Since SAP extended maintenance for SAP S/4HANA until 2040 and for core applications of SAP Business Suite 7 until the end of 2027 with an option to extend until 2030, many people have inquired about the importance of such commitments.

Why would SAP – or any provider for that matter – promise to support existing software for such long time frames, at a time when technology is continuously evolving at an accelerating pace?

It is a matter of one underlying truth: 65 percent of companies are more comfortable with learning from their peers that are digital transformers and disrupters before diving into their own innovation efforts. This mindset is only natural as six in 10 CEOs still feel tremendous pressure to deliver a successful digital transformation strategy. The stakes could not be higher for every digital initiative.

Question of Strategy and Timing, Not Momentum

The approach to technology adoption today is very different than what it was 10 to five years ago, or even one. Now more than ever, it is a deeply deliberated business decision based on more than just knowing which software to choose. It is about timing, readiness, and operational need.

Take, for example, intelligent enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, SAP S/4HANA. To date, approximately 14,000 SAP customers have already chosen SAP S/4HANA to be their future digital core, and thousands are actively implementing it. The ERP adoption rate is undoubtedly experiencing significant momentum. But for some companies, planning for the new technology presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reconsider their business models, operational strategy, organizational setup, processes, and resources to build a better, stronger, and more resilient business.

Going through a decision-making process like this takes considerable time, thought, and discussion. This is not the moment to rush in and drive a massive change to the IT landscape, let alone a technical upgrade. Businesses should define financial drivers, innovate new business models, refine operational processes, and investigate new capabilities such as automation, all based on the advanced capabilities of SAP S/4HANA. More importantly, their workforce and leaders must be trained to use these digital advancements in ways that deliver a customer experience that is more engaging and profitable, not traumatic and lackluster.

With the right maintenance commitment on behalf of the solution provider, businesses are granted the room to accurately predict and genuinely reshape their future. They can determine whether pockets of legacy customization are holding them back from transforming. Furthermore, decision-makers can consider the best staged approach to drive the shift, especially if a broad array of business units and market units are scattered worldwide. Additionally, new technology co-innovations and partnerships with digital giants such as MicrosoftGoogle, and Amazon Web Services can be thoughtfully examined.

Then, when the time is right, businesses can swoop in and transform themselves with solutions that best meet their needs and support their ultimate visions. All pieces of their envisaged business model and operational puzzle are set, the workforce is ready and committed, and successful adoption is within sight.

Inspired Transformation That is Indisputably Flexible and Supported

Customers and their user groups have a strong desire for starting their transformation journey without delay. Their feedback is clear: The time to move is now. But for their transformation process, they also want to take advantage of the best engineering practices and innovation processes and capture advanced capabilities that deliver a new level of organizational momentum – based on clarity, choice, and flexibility.

In this respect, maintenance commitments can be powerful aspects of how businesses evolve, especially with artificial intelligence, machine learning, predictive analytics, and blockchain. And while 20 years may seem like many lifetimes in terms of technology innovation, extensions like the one we recently announced can become the lifeline businesses need to transform on their terms, within their timeline, and in their way.

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Jens Bernotat is the global vice president of Strategy and Ecosystem for Customer Solution Support and Innovation at SAP SE.