Google and SAP have partnered around a number of different projects over the years and Google Cloud, just like its competitors, is a strategic cloud partner for RISE with SAP, the German enterprise software company's program to help its customers move to the cloud. Today, the two companies announced a rather substantial expansion of their partnership that introduces a deep integration between SAP S/4HANA Cloud, SAP's flagship enterprise resource planning (ERP) system and Google Workspace. This new native integration will allow SAP users to access data from S/4HANA and work with it collaboratively in Google Docs and Sheets, all while seamlessly importing and exporting this data between the two systems.
Philipp Herzig, the SVP and head of Intelligent Enterprise and Cross Architecture at SAP, told me that SAP's customers asking for these features, especially as Google continues to attract more large enterprise customers. S/4HANA obviously holds a lot of valuable data and documents, so users were already exporting this data and working with it in other word processing and spreadsheet applications. But what's maybe most important here is that this is a two-way integration that doesn't just involve extracting data but also syncing it back into the ERP system as a new version so that the ERP system still functions as the system of record.
"The two-way integration is actually what many customers are asking for because, for sure, you can already extract the data today into whatever spreadsheet. But then, it is just a document that resides on a hard drive or Google Drive or wherever, right? That is okay for a small company, but big companies around the world need more structure for those documents. This is why the combination is so essential," Herzig said.
He also noted that this is part of SAP's work on improving its integration posture with third-party applications in general and that the company has built a standardized way to do so. Indeed, SAP is using its Business Technology Platform -- the company's own integration service -- in the middle between S/4HANA and Google Workspace to power the connection between the two companies.
On the Google side, Workspace VP and GM Javier Soltero, who joined the company from Microsoft in 2019, noted that this integration also highlights that Workspace is ready for the enterprise. "For me, as somebody who has been now been steering this business for almost three years, seeing SAP's support and conviction and working with us on this, as well as the reaction in the market and the requests that we're getting for this, is evidence of the enterprise viability of Workspace, a topic, that for the longest time, even before I came here, was something that was harder to see," he said.
Soltero also noted that Google has always tried to provide a surface for developers to build on top of the Workspace/G Suite ecosystem. "Seeing somebody like SAP take advantage of that is truly a big milestone for us and certainly evidence that we want to keep going through this," he explained.
With SAP already supporting S/4HANA on Google Cloud's infrastructure, it's probably no surprise that the two companies also started to think about how they could build additional integrations that went beyond making use of Google Cloud's core infrastructure services and that's maybe also a good example why Google is keeping both its cloud infrastructure services and Workspace under the same corporate umbrella
"What this particular partnership represents for a business like Workspace is more than just this technical aspect of 'hey, can you share data between a big important ERP system like S/4HANA and a product like Google Workspace,'" he said. "Through the eyes of our existing and prospective customers, it represents the opportunity to truly realize something that's greater than the sum of its parts and what I mean by that is that in giving a user of SAP the ability to access that data through a surface like Google Docs or Google Sheets, you are marrying an inherently collaborative hybrid work-friendly surface with this very important business dataset. And the resulting usage patterns, for us, especially, are bound to be very different and exciting, in part because of what it means when you have a real-time collaborative surface that is in constant synchronization with large scale enterprise data."
While the two companies are currently piloting the integration with a select number of customers, the initial set of features will launch as a standard feature for S/4HANA Cloud later this year.