Bridging the Customer-Developer gap – SAP S/4HANA Procurement’s 1st Customer Meets Development Day

 Bridging the Customer-Developer gap – SAP S/4HANA Procurement’s 1st Customer Meets Development Day

Bridging the Customer-Developer gap – SAP S/4HANA Procurement’s 1st Customer Meets Development Day

The S/4HANA Procurement product development team hosted Customer meets Development day, a first of its kind event on 8th August 2017 at the SAP Labs India campus.

It offered a unique opportunity for the development teams to interact with the existing end users and implementation partners of the products they work on, and get immediate feedback on products that are still in the pipeline. It also enabled customers to experience new innovations in S/4HANA Procurement and to influence product development by giving early feedback. Both customers and implementation partners attended the event which had a total of 34 delegates, from 8 customer companies and 4 partners.

Our audience, their expectations

The morning of the event began with organized chaos, as all great events do, with some customers enthusiastically arriving earlier than expected and others experiencing Bangalore’s notoriously bad traffic.

The customers came from varied backgrounds – there were some who already build extensions on S/4HANA and were very familiar with the SAP environment, and others whose representatives directly handled procurement and logistics and whose departments were planning to implement S/4HANA.

A representative from a sourcing and procurement department said that all their sourcing processes were still on R/3, and she was very excited to see what S/4HANA had to offer since they were ready to migrate.

A Fiori enthusiast from an implementation partner company said he was looking forward to seeing some great UIs, and hoped the sessions would be technical. He wanted to know what LCM was, and proudly claimed it was the only product listed for demo on the event schedule that he wasn’t familiar with yet.

Welcoming the audience

The welcome speech set the tone of the entire event and Himanshu Sewalkar, Area Product Owner & Lead of APJ Customer Office for S/4 Procurement, began by quoting Bill McDermott, our CEO – “Customer empathy to Action is a race without a finish line”. He clearly conveyed that this event was not a sales presentation, and was intended to leverage customer feedback and experience. He concluded by rightly saying, “We are all customer focused. We have you, and you have your customers.”

This was followed by an overview of the S/4 Procurement team setup by Ankur Goyal, Area Product Owner & Development Manager, where the global distribution of development teams and topics across the various locations was outlined. They also proudly highlighted some “made in India” applications, which evoked smiles from the audience.

The Schedule

The schedule was carefully crafted with events that would tickle the intellectual curiosity of a very varied audience - whether they came from an implementation background, or were actual end-users of the product. There were usability tests for both Procurement and S/4HANA for Legal Content (a new offering from SAP) applications scheduled throughout the day, as well as demo sessions showcasing our product suite, design thinking workshops and demo pods.


The demo sessions included topics ranging from deep dive sessions of products like S/4HANA Procurement Hub, SAP S/4HANA Legal Change Management and Self Service Requisition to architectural overviews of S/4HANA Cloud. The S/4HANA Procurement Cloud Roadmap was detailed by Kannan Kumarak Thiagarajan, Area Product Owner and Development Manager for S/4Procurement.

The Sessions

Each presenter added their own take to their sessions – some demos, such as the S/4HANA Procurement Analytics session were purely design thinking sessions, where the customers were presented with a problem (supplier selection during procurement) they face often in their day-to-day operations, and asked what sort of data on the system they would need to be able to solve that problem. After an hour of discussions and brainstorming, the audience took turns explaining their unique take on the problem.

As the phrase goes, “know what your customers want before they do”. At the end of the session, the presenters informed the audience that a good number of their suggestions had already been implemented in the Analytics offering, and a lot of the others would be considered for the future.

Other demos, like the SAP S/4HANA Legal Content Management session, were product showcases with a heavy emphasis on feedback, discussion and questioning. There was so much interest from the audience during these sessions that the discussions continued during the networking hour, where the presenters promised to be available for questions.

A customer’s perspective on extensibility using SCP

The IT department representatives of a customer in the automobile industry gave an engaging session to the development teams on their experiences with various applications. They explained that while they currently use the SRM solution, they have started their digital transformation journey and are looking forward to migrating to S/4HANA.

They outlined an ongoing PoC where apps are being built on SAP Cloud Platform to handle the approval process for purchasing documents. This was an interesting insight for the development teams into how customers are extending existing standard solutions with their own applications using SCP. The team concluded by saying that they look forward to closely collaborating with S/4HANA Procurement development teams in the future.

Usability Tests

The delegates were given an opportunity to test Fiori applications in S/4HANA Procurement and S/4HANA for Legal Content as part of the UX tests. Domain experts, implementation partners and end-users gave their inputs and we even had a lawyer from SAP India testing our Legal Content Management applications.

Customers were given realistic scenarios and tasks that an end user might come across during their day-to-day operations, and they were asked to use the applications to complete them, with minimal guidance from the moderators.

Some customers turned presenters themselves, and gave an overview of their existing apps from other vendors, and explained the ease of use and pain points of the same. This was a great opportunity for the teams to realize what the competition had to offer, and what their customers feel about their offerings.

A lot of the interactions were reminiscent of collaborations that happen around whiteboards within development teams – some of the customers grabbed a pen and paper and began drawing out their ideas, with the experts from development team pitching in with their opinions. It was a truly collaborative environment, with both development and customers pitching in enthusiastically to improve the product.

Many of the participants were enthusiastic about the possibilities of the products and expressed interest in collaboration in the future for the development of both Procurement and Legal offerings. Some customers said they liked the applications from a usability perspective, and yet others felt there were gaps in functionality which would be remedied by more events like these. All feedback was welcome, and duly noted.

The implementation perspective

A representative of an implementation partner who participated in the usability tests for the S/4HANA Legal Content Management applications shared his experience with us.

“I expected demos and talks, but didn’t expect to be able to actually test features. This helps to bridge the gaps between development and consulting. Since SAP often does these feedback sessions only after the product has gone to market, (and that’s when we first use the product), I believe that this will bridge that gap, if not completely, then to a very large extent. This will also help SAP get a perspective on what a fully usable standard product would look like, and some must have features without which the product would not be complete. Instead of partners scrambling to request features from standard apps after a release, here there is collaboration directly with development teams, and feedback might be turned to requirements.”

The end user perspective

A representative of a customer, who also participated in usability tests shared the following –

“I think it’s an absolutely wonderful event initiated by the S/4 Procurement team at SAP, and this should have been done a long time ago. Having been part of probably the most large-scale CLM implementation ever done by an SAP customer, I can honestly say we faced so many issues in the process that could have easily been avoided if an event like this had happened.”


Demo stations were set up during the networking time. Snacks were almost forgotten as the participants eagerly crowded around the demo stations to view demos and participate in discussions on topics like Integrated Buying with S/4HANA and SAP Ariba, and CoPilot, SAP’s new digital assistant, which generated a lot of interest among participants. There were a lot of questions that came up on both sides of the pods, and the sessions were very well received by the attendees. A lot of the attendees said they had been looking forward to these sessions and since topics like CoPilot were new to many of them, the presenters at the DemoPods hardly had a quiet moment.

Feedback and farewells

Deepa V, Development Manager and PO, began the thank-you note by quoting Hellen Keller, “Alone, we can do so little, together, we can do so much”. With a strong focus on collaboration, as emphasized throughout the event, the enthusiastic participation and valuable feedback from all the participants was appreciated.

Since the journey of customer collaboration is only beginning, participants were told of future events like these, and a lot of them expressed interest in participating in those as well. The participants were requested to add to the feedback board on their way out, and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. About 90% of participants rated the event four and above out of a total score of five. The resounding feedback was, “what took this so long?”.


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