SAP ERP for decades now has run some of the most complicated business processes in the world. With S/4HANA, our next-generation ERP, we set out to simplify business processes. We do it by fully leveraging the power of HANA, our in-memory platform.
Let’s take a look at an analogy to better understand what a simplified process looks like.
If you remember taking pictures and sending them to friends and family as recently as the 1980s and 1990s, you’ll recall that it was a complicated process:
You recorded pictures on film which had to be processed with chemicals. Then pictures were printed on paper and sent via the postal service, itself a complicated maze involving tens of thousands of people and vehicles. Eventually, this process could be sped up by using one hour photo processing and overnight delivery. You could get a picture to someone in as little as a day. While this improved speed was nice, at the core, this process was still as complicated as it ever was.
Then the internet changed everything. Now, your “camera” is really a network node that can transmit a photo to anyone in seconds. But it is not merely faster, the “architecture” has been reduced dramatically:
This simplified architecture is what drives the photo and image applications we have today. Just think of the huge wave of innovation over the last few years involving digital photography. The simplified architecture, not just improved speed, is responsible for the explosion of creativity we have now.
What this analogy illustrates is that speed alone is not sufficient. If you aren’t removing layers from the architecture, you aren’t simplifying anything or unleashing creativity on the problems we have today.
In a sense, all other ERP solutions today, including running SAP ECC 6 on a legacy database, or even running ECC 6 on HANA (the “Suite on HANA”), are like the old way of sharing photos. Yes, they can be made faster in some areas. We used HANA to speed up parts of ECC 6. But the underlying complexity was still there. Only S/4HANA takes advantage of the speed to dramatically simplify the architecture.
Starting with S/4HANA, we actually re-architect ERP to leverage HANA. I like to use Inventory Management as an example. When Inventory ran on a legacy database, we needed 26 tables to get any decent performance out of it. Now, with S/4HANA, we only need 1 table.
Only S/4HANA is in a position where the simplified architecture can enable a new wave of creativity and innovation surrounding ERP, all while making IT simpler as well.
Some legacy database vendors claim they can get this same simplicity. You can verify this by counting the number of tables. They are probably going to recommend adding in-memory models to speed up analytics. This increased redundancy is the opposite of what we want.