C/4HANA CRM – Get on the path to transform today

Redefining Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is back on top of everyone’s agenda with SAP planning to take on Salesforce on multiple fronts as it aims to tie its backend software to front-office. For existing SAP CRM on-prem and Hybris customers this bid to be more competitive lacks maturity and has enterprises looking at lean solutions to transform customer experience (CX) based on their existing technology stack.

What’s C/4 HANA again?

At SAPPHIRE NOW in Orlando where the new suite called SAP C/4HANA was presented, SAP CEO Bill McDermott argued the change in CRM. “We have moved from 360-degree view of sales automation where some companies focus to 360-degree view of the actual customer,” said McDermott. The idea is that the supply chain and transactional data will be connected to the customer record and commerce in any channel on top of SAP Cloud Platform.

Stressing the need to revamp “legacy CRM systems”, McDermott is trying to paint Salesforce and SAP CRM into the legacy corner. This statement alone is rather comical when you look at SAP’s very own CRM history. Furthermore, it seems unclear at this point how SAP will be able to blend its various moving parts and technologies such as Hybris, Gigya and Callidus into a coherent suite. “Putting it all together will take a lot of work,” said an analyst at SAPPHIRE. “SAP will have to get to a level of a common UI.” She added that SAP’s Fiori design language has turned out better than expected and can bridge gaps between the applications.

Fiori to bridge gaps today for C/4HANA CRM

The relevant question innovation teams at SAP customers around the globe are asking themselves is whether to wait and see C/4HANA mature over the next couple of years or start taking action and create a custom 360-degree view of the actual customer today.

Current case studies of numerous SAP-centric enterprises are supporting the idea of redesigning CRM as part of the overall Digital Transformation strategy. And this is not an exclusive diamond account conversation as upper-mid-sized companies with a strong sales focus are heavily investing in CX applications to be used at front-office, typically with mobile emphasis and ready for the new generation of touch devices.

Let’s look at an SAP customer of the German ‘Mittelstand’. The company, located in the north of Baden-Wuerttemberg, is the world’s leading manufacturer of electric motors and fans, employing 15.000 people across the globe. The challenge for IT leads was to provide a desktop and mobile CRM experience for the sales team that enables customer insights everywhere, including online and offline mobile capabilities. “We needed to digitally transform the way our teams could access customer master data and create and commit multiple transactions while being onsite working with our clients.” Head of IT Business Solutions explained. The team of 120 field sales people and more than 400 customer service technicians are going to work with iOS-based tablets because of a management decision to optimize processes by pushing Digital Transformation across the enterprise. “The goal is to create a 360-degree view of the current customer – anytime, anyplace, online or offline.” added the Head of SAP Business Solutions.

The manufacturing company is running three SAP on-premise NetWeaver ABAP servers, hosting an SAP CRM alongside the core SAP ECC and a standalone SAP HR system. To improve the performance and accessibility of the overall on-premise SAP landscape, SAP CRM was upgraded to the latest version and SAP NetWeaver was set up for testing purposes of SAP Fiori. The innovation team also wanted to help modernize their CRM processes and enable mobility and tested  the SAP Fiori Launchpad in order to understand what was possible with an SAP-based solution, but quickly realized that using those solutions would be time-consuming, and the ABAP developers would have to go through a long learning curve, and in the end they did not want to make that compromise. In addition, in order to enable mobile iOS packaging of the Launchpad they would have to make additional investments into SAP Mobile Platform or SAP Cloud Platform and it would have exceeded their budget.

Goals, expectations and timeline were already set with the challenge to deliver a first wave of seven apps as part of a tightly integrated Launchpad, namely My Accounts, My Contacts, My Tasks, My Caused Tasks, and My Visit Reports to run on iOS-based tablets. Those apps would use CRM data as well as ECC master data to ensure full-fledged CX when used on the client-side. But instead of stopping the project due to complexity and lacking SAP Fiori capabilities, the team followed SAP’s own recommendation to try out Fiori certified Neptune DX Platform, which can be installed locally on SAP NetWeaver ABAP servers.

“After seeing Neptune Software in action in a webinar and demo, we were convinced we had found a solution that met our requirements,” the Head of SAP Business Solutions says. “We were pleased to see how easy it was with Neptune to develop mobile solutions that combined Fiori on the frontend and ABAP on the backend, eliminating the need for a long training cycle for developers.

The creation of a unified user interface with Neptune Fiori Launchpad for all new apps has been identified as an important step in providing the rich user experience that field sales teams need. Starting with apps for account and contact management, developers created a simple interface for iOS mobile phones, while improving CRM functionality, optimizing it for different screen sizes and minimizing the number of buttons and tasks within a process.

By involving the users in Design Thinking workshops, beta testing periods and quickly incorporating their feedback and recommendations, the business process team created the basis for success. “We can already see that with the new apps we’re creating, users can do more with less clicks,” says the Head of SAP Business Solutions. “And we use new features like touch screen, fingerprint authentication, GPS and a direct camera interface to give users access to the practical tools they usually use on their smartphones.”

CRM transformation starts now

Companies do not want to overthrow their entire landscape but usually have an ongoing strategy for Digital Transformation, often with a team and concrete plan in place. SAP has gathered a set of interesting acquisitions with Gigya, Callidus, and Hybris, but as an innovative CRM solution, even SAP admits very little integration has taken place so far amongst them. In the short run, it has become clear at SAPPHIRE that SAP’s CRM vision, especially the latest C/4HANA revelation, is immature.

C/4HANA will have a better chance to gain traction among existing customers if SAP is successful in creating a common level of integration based on Fiori. However, many SAP customers have the need to provide a harmonized CRM solution today. These companies have chosen future-proof application development platforms, enabling development teams to create customer experience (CX) based on their existing SAP technology stack. Platforms like Outsystems, Kony, or Neptune Software integrate with multiple systems and make it easy to develop harmonized applications across business units and processes, ultimately transforming the way your end users work with a heterogenous IT landscape. Because of SAP’s Fiori UX design paradigm, development teams are quickly enabled to bridge the CRM gaps today and develop the necessary apps to complete the needed “360-degree view” of the customer and to inform the field sales teams about the latest offers, current orders, outstanding complaints and more.

Get on the path to C/4HANA CRM and start empowering the digital transformation of your sales teams. Choosing a stable Fiori UX platform, enabling your developers to succeed and involving key users from the beginning will result in outstanding CX. Leading enterprises are proving today that a confident Fiori approach will turn your existing SAP landscape into a digital CRM powerhouse for the future.

About the Author  

Christoph Garms
Managing Director at Neptune Software Germany

Christoph is part of the interface between development and sales at Neptune Software. His team assists partners and customers from their first demo to implementation, to onboarding and expert training workshops. This experience gives Christoph a unique perspective to strongly support all Fiori development projects based on the Neptune DX platform.

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