The German-speaking SAP User Group (DSAG) annual congress is always a special occasion. We at SAP never forget that, along with other iconic global brands, we have our roots in Germany. Last week at DSAG LIVE, I had the pleasure to share the stage with Ralf Peters, DSAG Board member for Digitalization, Finance, and Value Chain; Steffen Pietsch, DSAG Board member for Technology; and Juergen Mueller, CTO and member of the SAP Executive Board, to review the past few months and take stock of what we have achieved together.

We have been driving our efforts to consistently build extensions for SAP S/4HANA on SAP Cloud Platform. This helps tremendously in increasing the standardization that in turn has ultimately led to a significant reduction of the total cost of ownership (TCO). Additionally, we want our customers to choose their transformation paths. One example that shows our commitment to not only listen to our customers and user groups but to act on their feedback is that SAP now provides SAP S/4HANA on-premise application programming interfaces (APIs) and events via SAP API Business Hub, a step that is highly appreciated by DSAG.

At DSAG LIVE 2020, we had an open discussion about market trends, and I’m grateful that both DSAG and SAP share perspectives on the key trends for the next couple of years.

Our user groups have always been an important channel for SAP, enabling us to listen to customer and end user needs. We have always considered user groups to be more than just a group of customers; not only do they play back and consolidate unfiltered feedback from our customers and users, they also engage in community events to share experiences with our solutions. They are our partners, who share the same goal of making enterprise software an enabler for new business outcomes.

SAP involves the user groups in evolving its product strategy for a simple reason — our product strategy is made to meet our customers’ needs. User groups are the customer’s voice so they need to be an integral part of strategy planning. We are now seeing increasing confidence and trust in SAP’s product strategy and road maps, reflected in the results of this year’s DSAG member survey. Although we are still not where we would like to be, we are taking concrete steps by now engaging the user group community in jointly defining our revised product strategy and growth areas comprising industry cloud, business network, sustainability, and business process intelligence.

Here are some of my highlights from our conversation during DSAG LIVE 2020.

Taking on Innovation for Digitalization

Digitalization is more than just new technology and products; it is about holistic transformation of business processes and business models with technology as an enabler. Agile and flexible companies need a digital backbone, as 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic clearly showed. More than ever before, the market environment is characterized by a high degree of uncertainty. According to a recent DSAG survey, 74 percent of respondents expect their sales to decrease or even drop sharply. At the same time, the demand for solutions that accelerate the digital transformation is increasing. Agility and flexibility give companies resilience in uncertain times.

Many companies across industries are undergoing a digital business transformation. Evolving their businesses from selling single products or services to offering holistic solutions of multiple correlated items is just one example of how business processes are changing.

My colleague Sabrina Kunze presented an example of how to tackle these kinds of challenges with the solution order in SAP S/4HANA Cloud. It is designed to make our customers’ business processes more efficient, intelligent, and integrated. During the demo, Sabrina showed how complex solutions of physical goods along with one-time services and long-running contractual services can be managed end-to-end in one integrated order. This spans across order creation, execution, invoicing, revenue recognition, and controlling. With offerings like solution order, we can support new business models, such as subscription-based billing, and customers can cover new business processes end-to-end.

Sabrina also showed how users can evaluate the profitability of the solution order in one financial view using SAP Analytics Cloud. On top comes machine learning accompanying the process – together making the Intelligent Enterprise a tangible experience. While there is still some integration work to do, seamlessly connecting solution order with commerce and field service management perfectly shows the business value of integration.

Drive Innovation Globally, Win Locally

As a vast majority of our customers operates globally, localization has always been important. Every year, SAP delivers around 1,000 legal changes to SAP systems as part of our customers’ standard maintenance to help companies comply with local legal requirements. This year, we added another 160 legal changes that were necessary as local governments made adaptions to their regulatory frameworks, such as reduced work hours in response to the pandemic.

Localization is clearly a key differentiator for SAP, and we are committed to continue making this a priority topic. The portfolio comprises simple, end-to-end, experience-rich localizations that support our customers in competing globally and winning locally — from supporting a broad variety of languages to enabling companies to comply with local legal and tax regulations. We are planning to invest about €1 billion into the localization of our products and solutions over the next five years, to underline how important this topic is for both SAP and our customers.

In addition, we want to ease up the implementation on an even broader level and continuously improve user enablement for our customers and partners by delivering more best practices and content and by offering integration standards, just to name a few.

Providing Transparency, Gaining Trust

My impression is that the new, interactive SAP Road Map Explorer tool is much appreciated by DSAG because of the value it delivers to their members. But we will not stop here. We are planning to integrate SAP Road Map Explorer with SAP for Me, the central access point for customers where they can find everything about their SAP engagements at a glance to easily interact with SAP.

Improving our products or embedding new ideas based on customer and user group feedback are important sources for enhancements of our products and solutions. With the Customer Influence program, we provide customers a variety of offerings to get engaged throughout the entire product life cycle, from submitting feedback and ideas to testing beta versions and being among to be the first to adapt new releases or products. DSAG is a strong partner for SAP when it comes to influencing our software development. Over the past 12 months, more than 4,000 new DSAG users have joined our central Customer Influence site.

Just now, the next customer engagement initiative cycle, with more than 60 new projects, is open for registration. I am happy that DSAG members are so actively engaged and can benefit from the results of this initiative. It is a testament to the strong collaboration between SAP and DSAG.

Looking back to the DSAG LIVE keynote with Ralf Peters, Stefan Pietsch, and Juergen Mueller, I’ve taken away a lot of impressions and food for thought. It has been a pleasure to discuss our joint way forward openly, and I look forward to continuing the exchange.

Thomas Saueressig is a member of the Executive Board of SAP SE,  Product Engineering.
This article originally appeared on LinkedIn.