When Exceptions Become the Norm, Resilience Becomes the Objective

In 1969, The New York Times Magazine captured the U.S. National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger’s comment, “There can’t be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.” The ironic quip underscored the need to meet a crisis with agility. And nothing is more salient today, in our crisis-plagued world, than the wish for solutions to deal with crises.

What has become clear over the past two years is that exceptions are no longer the exception, they have become the norm. One crisis followed by yet another has forced business leaders to give up the wish to “return to normal” and instead design business processes with resilience at the core to deal with the next inevitable crisis.

Intelligent, Networked, Sustainable Enterprises Are More Resilient

Reacting and rebounding in the midst of a crisis requires resilience. To help our customers thrive despite uncertainty, SAP enables them to transform into intelligent, networked, and sustainable enterprises. Intelligence enables businesses to explore multiple scenarios, contingency plans, new business opportunities, models, and strategies based on data — not merely assumptions. Tapping into diverse networks of partners and strategic alliances in a rich ecosystem provides agility and the opportunity to experiment with new collaboration models, source new suppliers, discover new resources, and ultimately build more resilient supply chains. And more than ever, businesses are driven by an irreversible evolution toward more sustainable business practices and the will to integrate environmental, social, and governance (ESG) impacts.

Our Five Engineering Priorities

Achieving our ambitious vision to transform businesses into intelligent, networked, and sustainable enterprises means we cannot lose sight of the operational steps we ourselves must take to ensure we are adapting to the new normal of constant crisis management. That’s why, in continuous exchange with our customers to understand their needs, we are investing in five priorities for SAP’s engineering teams.

Autonomous and Intelligent Business: The Future of ERP Is Autonomous

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are making huge strides in everyday technologies like Spotify, Netflix, and Google Maps. They are improving our leisure and personal time, so it’s easy to see the great potential of AI and machine learning to automate business processes and thereby help end users concentrate more on high-value tasks. We are committed to continuing the strong progress we have made on embedding AI across our solutions. Because the true power of AI to analyze large amounts of data and combine it in meaningful ways for decision-makers is unleashed when it is used across our integrated portfolio. Better data insights translate into better business choices.

Overall, we released more than 120 AI scenarios across our products, and this is just the beginning. With such a powerful technology, however, also comes great responsibility. At SAP, we first defined guidelines for using AI in 2018 and the SAP Global AI Ethics Policy, which applies to all employees, came into effect in January 2022.

Integration: The Whole Is Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts

Integration is a key strategic priority for customers that are aiming for digital experiences across omnichannel engagements – connecting people, businesses, and devices in their business networks and ecosystems. Eighty-three percent of global IT professionals surveyed say improving enterprise integration is a top priority for the next one to two years. We know this and it is why we have worked hard here and will continue to do so. In 2021 alone, we delivered approximately 450 new integration innovations and our integration road map for 2022 is loaded. Our modular cloud ERP works together across front-end and back-end systems, and we cover crucial business processes end to end: from recruit-to-retire, lead-to-cash, source-to-pay, and design-to-operate. Organizations have options to turn away from executing siloed, one-off application and data integrations by exploring comprehensive integration options like ours.

SAP Business Technology Platform (SAP BTP) is a key part of our integration strategy and brings together data and analytics, AI, application development, and automation in one, unified environment. It is an open platform for the entire SAP ecosystem, integrating and extending SAP’s intelligent suite, and it is central to the industry cloud as well as partner applications. With the help of SAP HANA Cloud, SAP BTP customers benefit from reduced TCO across integration landscapes, increased project speed, and reduced implementation costs. We continue to keep our eye on the ball here.

Operational Excellence: Customer Trust Is Our Foundation

Our customers trust us with their most mission-critical business processes and data. So it goes without saying that our software availability, security, quality, and compliance remain top priorities. Cloud operational excellence underpins everything we do.

User Experience: The Best Experience Wins

While today’s business challenges may be complex, the user experience (UX) must be quite the opposite. We continue to prioritize UX to make using our applications effortless and intuitive. To that end, we introduced Horizon, our visual design theme based on five design principles drawn from SAP’s own research into how people want to work in the intelligent enterprise. Creating the best UX is not just about aesthetics; it’s about great usability, accessibility, performance, and aesthetics across the entire portfolio.

With Horizon, end users have an unprecedented role in the way we develop our software. Customers were asked to provide feedback to a preview, directly in the system through a built-in Qualtrics survey. We continue to iterate on our design, in cooperation with our users, proving that we stand by our mission — to test, learn, and continuously improve our design. Granted, we have a long road ahead of us, but we are putting one foot in front of the other on the path to setting new standards for enterprise software.

Localization: Empowering Every Customer to Succeed Locally and Globally

More than ever, customers face challenges responding to evolving local, regional, and global regulatory requirements. Localizing solutions is a key factor in achieving resilience and a key differentiator for us at SAP. Our enterprise leadership is recognized for enabling digital business scenarios across countries because we have a proven track record in enabling companies to grow globally and succeed locally. We have more than 560 local versions in total across our entire portfolio. For SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central alone, we offer 102 local versions. In 2021, we delivered more than 1,200 legal changes across SAP solutions helping to ensure customers comply with the laws of each country in which they operate. Using localized SAP solutions, customers can rapidly enter new markets, harvest first-mover advantages, and achieve a competitive edge.

Our five priorities ensure that while we stay focused on our vision, we execute on our mission — in deeply destabilizing times.

Despite the challenges that crises present, they can be an opportunity to take a step back, reflect, and look at the way we design our business processes. They can be invitations to surpass the challenges we face today and will undoubtedly face tomorrow. The digital transformation we offer for our customers is a secure approach for setting up business to respond with resilience when the next inevitable crisis hits.


Thomas Saueressig is a member of the Executive Board of SAP SE, leading SAP Product Engineering.