Have you ever wondered how SAP defines the road map for SAP S/4HANA? It is something customers often ask me about; they are keen to understand not only what is coming their way, but also if there is a means of influencing future enhancements.

As we make available the latest enhancements to SAP S/4HANA Cloud release 2011, the fourth-quarter release for 2020, allow me to explain how we got here.

It should not be a surprise that much of our road map is driven by regular exchange with customers from all industries. We listen carefully to customers’ challenges and aspirations — in helping them to run their core processes, we are uniquely placed to help them grow and develop their business and adapt proactively.

To quote SAP Executive Board Member Thomas Saueressig, “our product strategy is made to meet our customers’ needs.” Beyond the main customer influence programs, we also run smaller dedicated groups with which we validate our plans and ideas. Early feedback on planned innovations is key to helping ensure we are on track to deliver updates that are truly beneficial across a range of industries.

Having cleared these hurdles and received great feedback from both industry and analysts, I’m delighted to share some key highlights included in latest cloud release of SAP S/4HANA.

Particularly in times of economic uncertainty and curtailed spending, where some clients may default on their debts, apps like process receivables and manage dispute cases in the area of finance aid the process of collecting receivables and handling disputes. They help mitigate the risk of sudden disruption in the financial supply chain by offering immediate insight into customer data and suggesting required steps for collecting receivables more effectively. The latest release brings improved usability and the ability to include installment plans to help manage repayment when times are tough. The closing process also benefits from increases in efficiency and automation as this release enables finance departments to create consolidated statements with multiple group currencies in a single closing. The new SAP Fiori app, manage recurring supplier invoices, brings further efficiency in handling invoices that need to be paid at regular intervals.

In the area of order fulfillment, a new innovation helps to increase customer loyalty by prioritizing demand — or customers — whose orders you cater to first. This also helps to reduce the risk of being out of stock and not able to cater to highly profitable last-minute, high-priority orders. In procurement, users can now record consumable materials in service entry sheets, improving transparency of consumption and flexibility throughout the whole sourcing process.

Following the details of the 2005 and 2008 releases this year, another key theme in the enhancements is in helping companies to build out and streamline their service operations. In some instances, a service offering is a valuable upselling opportunity and a means of transforming the business to a more resilient mode. Release 2011 provides a new scenario for scheduling and organizing recurring services. This can help avoid customer escalations, and increase both asset and team utilization through the preventative servicing of assets. We have also made changes in asset management, making it easier to create new work requests for maintenance and reducing the effort required to log maintenance issues.

In enterprise portfolio and project management, we have added additional scenarios to support fixed-priced enterprise projects billing, reducing manual effort by automating the billing process for project-based sales order items and accelerating the billing process to help reduce days sales outstanding. We have also improved the process of project billing for professional services, in order to reduce the time to bill and increase efficiency of the billing team.

Undoubtedly driven by the pandemic and ensuing economic uncertainty, customers are more keen than ever to increase operational efficiency through increased automation. Key areas in which intelligent technology has been embedded to enhance business processes include sales and governance, risk, and compliance (GRC). In GRC, we introduce machine learning-based detection of anomalies and potentially suspicious activities in finance and contract accounting. This automates the process of data protection and privacy risk detection based on legality checks, and provides data privacy officers with instant overviews and the ability to identify risks relating to regulatory compliance. In sales, efficiency of teams can be greatly increased though the automated creation of sales orders from data in unstructured source formats, such as PDF files. The data in such files is extracted and translated directly into sales orders for a reduction in the manual effort required.

This is just a small selection of the innovations that our team has worked hard to deliver this quarter. Customer success is our greatest badge of honor, and our ultimate goal. With this release, just as with all before, we endeavor to help our customers excel, to evolve and adapt to ever-changing circumstances, and to transform their businesses as intelligent and resilient enterprises that are fit for success in today’s turbulent times — as well as for whatever the future brings.

Oliver Betz is senior vice president and head of Product Management for SAP S/4HANA.