“2.0” behind the project name usually signals a redo after complete failure with renewed enthusiasm and an overhauled concept. Of course, hardly anybody would argue that Industry 1.0 to 3.0 were complete failures, but from version 1 to the current version 4, things have changed (and improved!) drastically.
In the summer of 2020, some experts thought Embrace 2.0 inevitable. Hyperscalers Microsoft, AWS, Google, and Alibaba as well as SAP remained silent. Then, when it was announced that former Microsoft Germany CEO Sabine Bendiek would be joining the SAP executive board in 2021, many members of the SAP community were certain: Under Sabine Bendiek’s leadership, there would be an overhaul of Embrace, a version 2.0.
What actually happened
Sabine Bendiek, now an official part of the SAP executive board, has been described as an SAP firefighter. There are apparently a lot of construction sites she has to attend to, and one person, no matter how capable, is not enough to take care of all of them. Consequently, Embrace was gently put to rest. Even Microsoft, once even a preferred partner, largely withdrew from the project and left Azure to the wider cloud market.
Today, hardly anyone talks about Embrace anymore. Embrace 2.0 seems to be dead on arrival. SAP’s once so appraised cloud initiative is a thing of the past, and existing SAP customers would be well advised to choose new partners for their cloud strategy.
(Surp-)RISE with SAP
In January 2021, SAP CEO Christian Klein held a virtual event. Under normal circumstances, SAP’s Field Kick-off Meeting (FKOM) takes most of the attention at the beginning of each year. However, because SAP obviously has more than one construction site, Klein tried to provide all the answers in one virtual event.
But what was Christian Klein trying to tell us with RISE with SAP? Opinions differ, but the fact is that the Embrace cloud story is dead, and SAP’s new cloud story is called RISE with SAP. Other journalists and analysts have already emphasized it several times: With RISE, SAP once again wants to lure its existing customers onto a cloud platform.
Cloud undoubtedly has some advantages, but in a complex ERP environment including Industry 4.0, IIoT, blockchain, and e-commerce, there can only be a hybrid answer. No cloud solution can satisfy every individual need. No one should trade their own IT expertise in an on-premises infrastructure just because SAP’s CEO said so. The future is too uncertain to do without even one of the many cloud and on-prem building blocks. RISE with SAP is good and right, but not new and spectacular. The name Embrace 2.0 would have made more sense and been clearer.
Innovation doesn’t come easy
So, where does Christian Klein stand with his SAP? After many years of shame and disgrace, SAP’s Net Promoter Score is once again above zero (on a scale of -100 to +100). This is certainly due to the affable and likeable SAP CEO Klein. If SAP’s share price was growing at a similar rate to its cloud competitors instead of just moving sideways, everyone could be satisfied. However, rock solid is not enough anywhere and certainly not in the software world, which thrives on the imagination of tomorrow. As a last ditch effort to save S/4 Hana, RISE with SAP might help some customers make the switch to the cloud, but don’t try to call it innovation when it is in fact just Embrace under a different name.