50 years of SAP – 25 years of successful cooperation: Interview with Volker Schulz

Did you know that a majority of all worldwide business transactions touch an SAP® system? The software group SAP stands for System Analysis and Program development. Our digital applications are also based on SAP®. The company is celebrating its 50th birthday this year – the perfect occasion for PROMOS consult, a long-standing SAP partner, to interview our Chief Information Officer Volker Schulz about the software giant. He talks about our multifaceted collaboration to date, but also about how he envisions the future with SAP and what exciting projects are on the horizon. Read what Volker Schulz has to say about SAP’s success.

IT&I: SAP is often referred to as a software giant. The firm has revolutionised the corporate landscape, not only in Germany but around the world. And now SAP is celebrating its 50th anniversary. What do you think is the secret to SAP’s success?

Volker Schulz: Software giant pretty much sums it up – it means they must have done some things right. The company was in the right place at the right time when it launched its ERP product R/2 in 1979. The solution covered everything from financial accounting and controlling to materials management and maintenance processes. There was nothing like that back then. That solution helped SAP to position itself in the market as a software company and fill a large gap. It was the cornerstone of the company’s success. Of course, in the years that followed, there were a multitude of innovative advances, all of which contributed to the success still enjoyed by the company today.

IT&I: And when did you first come into contact with SAP?

Schulz: Oh, a long, long time ago [laughs]. I think it was 1998. At that time I was still working with Jens (Kramer) at a subsidiary of the VEBA group. We developed a software solution called WIS, a housing information system designed for the real estate market. Unfortunately, VEBA discontinued this solution at some point and relied entirely on SAP’s real estate solution. The PROMOS consult we know today grew from those origins.

IT&I: So PROMOS was linked to SAP right from the start?

Schulz: Yes, exactly.

IT&I: In your opinion, what are SAP’s most important achievements?

Schulz: As a technology group, there’s a particular onus on SAP to be innovative. And the company has always done well in that area. It always made the leap at the right time, for example from R/2 to R/3. And again from the current ECC6 SAP system to today’s S/4HANA® system. Technological problems that existed in the past have been eliminated with SAP’s in-memory technology, and now the company is making the leap to cloud technology. It’s always had its finger on the pulse of the industry and remains innovative to this day.

IT&I: We are currently coming up to our 30th S/4HANA® project. What have our customers been most satisfied with so far?

Schulz: Well, off the top off my head, with us of course [laughs]. But joking aside, we got involved with S/4HANA® very early on and formed teams that explored the new S/4HANA® technology in great detail. In addition to our expertise, the content-related aspects of the ERP system were also compelling features. S/4HANA® has a new Fiori® interface that offers greater flexibility. Thanks to functional changes such as in-memory technology, financial accounting incorporates many new functions and larger amounts of data can be processed more easily. Our customers therefore enjoy better opportunities to use SAP® more flexibly. All of this is then combined with our workflow engines, which are very powerful. Our easysquare workflow process tool, for example, makes it possible to fully map end-to-end processes in the ERP system S/4HANA®.

IT&I: That all sounds great. Have you also experienced any challenges with the projects so far?

Schulz: We should remember that many ERP customers have been using the same ERP system for 15 or even 20 years. And that’s usually where challenges arise with these projects, because the question is: What can I take with me? Or rather, what do I want to take with me? Very often, functions and extensions (custom codes, as they’re called) have been developed internally. As a result, a lot of old objects need to be adapted. The more complex the application that was built in the past, the more complicated the transformation process.

IT&I: So you probably have to reassure customers about those particular challenges?

Schulz: Obviously many customers are not immediately over the moon, especially if they’re already satisfied with their existing ERP system. Sometimes they even feel under pressure to make the move. An ERP system like this is tied to all of a company’s processes. Once you change the system, you have to tweak each process. Of course, there are fears that need to be addressed. However, not a single customer has ever said after the conversion: I’d never do that again. At the end of all of our projects (nearly 30 now), our customers were very satisfied, even if they voiced concerns beforehand. This is probably down to our talented teams, who are experts in carrying out migration projects successfully.

Informationstechnologie und Immobilien (IT&I) Ausgabe Nr. 37 / Mai 2024

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IT&I: What have been the most important milestones in our work with SAP®?

Schulz: The first big milestone was naturally the start of our partnership with SAP in 1998. The next step took place in 2002 when we became an SAP partner and SAP system specialist. In addition to the service partnership, we were then able to sell SAP® licences and offer software maintenance and support along with them. We are currently an SAP Gold Partner – that was also a big leap. Another big step forward was the introduction of the Partner Center of Expertise, i.e. the PCoE, in 2006: SAP partners who offer software maintenance must do so in compliance with SAP’s specifications and regulations. These procedures are reviewed every two years. In 2006, as far as I remember, we were one of the first partners to receive this certification. Every two years since then, we have gone through this audit and have always met SAP’s high requirements for this designation. In terms of content, we have always acted as a kind of innovation driver. For example, we’re involved in the testing of new software releases and offer SAP consulting in-house. We were one of the first companies to introduce RE-FX to end customers, as well as one of the first to offer the switch to S/4HANA®. We have always been at the cutting edge of SAP’s latest developments for the real estate sector. We regularly coordinate with the SAP RE managers. All the customer systems we host are based on SAP® – in total we have around 330 SAP instances that we run for customers.

IT&I: After so many years of cooperation and all the successful projects to look back on, we can hardly imagine a future without SAP®. What projects do we have planned with SAP?

Schulz: We are currently undergoing a cycle of S/4HANA® migrations with both long-standing and new customers. The end of maintenance of the current ERP solution has been announced for 2027. By then, all customers must have converted to S/4HANA®. We are currently working on the transformation for large customers such as TAG Immobilien AG. We’re also constantly receiving new orders and are talking with a large number of customers who’ve not yet made the transition. In reality, 2027 is no longer that far off. So of course we would like these customers to take the leap sooner rather than later. In the next four years, upcoming projects will definitely be migration projects. Next year will see the full release of SAP’s new commercial real estate solution called SIRE (SAP Intelligent Real Estate). Many commercial customers will be looking at this new solution and considering whether to use it. There are also numerous possible solutions in the future that are not yet feasible today – based on artificial intelligence, for example.

IT&I: Exciting times ahead! We’re looking forward to continuing our fruitful cooperation together. Thank you for the interview.

Schulz: Your welcome!


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