SAP S/4HANA - The Next Generation Business Suite

Uwe Grigoleit, Global Head of Business Development Suite on SAP HANA and SAP HANA applications, answers the most pressing questions about the next-generation business suite.

What is the business value of SAP S/4HANA for customers? What’s the payback period? Who is likely to benefit most?

Written natively for the SAP HANA platform, SAP S/4HANA is an entirely new generation of SAP Business Suite that is characterized by simplifications, massively increased efficiency, and compelling features such as planning and simulation options in many conventional transactions.

SAP S/4HANA signals a move away from the transactional system that merely records data toward giving end users active decision support in real time that is based on data from both internal and external sources.

The SAP business value calculator for SAP S/4HANA drills down to quantify the benefits at the level of individual solutions. In SAP Business Suite on SAP HANA, customers already have the option of calculating business cases enabled by TCO savings and optimizations. These calculations are equally valid for SAP S/4HANA but the simplifications created by SAP S/4HANA bring other benefits too – which the business value calculator will take into account – such as the use of new user interfaces, reduced data volume, greater flexibility, and higher throughput. Finance departments, for example, will profit from more efficient shared services and accelerated financial closing.

How long does an SAP S/4HANA implementation take?

It’s obviously very hard to generalize, but we do have reliable empirical values to go on: 75% of customers that have migrated their existing SAP Business Suite on HANA as the first major step in moving to SAP S/4HANA have done so within six months. That’s a very good result for a migration to a new platform.

Some large enterprises are opting for greenfield projects – seeing the technological innovations as an opportunity to completely rebuild their ERP landscapes from the ground up. Brownfield projects are also an option: In this approach, the customer leaves its IT landscape intact but adopts the new technology to enrich and enhance it. Greenfield and brownfield projects naturally take longer – sometimes even several years and migrating to SAP S/4HANA is only one part of such a project.

Does SAP offer programs that simplify the move to SAP S/4HANA?

Yes, and we attach great importance to providing comprehensive support for our customers in this respect. Specifically, we offer SAP Rapid Deployment solutions that enable a fast migration to the SAP HANA platform and thus onto the S/4HANA suite.

Which skill-sets are required?

In most cases, it’s the implementation partner that handles the project, so customers don’t really need to get bogged down in the details. However, more information is available at SCN, SAP’s Community Network. Both, partners and customers can refer to.

Is it possible to migrate company-specific customizations?

In principle, yes. When we developed our solutions, we took particular care to ensure that they would be “backwards-compatible.” In other words, the customer can keep customizations and continue to use them after the migration. However, this does not always apply to modifications. Take the analogy of a house and imagine that the customer has not only added a balcony but has also modified the building too. In this case, the function of the house may be affected, whereas the “balconies” will be fine.

What are the requirements for moving to SAP S/4HANA?

The initial path is to move to SAP Business Suite on SAP HANA and then to implement packages that contain the simplifications.

What is a “system-driven” implementation?

We want to radically simplify the implementation of SAP S/4HANA so that customers enjoy rapid success and payback. This is particularly relevant in the cloud, of course, where customers expect to deploy a preconfigured system. SAP therefore provides ready-to-run business processes based on best practices that can be activated. During the activation, the system configures itself. The SAP S/4HANA Guided Configuration facilitates customers to personalize the processes delivered by SAP. Within the app “Manage your solution” easy SAP Fiori UI´s can be used to maintain e.g. the organizational structure, approval thresholds or other individual settings.

How “new” is the data model really?

Today, just as in the past, a conventional financial document is stored in one or two tables. However, in the past, aggregates and indexes were required to map the various views of the document. In the new architecture, these aggregates and indexes are obsolete.

Our aim has been to shrink and simplify the underlying data structures, because an in-memory database works best with wide tables. Tables that used to be nested are now compressed. Fundamental data structures that determine what a financial, material transaction, or inventory management document look like remain the same. So we have, in fact, left the document pretty much as it is, which makes it easier for the customer to move from a conventional ERP system to the new technology. A new data structure would leave the customer no option but to perform a full migration. In terms of effort, that’s comparable with implementing a new system.

From the customer perspective, the path we have chosen is simpler because it merely involves an upgrade to a new system. In a nutshell: The “old” data model was fundamentally okay. And we can achieve so much with a slightly adapted data model that we don’t see any reason to force customers into the disruptive process of switching to a completely new data model.

SAP Fiori is mentioned a great deal, but we do not hear much about SAP Screen Personas in the context of SAP S/4HANA. Why is that?

SAP Screen Personas is a critical part of the SAP S/4HANA user experience strategy. It is the ideal solution for scenarios not yet covered by Fiori applications or for an organization’s custom transactions. Customers can use SAP Screen Personas to simplify their existing SAP GUI screens or WebDynpro ABAP applications to meet their unique needs and increase productivity. SAP is providing design guides and SAP Fiori-inspired sample content for SAP Screen Personas.

The SAP Fiori UX strategy aims to transform the transactional operational model to a role-oriented one. Since our focus is on delivering the SAP Fiori UX, we do not highlight the underlying technologies that provide this capability to the users.

Neil How
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Neil How

Neil ran his first SAP transformation programme in his early twenties. He spent the next 21 years working both client side and for various consultancies running numerous SAP programmes. After successfully completing over 15 full lifecycles he took a senior leadership/board position and his work moved onto creating the same success for others.

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