What is S/4HANA? – Migration to SAP S/4HANA Series: Part 1

What is S/4HANA? Read the itelligence blog.

What is S/4HANA? Ok, let’s start with some baseline information – I’m talking about using SAP HANA as the database for SAP’s ERP environment(s). For those who don’t know, SAP HANA is a revolutionary in-memory database for running SAP environments. The database is an ideal platform for digital transformation as well as being the high speed environment for supporting the future of SAPs digital economy by helping people run simple in their next generation product, SAP S/4HANA. There are three (3) versions of the SAP Business Suite (running a SAP HANA Database) that are used in production landscapes.

The differences in the 3 versions of the SAP Business Suite running a SAP HANA Database:

  1. SAP Suite on HANA (SoH): Think of this as running ECC 6 EhP7 or EhP8 on top of a SAP HANA Database. It is not more complicated than that. You have ONLY changed the database. You can control the level of disruption to your users by determining when/how you want to enable the new User Experience (FIORI), when/how you want to re-code your custom ABAP Programs to better leverage the increased speed of the SAP HANA database and when/how you decide to leverage the SAP HANA enabled transactions inside of SoH.
  2. SAP S/4HANA Finance: Don’t over complicate things by seeing the term S/4. This version of SAP is running what SAP initially called Simple Finance as an ADD-ON to SoH. Basically, you get to SoH, then re-process all of your financial documents into the new add-on/simplified financial models. All of your other modules are still running ECC 6 EhP7 or EhP8 functionalities. This means that all of your Sales and Distribution, Production and Logistics process all remain the same as in SAP ERP.
  3. SAP S/4HANA Enterprise Management (aka Digital Core): Ok…this version is disruptive but it is also the most exciting thing to happen to ERP in 10+ years! This is the new product that has many of the processes and data models in a simplified form. This is also the only version that SAP is investing in, from an innovation perspective.

The future of SAP HANA (SAP S/4HANA Enterprise Management)

Now that we’ve defined the different versions, I’m going to share a few of my thoughts on what I see SAP HANA (really SAP S/4HANA Enterprise Management) becoming. I continue to hear all of the buzz words like digital, IoT, Cloud, Innovation, etc.  At the end of the day, the important part for me is that SAP is laying the groundwork to be flexible to continue to grow with technology.  Ok, what does that mean?  Well, here are some areas that I believe SAP is addressing to be flexible:

  • Cloud: If you haven’t heard (or seen), SAP is branding itself as a ‘Cloud’ company. SAP has proven this through acquisitions of companies like Ariba and SuccessFactors. In addition, SAP has given us a great platform for which to grow through development on a cloud platform (more to come on this below). Most companies are (and will for the near future) running the on premise version of SAP Business Suite. But, even those companies are identifying that they want to sell the products that they make and not spend their time worrying about data center operations. Virtualization of SAP HANA (SAP S/4HANA) environments and combining computing power, along with the acceptance of cloud applications/approaches in general, have allowed for companies like itelligence to offer a price/service competitive Managed Cloud to provide compute power in a pay-as-you-grow model (pay for what you use, not the computing power that you ‘could’ need).
  • User Experience: Big thanks goes out to all of the millennials entering into the workforce. The pressure is finally being applied to replace the 1990’s version of a user interface…sorry to put this out there for my grey haired colleagues (btw, my hair is very grey), but the SAPGUI is dying. FIORI 2 is taking its place as the new and improved UX/UI for SAP users.
  • Analytics: People in some of my recent presentations have come up to me after the presentation to point out that HANA Live no longer exists. So, to you out there (you know who you are), yes…I agree that HANA Live is no longer the ‘correct’ term. But, no matter what you actually call it, with SAP HANA (SAP S/4HANA), you have the ability to get REAL-TIME operational reports out of your SAP transaction environment! Call it HANA Live, Virtual Data Model, or Core Data Services…I really don’t care. The net impact is that you now have the ability to stick a tool like BOBJ Lumira on top of data coming out of your SAP production environment to provide REAL-TIME analysis…not sure about you, but I really believe that this is the un-tapped value of HANA (SoH or S/4)!
  • Platform for Apps: In the land of apps for mobile devices, SAP has created a development area for customers and SI’s to work their intellectual magic and create new secret sauce items in the SAP Cloud Platform. As SAP continues to grow as a ‘cloud’ company, this Platform will be a foundation where companies can leverage more of a standardized offering from SAP and be able to still add enhancements into the process. In addition, the SAP Cloud Platform (SCP) is also the home for all of the SAP IoT adaptors as well as a spot where growing interface tools such as SAP HANA Cloud Integration (HCI) and SAP Smart Data Access (SDA) resides.

What value does SAP HANA (SAP S/4HANA) provide business leaders?

  • Rapid integration of data from multiple sources
  • Speed to deploy and speed to value
  • Flexibility to meet changing business needs
  • Enabled mobile analytics
  • The power to know (in real time) to act

What is S/4HANA – Conclusion

SAP has given us some direction to cope with an ever changing technology environment where the only constant is change. I think about Moore’s Law and how technology continues to get faster and more powerful (watch out for Skynet) at a pace that is hard to imagine.  I used to think in terms of 3 and 5-year roadmaps.  I still sort-of think in those terms.  The only difference is that I think of year 1 in pen…but all of the rest written in pencil because I know that it will change!  The question has started to be answered around how to manage technology complexity and SAP HANA and S/4HANA are game changers! As the biggest software innovation since SAP transformed business applications with SAP R/3 in 1992, the SAP HANA platform and the S/4HANA suite, represent the culmination of four decades of SAP helping more than 280,000 organizations run smarter, faster, and better. Are you ready to Run Simple in the digital economy? Find out. Sign up for our free SAP S/4HANA Workshop and discover the path that makes most sense for your business. Get started by clicking here!

Check out Part 2 of the series – Why move to S/4HANA? – click here.

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