SAP C/4HANA hopes to tie together front and back office

At Sapphire Now in Orlando, SAP unveiled its customer experience suite with the aim to better compete in the CRM market and provide a modern, 360-degree view of the customer.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- SAP is setting its sights on Salesforce with a new suite of customer experience products called...

SAP C/4HANA.

Unveiled at the opening keynote here at SAP Sapphire Now, SAP C/4HANA brings together SAP's marketing, commerce, sales and service cloud products, sitting them all atop its Customer Data Cloud and embedding machine learning with SAP Leonardo.

"SAP was the last to accept the status quo, and SAP will be the first to change it," said Bill McDermott, CEO for SAP. "We're moving from a 360-degree view of sales automation to a 360-degree view of the customer. The entire supply chain is connected to customer experience."

SAP is hoping that by connecting back-office capabilities with SAP ERP products to the front office, the company can provide an end-to-end experience for its users -- something that few vendors can offer. SAP executives called the release of SAP C/4HANA a reflection point for SAP and the CRM industry.

"The roadmap for Hana and S/4Hana gave us what we needed to connect the back office to the front office," McDermott said.

In addition to connecting back-office functionality, SAP's new CX suite was also spurred by the separate acquisitions of Hybris, Gigya and CallidusCloud, which added the capabilities necessary to bring together these products.

"The goal is a single view of the customer," said Alex Atzberger, president of customer experience for SAP. "With the acquisition of Gigya, we manage 1.3 billion profiles, and this is what's happening in CRM. It's about effectiveness and efficiency and how can you effectively target and engage a particular customer."

Atzberger added that this customer engagement needs to keep the customer in mind first and foremost, meaning it can't be creepy when it comes to courting a customer, but rather provide users with the tools to move a customer along the entire marketing, sales and service pipeline.

We're moving from a 360-degree view of sales automation to a 360-degree view of the customer.
Bill McDermottCEO, SAP

It has been a long-standing goal of SAP's to combine its industry-leading ERP tools with its CRM tools -- being the first major vendor to combine front- and back-office capabilities -- and while time will tell whether SAP can achieve this with C/4HANA, it appears the company is on the right track.

"They've been saying this for years, so what changed? I really think they're finally executing on what they want to do and the architecture caught up and the acquisitions helped tie it together," said Sheryl Kingstone, research vice president at 451 Research. "This ties to their cloud platform, and it was critical for that vision they have to connect the dots. These are things that Salesforce is trying to figure out in regards to the 360-degree customer view."

While SAP admitted it was slow to adapt to this modern view of the customer, it's hoping that by stringing together this suite of applications, it can provide the customer experience businesses are vying for.

"It's not only about connecting that end-to-end chain, but also to give the best user experience in the industry," McDermott said. "SAP is capable of doing this, and now we're ready."

The importance of SAP's various acquisitions over the past couple of years can't be understated when it comes to creating SAP C/4HANA. The 2017 purchase of Gigya for $350 million became the data management platform for SAP, helping customers maintain and protect customer data. The SAP acquisition of CallidusCloud earlier this year for $2.4 billion gave the company a modern, cloud-based sales, quote-to-cash and customer experience product that helps round out those front-office offerings that can complement SAP's existing ERP products.

"The Gigya acquisition is really essential for that vision of [customer identification]. And managing that identity in a secure environment -- especially with GDPR -- is critical," Kingstone said. "That plus bringing in their data management capabilities and machine learning with SAP Leonardo -- if they can pull this off, that's the next generation in a modern architecture."

Pricing information regarding SAP C/4HANA wasn't released at the unveiling.

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