As we come to the end of another year, this is a good opportunity to look ahead at the key trends to watch during 2024.
Since our last trends update on June 30, 2023, the areas of Cloud-based Digital Transformation, the Generative AI Revolution, and the Digital Solutions Economy (DSE), continue to expand and morph into even more important trends to watch. With global inflation now showing signs of significant abatement, we are switching back to Global Sustainability as the fourth key trend for 2024. Read on for summaries of the latest developments in each of these four arenas as we move into the new year.
1. Acceleration of Cloud-based Digital Transformation with S/4HANA
Cloud-based digital transformation has become a significant trend over the past decade and it continues to be the go-to approach that is shaping the business landscape across many different industries. This can be seen clearly in the increased adoption of SAP Cloud-based S/4HANA over recent years.
As of the third quarter of 2023, SAP SE reported cloud revenue was up by 23% at constant currencies, driven mainly by the growth of SAP's combined SaaS and PaaS portfolio. The number of subscribers has grown significantly, from around 370 in 2015 to over 20,000 in 2022. Considering that each subscriber consists of a large enterprise-wide S/4HANA license, the effective user base typically includes many employees from each of these companies. SAP has approximately 269 million cloud users currently, with more than 100 solutions covering all business functions, and the largest cloud portfolio of any provider. SAP operates 57 data centers at 32 locations in 15 countries. In addition, as detailed in this previous blog post, SAP's RISE and GROW initiatives are key enabling technologies for helping companies migrate to S/4HANA in the cloud.
As one of SAP's longest serving partners, over the past 27 years the Bramasol team has been engaged in numerous major ERP transitions and we are deeply involved in helping companies across many industries with their S/4HANA digital transformation journeys. With our core focus on financial applications such as order-to-cash, revenue recognition, subscription-billing, leasing, treasury and other solutions, Bramasol has significant experience in virtually all aspects of S/4HANA migration that involve the Office of the CFO.
To ensure a successful SAP S/4HANA migration to cloud, businesses should follow these best practices:
- Define migration goals: Before migrating to cloud, businesses need to define their migration goals and objectives. This includes understanding the scope of the migration, identifying the resources needed, and developing a migration plan.
- Assess the existing infrastructure: Businesses need to assess their existing infrastructure to understand the compatibility of their applications and data with the cloud environment.
- Choose the right cloud service provider: Businesses need to choose the right cloud service provider that meets their specific needs. This includes evaluating the service provider’s infrastructure, security features, and pricing models.
- Develop a migration plan: Businesses need to develop a detailed migration plan that includes a timeline, a risk assessment, and a contingency plan.
- Manage the Data: Since data is the lifeblood of any system, businesses need to include assessment of existing data and plans for migration, formatting, mediation, validation and assuring availability to relevant target applications.
- Conduct testing and training: Businesses need to conduct testing and training to ensure that their systems are functioning properly, and their staff is trained on the new environment.
2. Explosion of New Artificial Intelligence Opportunities
It's hard to believe that the Generative AI (GenAI) revolution that started with the debut of OpenAI's ChatGPT in November 2022 is only a year old! It was too new to make our initial trends to watch for 2023 but was already too big to be left out of our mid-year update in June.
Gen-AI quickly reached mass appeal by democratizing the confluence of massively pretrained models, cloud computing and open source, making these models accessible to individuals, companies and workers worldwide.
From an enterprise perspective, the adoption of new Gen-AI applications has triggered a flood of new initiatives and investment. According to McKinsey & Company. deep learning algorithms like ChatGPT, further trained with corporate data, could add the equivalent of $2.6 trillion to $4.4 trillion annually across more than 60 business use cases.
By 2026, Gartner predicts that over 80% of enterprises will have used GenAI APIs and models and/or deployed GenAI-enabled applications in production environments, up from less than 5% early 2023.
McKinsey describes the uptake of AI within enterprises as the "third wave" of digitization, following 1) the digital foundation, and 2) analytics empowerment. McKinsey also notes that finance functions are leading the way to the AI third wave.
On the policy front, countries and regulators are stepping up their activities as well. Recently, the EU put forth the most comprehensive set of policies yet for governing AI technology, and the Biden Administration published a comprehensive Executive Order detailing 150 requirements for federal agencies.
From a Bramasol perspective, we are tracking closely with SAP's innovations in AI such as the Joule Copilot application that will be embedded throughout SAP’s cloud enterprise portfolio, delivering proactive and contextualized insights from across the breadth and depth of SAP solutions and third-party sources. According to Christian Klein, CEO of SAP SE., “Joule draws on SAP’s unique position at the nexus of business and technology and builds on our relevant, reliable, responsible approach to Business AI. Joule will know what you mean, not just what you say.”
