I have just come back from three full days in Walldorf taking a deep dive into the new SAP S/4HANA product. It was a no-holds barred approach with SAP happy to show the solution as it currently is, as well as providing insight into the future direction. A big thank you must go to Sven Denecken for arranging the event – and a slightly larger one to the team that supported us throughout our journey.
Let’s start at the beginning
If you did not already know SAP S/4HANA is a new product. It is new in many senses of the word new. New as in the latest ERP offering, the go-to version for SAP. New as in brand-new in terms of the content and the way the solution has been assembled. Therefore the first key take-away to share is there is no Upgrade to move to SAP S/4HANA. System conversion, or landscape transformation are the processes you will need to follow to move from your current SAP ERP landscape. SAP ERP customers’ have been spoilt with endless upgrades to consume new functionality via Enhancement Packages. The concept of an upgrade is to take your full ERP solution, and add the latest functionality and support packs. There is little effort aimed at cleaning up the current ERP solution and removing redundant code or processes. Moving to SAP S/4HANA will enable customers to stop and consider the state of their current landscape and create a cleansed ERP environment moving forward.
New tool with a new UI
There has been a real fanfare around SAP Fiori and the benefits it provides. SAP S/4HANA has a Fiori front end and significant investment has gone into this. Assuming we are talking about the On-Premise version of SAP S/4HANA (I will cover off cloud later) it is worth highlighting that currently the full solution cannot be consumed solely by SAP Fiori. From the engagements I have had with customers who are moving to SAP S/4HANA there is a real requirement to keep the SAP Gui screens (for the short term). This is primarily down to the change management impact of moving tens of thousands of users to a new way of working. Some of the Fiori tiles within the Launchpad are not actual Fiori apps, but take the user to the Browser version of the Gui. Again this to me is not a big issue. The real benefit of Fiori is to simplify processes. It is worth noting that, SAP Fiori is not a new way to consume SAP transaction codes, Fiori provides the user a simplified user experience to perform their key tasks. The beautiful UI paired with the reduction of key strokes is what makes the full solution stand out. Where SAP exceeds expectations is the way Fiori tiles consume embedded analytics. Keeping the user in a single place and providing the user with all of the relevant information to make the right decision is worlds apart from the current status quo, of moving from spreadsheets, reporting tools and various SAP ERP transaction codes. Over time the full user base will naturally migrate to a full SAP Fiori front end, however the current solution provided by SAP will provide the ability to move users into SAP Fiori at the pace the customer sets.
New methodology – Activate
SAP has released a new methodology to implement SAP S/4HANA. The core concepts are based on successfully implementing true Cloud products. SAP has focused on best practices to perform the initial configuration set up. The tools beneath the methodology are slick and easy to use. Where customers want to review the full scope of SAP S/4HANA running a proof of concept with best practice configuration for defined business processes will provide a good overview of the capabilities of the system (and restrictions). The use of guided configuration will speed up implementations, and there is the ability to make additional changes after the initial build. For those functional consultants who have spent large chunks of their career within the SAP IMG – don’t fear it has not disappeared (within the On premise version) the new tools update the core steps within the IMG, and you have the ability to update it with your own values. One first impression the tools are great and will be a real help to net new customers (customers who are starting from a clean S/4HANA environment) who are moving into SAP S/4HANA. Customers who are moving to SAP S/4HANA via a system conversion will not be able to make use of some of these tools and the associated methodologies. It feels like some current SAP ERP customers will look to re-implement to SAP S/4HANA to benefit from the new functionality and the ability to remove redundant code and configuration.
It is a Cloud tool
It is worth noting that there are two SAP S/4HANA version, the On-Premise version and the Cloud edition (there are three deployment options here which actually means there are three cloud editions). Whilst they are both called SAP S/4HANA there are some significant differences. Not all of the On-Premise functionality is available in the cloud version. The cloud version does not have any SAP Gui screens whereas the On-premise version does. Keeping with SAP’s Cloud first strategy, new functionality is released in the Cloud first and then to the On-premise version. The Cloud will have quarterly releases, and the On-premise version will have annual releases (there are feature support packs that will be released during the year for the On-premise version). The Cloud version does not use ABAP, whereas the On-premise version does. The ability to customise is heavily restricted (although still possible) in the Cloud edition whereas there are no restrictions within the On-Premise version.
Where to start
SAP has created a number of tools to help you review SAP S/4HANA 1511 so you can understand what you would need to do to fully benefit from the new product. The Maintenance Planner tool will enable you to see if there are some restrictions for you, and the Simplification items list will provide a list of items that need to either be activated prior to moving to SAP S/4HANA or data conversions will be required.custom code extractor will check your current custom code and show what needs to be changed to run on SAP S/4HANA. There are free trials of the solution so you can explore the new functionality in your own time.
The SAP S/4HANA tool has significantly grown from its first version (Simple Finance which is now SAP S/4HANA Finance). The functionality has rapidly grown and has expanded. SAP has provided a number of new tools to help customers understand the new tool and understand the best approach to deploy the solution at the right time with the right scope. The interest from customers feels like it is at an unprecedented level. The product is far from complete, but my key takeaway from my time is that the team are fully focused to make this a massive success for SAP’s customers and in turn for SAP.