Greater Innovation Flexibility with SAP S/4HANA Cloud
The pace of the cloud business is fast, that’s not news. What is news is Continuous Feature Delivery for SAP S/4HANA Cloud which allows greater agility in the delivery of innovations, making features available to customers more frequently, on demand as soon as they are ready, rather than needing to wait for the next planned major release. The flexibility and agility of innovating via Continuous Feature Delivery (CFD) will allow us to bring features that optimize, enhance, and realize business value faster than ever before and at both a time and pace that can be controlled within your planning between major releases. Those customers eagerly awaiting the availability of a new feature will be able to access it easily it via the app “Activate New Features”, while all others can continue to go about business as usual, for all enhancements delivered through CFD will also be pushed to all customers in twice-yearly releases.
So what does this mean to customers? How should they prepare for the remaining quarterly releases this year (Releases 2108 and 2111)?
SAP S/4HANA Cloud Release 2108 will be available for customers on August 4, 2021. This date has long been communicated and the key innovations are documented in the roadmap so I expect that customers are already well dispositioned to complete the upgrade smoothly. Release 2111 however may come as a surprise as we had initially communicated that we will only run with 3 major releases in 2021. While CFD is already ramping up and will replace the quarterly updates from 2022 onwards, we don’t want to miss the opportunity to deliver strategic innovations via a further major release in 2021 as we are aware of many customers that have decided to go live based on the last 2021 release. Release 2111 will be released to customers on October 27, 2021. From a planning perspective, in 2022 we aim for an increasing frequency of shipments based on CFD and two major releases per year.
Q System Upgrade: Preparing for Month-End Closing
As with every quarterly release, the upgrade schedule needs to be considered in your regular business scope. Special attention must be paid to the fact that the upgrade takes place close to the end of October, resulting in the need for careful planning due to proximity to Month-End Closing. We know that most customers run their month-end closing in the period five days either side of the end of the month, so in this case October 25 to November 5. In order to prepare customer systems for the 2111 upgrade, Q systems will enter a freeze period from October 27, 2021, which means any imports to Production need to be completed in advance of this date. Q systems will be upgraded on Saturday October 30, 2021, and Productive upgrade takes place on November 14, 2021, (this also includes Sandbox, Partner Demo, and Starter Systems).
Planning for Project Milestones and Extensibility / Transports before Upgrade
The release schedule may mean making adjustments to your milestones, especially in the case of company code or country go-lives, activation, or scope extension. Data migration, cutover, and provisioning/service request timelines around the 2111 release date should be carefully planned. It will be possible to use the G/L sync app to make changes to G/L accounts during this time, but it is important to consider that any changes to the FIN master data which require import to Production via Q2P transport must be done before the upgrade. This includes any changes to tax codes, valuation, asset changes, actual costing, and so on.
Also, as a result of the upgrade occurring close to month-end, please ensure sufficient time for finalizing extensibility (especially form changes, custom business apps, CDS view changes etc.) as it will not be possible to import these changes via Q2P mechanism until the Productive upgrade is complete. Planning for transports will need to be managed, taking into account that the next possibility to transport will be after November 14 after upgrade to the productive system. Any activation of scope items/country extensions/expert configurations not completed prior to Quality system upgrade must be postponed until after the upgrade to the Productive system.
Outlook for 2111 – New Innovations
Whilst we appreciate this might require some adjustment to project milestones to account for the new release date, the 2111 release delivers significant capabilities that we are sure customers will benefit from. To give you an outlook, we intend to deliver Registration for Indirect Taxation Abroad (RITA) which will enable companies operating in multiple countries to satisfy the tax and reporting regulations of the countries in which they do business.
Also, as business models move their focus from products to services, the solution order has been gaining ground as a way of combining products and services in a single order. SAP S/4HANA Cloud Release 2111 will include a new report to display the profitability of such solution orders within the wider context of margin analysis.
Universal allocation continues to gain traction as the simplified way to perform distributions and allocations. From SAP S/4HANA Cloud Release 2108 the allocations can be performed across company boundaries and with 2111 we will see round-offs to support joint venture accounting and the ability to handle a wider time frame using cumulative processing.
Universal parallel accounting was introduced in SAP S/4HANA Cloud Release 2105, Release 2111 brings the extension of job scheduling templates to schedule overhead accounting jobs like settlement for multiple ledgers.
Looking Ahead: New Release Strategy
We’ve listened to your feedback and are working hard to make the process of consuming our innovations easier. To that end, our new release strategy will see us reducing the number of releases and system upgrades per year, and providing frequent non-disruptive updates between those releases. The effort required for release upgrades will decrease substantially, while still allowing customers to adopt desired innovations as they become available. Please visit the upgrade schedule and maintenance schedule for 2-System Landscape and 3-System Landscape (Early Adopter) for full details. We’re excited about this development as it not only provides greater stability to customers, it gives greater flexibility regarding the adoption of innovations and allows SAP react faster to customer requirements.
Almer Podbicanin is Head of SAP S/4HANA Cross Product Management and SAP S/4HANA Portfolio at SAP SE