In addition, from an internal perspective, Bramasol is proactively implementing AI capabilities across virtually all functional areas, including service delivery, customer satisfaction, project management, marketing, sales and finance. We see AI as a game changer for improving productivity for our team and higher value for our clients.
3. End-to-End Quote-to-Cash-to-Compliance Processes for DSE
When Bramasol first coined the term Digital Solutions Economy (DSE) in May 2021, we already knew that the challenges of managing new recuring revenue streams involved much more than just focusing on subscriptions at the customer-facing front-end. That insight has proven out to be even more important than we initially thought.
As the range and diversity of DSE offerings has expanded to disrupting ever more industry segments, our work with clients has underscored how important it is to seamlessly integrate the front-end subscription management with highly adaptable and scalable back-end systems for handling order-to-cash, billing & invoicing, payments & collections, and finally revenue recognition, compliance & reporting. We've also seen benefits from our experience with related functions such as treasury, lessor accounting and the overall S/4HANA ecosystem as new DSE offerings from our clients become more complex with multi-element bundles.
The importance of these elements has been underscored consistently in our work on implementing DSE solutions across many different industries including media & entertainment, telecom, software & SaaS, semiconductors, transportation, medical devices, electronics manufacturing, oil & gas, and utilities.
Moving into 2024, it is clear that the winners in the new Digital Solutions Economy will be those companies that recognize the challenges of Volume, Velocity, Density and Complexity and therefore design their end-to-end, order-to-cash-to-compliance systems to scale and adapt in the fast evolving DSE environments.
4. Global Sustainability Initiatives and Carbon Accounting Solutions
The fourth trend that we are watching closely may be the most important because the future of our planet and everyone on it will be impacted by the success (or failure) of global sustainability initiatives and carbon emissions reduction.
In previous posts on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) we have spotlighted carbon accounting as a trend to watch, looked at ESG impacts on M&A, and tracked the emergence of new ESG standards.
From a global perspective, these issues came to the forefront in November 2021 at COP26 in Glasgow where the IFRS established the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB), which then issued specific standards requiring companies to communicate the sustainability risks and opportunities they face over the short, medium, and long term, along with specific climate-related disclosures to be used for reporting.
According to the IFRS, "IFRS S1 and IFRS S2 are built on and consolidate the TCFD recommendations, SASB Standards, CDSB Framework, Integrated Reporting Framework and World Economic Forum metrics to streamline sustainability disclosures. Consolidation will help companies to benefit from their investments they’ve already made in sustainability disclosures while reducing the ‘alphabet soup’ of sustainability disclosures."
Here again, SAP has taken a proactive approach to providing comprehensive interrelated solutions for capturing, analyzing and reporting ESG information, while also enabling companies to maximize business value from their sustainability investments.
Introduced in 2021, the SAP Carbon Footprint solution was an early leader in enabling companies to track and manage their carbon emission impacts across both internal operations and external value chains. Integration with SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC) also allowed users to gain valuable insights into how their carbon footprints and emission mitigation plans impact other corporate activities as well as overall business results.
In November 2022, SAP took the major step of enabling companies to pull together their entire ESG landscape in a unified picture with SAP Sustainability Control Tower. This comprehensive approach was a major leap forward for end-to-end, ESG transparency and enterprise-wide sustainability management.
As part of SAP's green ledger initiative, the Sustainability Data Exchange application allows companies to request and exchange carbon data across supply chains, including sharing of actual Scope 3 product carbon footprints. The solution utilizes carbon data interoperability standards established by the Partnership for Carbon Transparency (PACT), which allows different emissions and accounting technology solutions to connect and share information.
The recent COP28 global forum held in the United Arab Emirates just ended on December 13, 2023 with an historic agreement that signals the "beginning of the end" of the fossil fuel era by laying out a framework for "swift, just and equitable" transition, underpinned by deep emissions cuts and scaled-up financial commitments. This added momentum will likely increase both societal pressures and regulatory mandates for companies to step up their sustainability programs even faster.
It is important to remember that ESG accounting is not just about ticking boxes on a checklist; it requires a genuine commitment to sustainability and a long-term perspective. By prioritizing ESG and adopting proactive strategies, large enterprises can enhance their reputation, resilience, and deliver higher value in an increasingly ESG-focused business landscape.
Overall, we think that 2024 is shaping up to be a banner year for businesses throughout the world. The impacts of the pandemic, high inflation rates, and fear of recession are largely behind us and the hoped for economic "soft landing" could provide a robust launching pad for renewed growth, profitability and innovation.
As outlined above, the four trends of 1) accelerating digital transformation in S/4HANA cloud, 2) adopting new AI applications, 3) leveraging end-to-end DSE process integration, and 4) embracing new global sustainability initiatives, all represent both challenges and opportunity areas for companies to enhance productivity, access new growth opportunities, and contribute to a better world.