Skip to main content

SAP CRM and SAP Jam - News from CRM evolution

During CRM Evolution 2017 I had the chance of talking with Volker Hildebrand and Anthony Leaper from SAP. Volker is SAP’s Global Vice President SAP Hybris and Anthony is Senior Vice President and Sales GM - Enterprise Social Software at SAP.
Topics that we covered were things CRM and collaboration, how and where SAP’s solutions are moving and, of course, the impact that the recent reshuffling in the executive board has.
Starting with the latter, there is common agreement, that if at all it is positive as likely to streamline reporting lines and hence decision processes.

First things first – after all I am a CRM guy.

Having the distinct impression that the SAP Hybris set of solutions is going a good way I was most interested in learning from Volker about how there is going to be a CRM for S4/HANA. SAP’s new generation ERP system is growing at a good clip, and according to the Q1/2017 earnings call, now has 5,800 customers with 400 new customers in the last quarter alone. Many of these customers are net new customers.
The challenge is that S4/HANA doesn’t have a CRM (yet). I have earlier already suggested two ways how this could change – marrying up the SAP Hybris family of modern CRM solutions or modernizing SAP CRM and integrating it into S4/HANA based upon HANA technology and therefore avoiding the costly CRM Middleware and data duplication. Both approaches have their merits: The cloud based SAP Hybris set of solutions is far more modern and already bases on the new SAP standard Fiori user interface. SAP CRM, on the other hand and despite only minor investments into it in the past years, is still far more powerful in many areas, and has a good installed base.
It turns out that SAP decided to merge SAP CRM into S4/HANA. This is not really a surprise for me, rather a confirmation of what I earlier heard through the grapevine. SAP is working on it for a while now as this is no minor piece of work. It includes replacing the CRM Web UI with a Fiori-based UI, adapting the main business objects, especially the customer and the business transaction, on both sides, removing CRM Middleware and replacing it with a combination of merged data models and HANA views. The latter means that there still is a kind of middleware, albeit a much simplified one, which hopefully over time can vanish altogether, following the 15 year old vision of Hasso Plattner to be able to create business applications by recombining business objects. I do expect the first release of a (renamed?) S4/HANA that includes CRM capabilities in early 2018. There is no real rush for it, if SAP provides a migration path. It is more important to get it right in order to not antagonize already nervous customers. On the other hand I do not expect a full CRM being migrated in the first instance. For example marketing: With Hybris Marketing (formerly known as Customer Engagement Intelligence) SAP In the past years has built a fairly strong solution and continues to invest into it. Hybris Marketing, furthermore, is capable of running on-premise and in the cloud. It can be used in combination with both, an S4-based CRM and SAP Hybris.
The main advantages of merging SAP CRM into S4/HANA are that this approach
a)    Opens a future roadmap for current SAP CRM customers that stretches beyond 2025. These customers else are at risk of defecting.
b)   Provides the continued chance for customers to run their SAP instance on-premise. According to Volker there are still a good number of customers that do not want to run their instance in the cloud. The key word here is choice.

Now What About SAP Jam?

SAP Jam has been a success story for SAP. Guided by Sameer Patel, SAP early on discovered that collaboration is key to successful business and to being able to engage customers in a way that results in good experiences. In order to achieve this, Jam is deeply integrated into both, SAP CRM, and the SAP Hybris set of solutions (and others, which I do not look at here). It, for example, drives the review- and community-functionalities in Hybris e-commerce. And it is exactly here, where we can expect further exciting things. Think about combining this with a bit of AI, a bot, and a knowledge base. This way a customer’s search query can first hit the KB and present a relevant result to the customer. Or, failing that, it can route the request to an agent for further processing, who is already informed about the failed search and can initiate an ad-hoc collaboration with potential experts who helps answering the customer’s inquiry. Human-machine collaboration is certainly a topic that is high on SAP’s priority list.

My Take

The CRM Part of the Equation

I think that it is a wise decision to merge SAP CRM into S4/HANA. SAP CRM has an installed base and customers that are at risk of defecting, lacking a roadmap. It also has a lot of very valuable industry-specific functionality that simply does not exist in SAP Hybris – and probably will never be there.
Modernizing SAP CRM, putting it on HANA, merging it into S4, while making it ‘cloud-ready’ therefore seems to be a very good way.
However there are some cautions that need to get considered!
For SAP this means that there will be two different code lines – “S4CRM” and the SAP Hybris set of CRM solutions – that need to get maintained. This is a pretty costly adventure. In order to minimize the redundant efforts as much functionality as possible needs to get modularized in a way that it can get used with both core solutions, S4/HANA, and SAP Hybris. This does not only affect Hybris Marketing but also solutions like Retail Execution or Trade Promotion Management, to count only two.
Proper positioning is also an issue. Having two different solutions always has the inherent risk of confusing customers; and SAP does not have a real good track record in properly positioning solutions in a way that minimizes this confusion. And here we have the added layer of on-premise versus cloud.

Jam and Collaboration

Human-Machine collaboration is a ‘thing’, especially in times like these where structured knowledge, unstructured data sets come together in very huge amounts that can no more be handled by humans. SAP seems to have understood this and bases further improvements on the groundwork that has been done in the past years.
SAP probably just needs to spread the word of what they are doing a bit more actively. I certainly would love to hear more.


