At the beginning of the year, Microsoft and SAP announced the expansion of their cooperation, the technical details of which and the implementation timetable are expected shortly. One of the plans is for Microsoft Teams to become an integral part of SAP’s enterprise solutions. S/4 Hana, SuccessFactors, Sales Cloud and Analytics Cloud have been named so far. The combination of collaboration tools with IT-supported business processes promises obvious benefits for everyday work, as can be briefly outlined with the following example.
Just put yourself in the position of a clerk in production preparation. You notice that the last delivery was incomplete and that important materials are now missing from production. You would probably start frantically searching for the information of the last deliveries and the contact data of the appropriate person to turn to in this case. Once these have been found, you pick up the phone. There is a lot of evidence in professional life to suggest that the contact person cannot be reached – at least at the first attempt. So, you have to try again or leave a message to make an appointment. This effort and time can be saved in the future. You can simply open a chatbot in S/4 Hana that automatically identifies the right contact person, contacts them, finds a suitable appointment, and sets it up via Microsoft Teams. Afterwards, all you have to do is join the Teams meeting with one click to resolve the delivery issue – without losing important time on futile calls beforehand.
The latest cooperation venture between the two software heavyweights cannot really come as a surprise. After all, it follows in the footsteps of similar, almost forgotten attempts in the past, such as the Mendocino project with the Duet software. Another example is the Embrace program launched in 2019, which has both companies working to comprehensively expand the existing strategic partnership to accelerate the adoption of S/4 on Microsoft Azure. The chances of success have increased in 2021 with the recent addition of two new SAP executive board members who were previously employed by Microsoft – Sabine Bendiek and Julia White.
The starting position today is more promising than in 2019, especially since external conditions are pushing for more cooperation. This is because integration is taking place in the cloud, specifically in Microsoft Azure. Compared to on-premises approaches, the operation and complexity of an integration are drastically simplified with the shift to the cloud.
The integration with Microsoft also plays into SAP’s “Cloud First” policy: As part of the new cooperation, the company’s own solution portfolio, primarily S/4, is to be integrated more intensively with Azure’s infrastructure services. SAP is obviously counting on benefitting from Microsoft’s cloud success. The U.S. company in turn is benefiting from social developments in the context of digitalization, which are being amplified by the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
New way of work
Future working environments will be freed from fixed physical constraints. The right – and in some cases the obligation – to work remotely is becoming the new normality. The flexibility and efficiency of virtual collaboration are much higher than those of face-to-face meetings. Hardly anyone will miss the tiresome, now obsolete struggle to find a suitable meeting date and room. The prerequisite for the new way of working is a powerful digital workplace, as can be implemented by and with Microsoft Teams. However, another building block is needed for greater efficiency in everyday work. Only the connection of business processes, i.e., enterprise applications, to the collaboration tools promises higher productivity in everyday work, as briefly outlined in the example above.
If Microsoft and SAP deliver on their promise to integrate collaboration tools and enterprise software, they would not only generate real value for joint customers, they would also develop new, innovative workflows.
Simple integration scenarios for finding and scheduling meetings and finding the right customer/supplier contact will be the first focal point. Later, more in-depth and certainly more complex integrations will follow. In the near future, we will learn more details which will help us evaluate the concrete results of this azure affair.