A company’s established culture is usually a greater obstacle on the way to the cloud than technical issues. That’s why SAP supports its cloud customers with customer success partners that help make sure business objectives are achieved on the journey to the cloud.

The ability to innovate is a key part of business success. Yet companies also have to be able to transform market innovations into value for their customers if they want to stay ahead of the competition. It is hard to imagine attaining this kind of performance today without cloud computing. Analysts hold the cloud to be one of the most effective tools of the digital age on the way to becoming an agile, highly innovative, competitive company. SAP has systematically embraced this technology since 2020 and is currently realigning its own organization to become a cloud provider. In my experience, it has become evident that the cloud is the only way to add value quickly at a manageable level of cost and effort.

Cloud computing is disruptive, however, and demands enormous changes. SAP users, for example, also have to switch to the new architecture of the SAP portfolio, with SAP S/4HANA as the digital core, SAP Business Technology Platform (SAP BTP) as the new environment for innovation and customer enhancements, and the SAP Signavio portfolio as the foundation for more efficient business processes.

Overcome Mental Barriers to Cloud Transformation with Customer Success Partner

“The paradigm shift in IT to cloud computing has changed everything, especially the way I provide and deploy software at companies today,” explains Alexander Michnov, head of Strategic Sales, RISE with SAP, at SAP. To better support customers in this dynamic situation, SAP established the post-sales unit Customer Success Partner team in early 2022. Our role at SAP is to understand the business objectives our customers are pursuing in a cloud transformation context and helping to ensure they actually achieve them, above and beyond the technological implementation.

According to SAP experts, the greatest obstacle to fully capturing the benefits of the cloud – such as faster time to market and simple use of resource-intensive high-tech – is an outdated process mindset. Therefore, a cloud transformation must focus on holistic changes to the corporate culture and business processes, not only on the technology.

Smooth Transition from Contract Signing to Implementation

This change process is where the Customer Success Partner team comes in, assigning a customer success partner to every RISE with SAP customer as a complement to the SAP implementation partner. When an SAP customer starts a cloud migration project, they set off on a journey that can fundamentally change their organization – from their business processes to the way their employees collaborate with each other.

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First, the customer success partner works with the customer to determine the business objectives. This is followed by developing a road map that defines what needs to be done for the customer to achieve these objectives soundly. In the early phase of a transformation project, the customer success partner also helps ensure that the transition from contract signing to the actual implementation phase goes smoothly. This transition is the first critical element. The customer success partner helps make sure that all the aspects needed to add value early on – maintaining a clean core first and foremost, ensuring that training schedules have been developed, and confirming the customer has the right contact person if they change their mind on a specific process, for instance – are taken into account from day one.

Looking Back and Looking Forward in the Post-Go-Live Phase

The next critical phase begins when the technical implementation is complete. This is usually when tensions start to ease after the exciting go-live phase. But it is especially important at this stage to ensure users use the system in the intended manner, no communication gaps have arisen, and people do not lose focus. That’s also the perfect time to start the evaluation. Have the business objectives been achieved? Has the initial problem that triggered the implementation been solved? And, of course, this is a great time to discuss the next wave of innovation with the customer.

Key Factors of a Customer Success Partner

Here are three key factors for a customer success partner’s work from the customer perspective:

  • Early involvement of the customer success partner, ideally during the sales process, to help define the expected added value of the project
  • Organizational networking of the customer success partner in the organizations of the customer, the implementation partner, and SAP
  • The customer success partner’s ability to harmonize the customer’s road map with SAP’s strategy – for the customer, it’s extraordinarily valuable to have a counterpart with whom they can discuss SAP’s strategic direction and planned innovations in day-to-day business

As such, the customer success partner represents an ideal complement to the SAP implementation partner. The latter still bears overall responsibility for the system changeover during the entire transition process. In contrast, the customer success partner helps make sure that everything necessary is done so the implementation corresponds to the value targets defined in the beginning. They help ensure that all the aspects strategically important to the customer and SAP – starting with a clean core – are taken into account throughout the course of the project.

The Value of Long-Term Relationships

“The customer success partner is the guardian of the clean core and customer lifetime value,” summarizes Michnov, bringing a further dimension of the new post-sales organization into play. In the new cloud world, innovations and enhancements take place continuously and become available to customers extremely quickly, thanks to short release cycles.

Cloud migration is like a journey from one milestone to the next. In this world, the commitment never really ends; it’s a world of long-term relationships. As such, my team’s mission is to support customers from day one and in perpetuity. The customer success partner enters a lifelong commitment with the customer. The customer success partner is there before the implementation, they are there after the implementation, and they are there even when no implementation is needed at all.

Ara Aguzumtsyan is head of Customer Success Solution Areas, CSS MEE, at SAP.

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