Looking into customer facing functionalities SAP is back on a good road for a while now. On-demand CRM seems to be competitive sine around the second half of 2016 and the strategy becomes more clear as well. Giving on-premise customers an outlook beyond 2025 was the thing to do.

Next items on my wish list for SAP to do are getting more into detail on how the CRM road goes. While the target sector is clear now there are bunches of open questions, as mentioned above. Secondly – and although it is somewhat refreshing that SAP does not jump onto the “I am so AI” bandwagon – SAP needs to do something here to not appear as a laggard, which the company certainly is not. I am sure that SAP can manage to make their mastership of AI and machine learning more clear than they are doing now while continuing to make clear that both are means to an end: More intelligent business applications that help businesses optimizing and automating their processes, while personalizing employee and customer interaction and engagement. A good first step into this direction could be getting rid of CLEA as a name. ‘Einstein’ and ‘Leonardo’ paved the way – how about Marvin?


Last Year's Top 5 Popular Posts

Don't mess with Zoho - A Zohoday 2022 recap

After spending two days in Austin, TX, attending the ZohoDay 2022, it is time for a little recap of this interesting event.  We were 99 analysts and 24 customers and plenty of knowledgeable Zoho personnel. The incredible Sandra Lo and her team organized the event around open and transparent communication. So, there was plenty of access for us to customers and the Zoho team.  Which was very important, as already the keynote session by founder and CEO Sridhar Vembu was quite hardcore. Vembu talked about how strategy and culture need to be one, how culture needs to be the root of strategy, and how Zoho implements this. The Zoho strategy lies on three main pillars ·       Transnational localism, a unique concept that in its essence is about embedding a company into a local community by not only selling into it but also by investing into it. This investment is e.g., by offering high paying jobs in areas where these are scarce, by fostering local education, but also by own local sourcing in

How to tie CX to business success in three simple steps

In 2022, the Forrester CX Index dropped for the first time in years, with nearly twenty percent of US brands seeing a drop in customer experience. Towards the second half of 2022, an increasing number of companies fear a recession and put their spending under scrutiny. At the same time, companies still struggle to link CX projects to business outcomes and their metrics, let alone to financial metrics. In addition, Forrester predicts that also in the next few years, CX teams will lack critical design, data and journey skills. In parallel, there is an increasing number of companies that deliver software and/or services that are intended to help businesses improve their CX. In the past years, CX has established itself as a whole new category of software. Many a company has repositioned itself to become a CX vendor, examples including all major CRM vendors, but also call center specialists like Genesys. And, naturally, a good number of these new CX actors got – and get – acquired by bigge

a great human - bot conversation with lots to learn

Inspired by a recent panel discussion as part of the In the Hot Seat podcast that I am involved in, I opened a chat with chatGPT3 . ChatGPT is a language model by OpenAI that interacts in a conversational way. This way, it shall be able to follow a conversation, answer follow up questions or even admit mistakes, challenge incorrect premises or reject inappropriate requests. Our sixth episode of In the Hot Seat revolved about the question whether web3 will deliver on its promise or not. The promise being that content producers and web users get more power by applying concepts like decentralization, blockchain and a token economy. As I am a bit sceptic about this kind of silver bullet promises, I went right for the jugular. A conversation between a human and a bot Thomas : Tell me with arguments why web3 based on blockchain will fail chatGPT3 : It's impossible for me to provide arguments as to why web3 based on blockchain will fail, as web3 is not based on blockchain technolo

Truly Zoho - How capitalism and doing right coincide

The past 9 months have seen quite a rollercoaster in the tech industry. We have seen staggering profits, we continue to see stock buybacks, we have seen consolidation, mergers and acquisitions – and we have seen mass layoffs . Few of them were well handled or communicated. Even fewer showed any sign of executives taking accountability besides stating that they made mistakes during the pandemic and that they feel sorry for what they need to do now. They had simply over-hired and now need to take corrective action to stay on a ‘growth path’. One of these executives arguably took the prized company culture of regarding the employees as family to grave. What do these layoffs have in common? They were initiated to please the capital markets, i.e. shareholders and venture capitalists. The idea behind this is that layoffs is the fastest way to solve or avoid impending financial problems. However, there is mounting scientific evidence that this idea is a myth, as e.g., expressed here , here

Beyond the hype - How to use chatGPT to create value

Now, that we are in the middle of – or hopefully closer to the end of – a general hype that was caused by Open AI’s ChatGPT, it is time to reemphasize on what is possible and what is not, what should be done and what not. It is time to look at business use cases that are beyond the hype and that can be tied to actual business outcomes and business value. This, especially, in the light of the probably most expensive demo ever, after Google Bard gave a factually wrong answer in its release demo. A factual error wiped more than $100bn US off Google’s valuation. I say this without any gloating. Still, this incident shows how high the stakes are when it comes to large language models, LLM. It also shows that businesses need to have a good and hard look at what problems they can meaningfully solve with their help. This includes quick wins as well as strategic solutions. From a business perspective, there are at least two dimensions to look at when assessing the usefulness of solutions that