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SAP S/4HANA – What’s the Big Deal?

Setting the Scene…a whistle-stop tour!

SAP was founded in 1972, a time where many companies had in-house developers building bespoke applications. The founders of SAP had the pioneering idea of building a product that worked for many companies with only minor configuration…cue enterprise resource planning (ERP) software.  Since then, SAP has evolved to become the market leader in enterprise applications with 440,000 customers in 180 countries.

SAP ECC (ECC is the acronym for ERP Central Component) is SAP’s ERP tool used globally by thousands of companies, meeting the needs of small and medium businesses and global corporations.  It’s designed to coordinate all the resources, information and activities needed to support a company’s business processes in a range of areas making it the IT backbone of operations for many organisations.

SAP S/4HANA was introduced in 2015 as the successor to SAP ECC and other core applications of SAP Business Suite 7*, it’s considered the most significant update to the tool in over 20 years and SAP has emphasised that it is pivotal in its shift to cloud technology.  In February 2020 SAP announced it will discontinue mainstream maintenance of SAP ECC and other core applications of SAP Business Suite 7* from 2027 (an extension to the original 2025 deadline). Since SAP ECC is often the foundation of an IT ecosystem it is anticipated in the coming years there will be a significant number of technology projects undertaken moving organisations to SAP S/4HANA.

SAP S/4HANA timeline

*Core applications of SAP Business Suite 7 software include

  • SAP ERP (ECC) 6.0
  • SAP Customer Relationship Management 7.0
  • SAP Supply Chain Management 7.0
  • SAP Supplier Relationship Management 7.0 applications
  • SAP Business Suite powered by SAP HANA

But what is SAP S/4HANA?

SAP S/4HANA has three main components:

SAP S/4HANA components

The SAP HANA database can be deployed on premise or in the cloud.  It uses in-memory computing to store compressed data in random access memory (RAM) rather than storing it on disk drives.  This allows SAP HANA to access data 10,000 times faster, supporting accelerated analysis of large amounts of data and the ability to process transactions in seconds.  More from SAP on SAP HANA here

SAP S/4HANA Business Suite only runs on the SAP HANA database and includes all the applications required to perform essential business functions, including:

  • Supply Chain Management
  • Procurement
  • Information Technology Management
  • Finance
  • Human Resources
  • Sales
  • Services
  • Product Development
  • Marketing

More from SAP on SAP S/4HANA here

SAP Fiori provides an app-based user interface presented as tiles supporting the most broadly used functionality such as self-service tasks, workflow approvals, and information lookups.  Fiori can also be used to provide mobile functionality meaning SAP services can be accessed on the go.  More from SAP on Fiori here

The Benefits of SAP S/4HANA

The benefits introduced by SAP S/4HANA depend on the modules selected and how they are configured to meet business requirements, a few of the general high-level benefits are described below:

  1. Performance: Introducing the SAP HANA in-memory database enables improved performance and faster processing. Reporting is based on live data meaning more accurate analytics and predictions. This brings improved trust and reliability in the application leading to more satisfied end users.
  2. Usability: The SAP Fiori user interface is simple and modern.  It’s designed to be mobile, highly intuitive, personalised and responsive – another win for end users!
  3. Simplification: Simplicity is a key feature introduced by SAP S/4HANA. It serves as the digital core for business process simplification and enables centralising hardware and network resources.
  4. Improved decision making: The ability to bring together the analytical and transactional capabilities of a variety of systems, paired with the speed and performance improvements introduced by the SAP HANA database enables faster and more informed decision making.
  5. Innovation: With technology evolving more rapidly than ever we must not underestimate the need to futureproof solutions and pave the way for continuous improvement and innovation. SAP S/4HANA can be leveraged to drive the digital transformation of an organisation

Preparing for the move to SAP S/4HANA

SAP s4 User Interface DeviceWith all this in mind, moving to SAP S/4HANA is a significant undertaking.  It’s not just a technical or functional upgrade, it’s a combination of the two. Furthermore, leveraging this tool to drive digital transformation places high stakes on the success of an SAP S/4HANA deployment.

Typically, such projects rely on a system integration partner for much of the skills and experience needed to secure a successful deployment. Integration partners are subject matter experts in the technical and functional aspects of this type of project but a focus on the big picture is important, including the people who will make change happen and the organisational attributes which may obstruct adoption. A successful SAP S/4 HANA programme will rely upon a solid change management programme to support a successful go-live and adoption across the organisation.

Having a comprehensive business change strategy and plan is a key success factor for any technology project.  Change Management should be given sufficient importance to ensure successful adoption of solutions which essentially form the backbone of an organisation.

Onboarding a business change partner to support the SAP S/4HANA journey will contribute towards a successful roll out, adoption, benefit realisation and return on investment, and will allow your integration partner to focus on the technology – where they can add the most value.

Afiniti is a business change specialist and solely focus on the people agenda for change.  We bring toolkits, frameworks, and approaches which accelerate and de-risk business change and aim to intentionally develop internal capability and consciously transfer skills to our clients. This, partnered with our subject matter expertise in SAP deployments means we have a unique service offering in this area.

If you’d like to learn more about how we can help your organisation with its SAP S/4HANA  business change challenges and opportunities, please email Alternately, you can complete the enquiry form found on our ‘Contact Us’ page and we will get back to you.

Written by Gill Hughes      gill hughes

Gill Hughes
Gill Hughes
Partner, ERP Business Lead
Gill is an accomplished and experienced Managing Consultant in the energy and pharma sectors with a track record of delivering complex technology and ERP transformation programmes. She is passionate about the people agenda of change; and it being done well. Gill specialises in taking a data driven approach to co-create impactful business change strategies, tactics and plans which encourage a positive and people focused change experience.
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