With this, SAP has moved away from being solely reactive, to now being predictive and proactive – while always staying one step ahead of customers.

Evolution of the Landscape

Despite the innovation that the services and support space currently delivers, things looked much different 10 years ago. In the past, major players influenced the state of the industry, often through large and long projects. While those legacy organizations are transforming, the eruption of non-traditional startups has spurred an unprecedented level of innovation across industries and has inspired incumbents to think holistically about their services and support offerings.

The one-size-fits-all approach of the past has taken a backseat to customization and specialization. Though we can thank new entrants and startups for some of this innovation, we cannot forget the role large existing companies have played in tapping into broad and deep repositories of data and insights that have informed this evolution.

The longstanding relationships that companies like SAP have with their customers have provided a rich history of customer interactions and learnings. With the tools currently available for extracting actionable intelligence from this data, SAP can continue to leverage insights to create a superior customer experience.

A company as large as SAP, offering an integrated suite of solutions and technologies, naturally has a large customer base, which has allowed for leveraging feedback from different sets of customers over the years to remain competitive in today’s digital economy. While this data influences how SAP goes about improving and building upon its services and support technology, it sometimes informs the company to de-focus and retire services that no longer serve the needs of today’s customers. This continual cycle of retiring and creating pushes SAP to make sure that no matter how it innovates alongside customers, solutions and services must remain simple and user-friendly enough to withstand the test of time.

Collaborating Across the Ecosystem to Delight Customers

In the experience economy, customer engagement must remain continuous in order to delight customers and deliver consistent experiences. In order to keep up with this pace, IT services and support organizations must take advantage of experiential data from customers, such as sentiment, attitudes, and emotions, as key to driving superior customer success.

Across industries, both large and small organizations are highlighting customer experience as a top priority. Companies are working together to ensure they are extracting the necessary intelligence to efficiently deliver the best customer experience. While much of today’s customer engagement is digital, and can sometimes seem far removed, the rapid evolution of technology will provide various ways, such as conversational, immersive, and multi-sensory experiences, to create more customer intimacy.

With the industry in a constant state of flux, IT services and support organizations, and their partners, can guide customers in the adoption of technology and remain one step ahead in order to provide the support necessary to help ensure that customers are extracting the most value from their solutions.

Nancy Callahan is global vice president of Strategy and Growth for SAP Digital Business Services at SAP.