As consumers, our experience over the years has changed our behavior drastically. Expectations have evolved and convenience plays a massive role in deciding what we choose.

Whether it’s the delivery of that product we ordered this morning, the next season of the series we just binge watched, or — in my case — the update that unlocks my phone while wearing a face mask, we increasingly bank on our expectations to be satisfied almost instantaneously or, at the very least, at our convenience.

With this we see how technology and innovation have revolutionized the manner and the extent to which society and businesses behave and shift priorities over time.

As a company that touches 77% of the world’s transactions, SAP is poised in many ways to not just keep pace with market behavior, but stay a step ahead to influence and enable agile enterprise planning and decision-making. Solving today’s challenges and capturing tomorrow’s opportunities requires a complete, innovative, and industry-ready cloud enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution.

This new face of ERP uses data and artificial intelligence (AI) to turn traditional processes into dynamic transactions and agility and scalability have become an intrinsic part of the mix. With SAP S/4HANA Cloud, the future of ERP is a cycle of continuous innovations and improvements for businesses and their customers, where seamless maintenance and upgrade cycles help ensure a resilient environment. The fast-paced cloud business enables us to adjust quickly to changing circumstances and provide new capabilities to customers right when they need them. Keeping this in mind, we are constantly looking for ways to improve our customers’ experience with SAP S/4HANA Cloud.

Our fourth quarter release, SAP S/4HANA Cloud 2111, is packed with innovations across all lines of business that have one thing in common: each is designed with the business success of our customers in mind. And while there are too many to mention all, there are some that lead the way.

We’ve been growing the scope of solution order management release by release, and now with the latest enhancement that supports third-party process, our customers will be able to achieve increased efficiency through lower stocks and associated costs. The solution order specialist can transfer end-customer requirements directly to external suppliers, helping ensure that customer requirements as part of a solution order can be fulfilled despite material shortages.

SAP S/4HANA Cloud has always led the way in helping customers achieve excellence in financial management and accounting with regulatory compliance and improved margins. In the area of finance, with the release of SAP S/4HANA Cloud 2111, we introduce support for commercial and corporate real estate processes, giving organizations a single source of truth for their entire real estate portfolio, independent of geography and business unit. A streamlined master data model in the cloud enables end-to-end real estate business processes, allowing businesses and spaces to be better managed. With this, the customer can use a single application to manage space for corporate and commercial requirements. The application also supports intelligent leasing decisions, offering comprehensive contract management solution with financial integration with SAP S/4HANA Cloud. Embedded analytics for the detailed analysis of costs, revenues, and capacity utilization help ensure that companies can understand how best to use their real estate for greatest efficiency. This innovative feature is also available in two-tier ERP.

In sales, our customers can now look forward to an increase in their sales force efficiency through significant enhancements to the application process sales orders. Internal sales representatives can quickly and easily create a sales order containing basic information, can view the available-to-promise check result, upload attachments, and maintain delivery groups and other sales order creation tasks. By automating as many steps as possible without impacting the flexibility or speed of the process, we enable our customers to boost their efficiency and productivity, which is critical to their overall success.

In the area of governance, risk, and compliance, we introduce two predefined stories in SAP Analytics Cloud to provide compliance managers with full transparency into the status quo of their organization’s compliance analysis and analysis of controls master data. This information — delivered as interactive, flexible, out-of-the-box dashboards — aids decision makers in identifying company-wide trends and spot compliance issues in good time and provides metrics for gauging compliance effectiveness.

As part of SAP’s strategy for sustainability, we now offer product carbon footprint analytics embedded in sourcing and procurement. With this, we now provide our customers with real-time insights into carbon footprint values of requested products and related purchase requisition amounts across various dimensions, such as by product, product category, or plant. In two-tier ERP, customers can now avail the product footprint management to support the calculation of product footprints periodically and at scale, taking into account the entire product life cycle of products from headquarters and subsidiary ERP companies. This innovation is based on the simple principle that carbon transparency and the climate impact of individual products is always accompanied by a commitment to reduce them.

In enterprise portfolio and project management, the existing integration between enterprise projects and procurement has been tightened further, adding the ability to plan and monitor human resource demands in the manage project demand app. Planning can be done at high level — based on activity type and planned effort — or in more detail by directly staffing resources as required. This enhancement is integrated with the Manage My Timesheet app and boosts project planning possibilities while also providing additional value to business users for their daily work.

This release also sees us kicking off the early adopter program for Registration for Indirect Taxation Abroad (RITA), which will enable companies operating in multiple countries to satisfy the indirect tax and reporting regulations of each of the countries in which they do business. This means they can create and maintain an indirect tax registration in a foreign country without the need to create a new legal entity. This innovation empowers a lean SAP S/4HANA Cloud organizational set-up without redundant IT artifacts. Note that RITA is not intended for permanent establishment abroad. If you are interested in joining the early adopter program for RITA, registration starts on November 1, 2021.

Back in September, we also kicked off a further significant early adopter program for 3-system landscape of SAP S/4HANA Cloud and now move into a second phase of that program with further selected customers. By default, all customers of SAP S/4HANA Cloud are provisioned with a 2-system landscape consisting of a quality system and a production system. The 3-system landscape consists of a development system, a test system, and a production system and paves the way for an additional extensibility option known as developer extensibility. Using the SAP S/4HANA Cloud ABAP environment, customers with a 3-system landscape can create advanced coding projects based on development objects that SAP has released for this purpose. This new architecture decouples the software and content life cycles, resulting in minimized disruption (including blue-green deployment with minimized downtime), reduced upgrade complexity, and sufficient flexibility and time to adopt and adjust desired business processes.

Now that our final quarterly release of the year is off the starting blocks, it is time to look ahead at what’s to come. We have listened to your feedback and are working hard to make the process of consuming our innovations easier. To that end, our new release strategy will see us reducing the number of comprehensive releases and system upgrades per year and providing frequent non-disruptive updates between those releases. The effort required for release upgrades will decrease substantially, since the provided innovations are delivered continuously without disruption.

In addition, customers can adopt desired functionalities flexibly according to their individual requirements — as an option immediately after the update or as part of the next release.  For full details, please visit the upgrade schedule and maintenance schedule for 2-system landscape and 3-system landscape (early adopter). This development not only provides greater stability to customers, but it also gives greater flexibility regarding the adoption of innovations and allows SAP to react faster to customer requirements.

I’m excited about the changes ahead and look forward to continuing to keep our engagement with our customers dynamic. ERP has always been about running businesses. With SAP S/4HANA Cloud, our customers can power the best-run businesses in the world by adopting innovations via the cloud in a way that works best for them — as and when they need them.

Jan Gilg is president of SAP S/4HANA.