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Get To Grips With S/4HANA In 3 Easy Steps


Thinking of S/4HANA?

S/4HANA is coming up to 5 years old and is maturing as an offering. SAP is pushing its customers to adopt S/4HANA as early as possible, but is it the right solution for you? Is it practical? Is it even possible?

I’ve worked on several migrations and seen projects executed with varying degrees of success. Throughout these, a common thread has been a lack of information on what is really needed to get a specific business onto S/4HANA.

In this article, I’ve pulled out and simplified the three fundamental areas all customers need to know when thinking about S/4HANA; The basics, the benefits, and the considerations.

1. S/4HANA - The Basics

S/4HANA (S4) is SAP's flagship in-memory ERP solution (Check the SAP S4 site for more information).

  1. S4 offers significant functional and performance benefits over legacy SAP ERP/ECC
  2. S4 is optimized for mobile app integration and provides a vastly improved user experience.
  3. S4 only runs on an SAP HANA database (SAP HANA site)
  4. Furthermore, if you want all the bells and whistles, that HANA database needs to live on SAP's public cloud.

2. S/4HANA - The Benefits

S4 allows you to be more strategic in your business decisions and gives you the tactical ability to quickly respond to opportunities and threats. These benefits are achieved via Big Data, Simplified processes, and User Experience (including mobile).

  • Through Big Data, S4 gives you unparalleled access to information and the ability to see trends across your customer and user base (SAP S/4HANA In 2 Minutes: Why SAP HANA?). Think 'real-time' information and predictive analytics.
  • The simplification of core processes (e.g. S/4HANA Finance) means less maintenance, improved user experience, and releases more time for your development teams to innovate.
  • User Experience has been improved through greater device integration (Through FIORI), modern User Interfaces, and the ability to hide transactions behind the scenes, greatly simplifying user actions.

3. S/4HANA - Considerations

If you are a business that can benefit from S4 then you are ready to start thinking about migration. Vendors always wax lyrical about their solutions but rarely discuss the practicalities of implementation. Do you want to realize the benefits of S4 as early as possible? Probably. Do you want to limit any system downtime? Again, probably.  In reality, the following considerations will influence any migration.

  • Current System/Complexity The condition, complexity, and level of customization need to be considered well ahead of any thoughts of migration. This will be the single greatest impact on the options available, duration, and cost of moving to S4. The more your system deviates from standard the more difficult your migration. Complications include but aren’t limited to:
    1. Custom code/transactions
    2. Integrations to legacy systems
    3. Mobile applications built on top of your system
  • Hosting Options
    ‍S4 is available in three hosting flavors, i.e. where your solution will sit. The table below highlights the major differences for each option. It's worth noting that SAP uses major cloud hosting partners, such as AWS, Google Cloud, and MS Azure. This is a major benefit for any customer facing geographical limitations or legislation.

    s4 hosting options
  • Downtime/Availability
    ‍Are you able to cope without your SAP system for a prolonged period? A night, a weekend a public holiday? For many customers, SAP is required 24/7 and any downtime requires significant authority and contingent business planning. Certain migration approaches will provide parallel running, Near-Zero downtime, or mitigations against a big bang approach.
  • SAP ERP Support
    If you're a current SAP customer whose business won’t realize any of these benefits, then a migration to S4 might be something you can delay - SAP has committed to supporting ERP until 2025 (SAP Support Strategy). For example, you might be completely satisfied with user experience, have all the reports you need, and don’t need any new functionality.
  • Business Transformation
    ‍S4 will inevitably involve business transformation. Whether it is a simplification of user actions, a switch to mobile devices and working practices, or evolution/revolution of how your business does its thing. The key to a successful project is understanding that this will happen and using it as a force for positive change.
  • Migration Approaches
    There are many potential approaches to a migration project. I’ve listed the four main options below and included the headline information.
  1. SAP New Implementation (Greenfield) – Least complex option, essentially starting from scratch. Data load is something to keep in mind, it can take a long time with SAP tools
  2. SAP System Conversion (Brownfield) – Update your current system. The more bespoke it is, the more effort this approach will take
  3. SAP Landscape Transformation – Appropriate if you’re looking to consolidate or carve out systems/geographies
  4. 3rd Party Approaches (Bluefield/Hybrid) – Allow for more selective data migration and tailored service

I will look into these approaches in greater detail in an upcoming article.


S4 offers several powerful benefits but they're not for everyone.

If your business can utilize the speed, user experience, or simplified processes the next step is to think about whether you need the latest solutions (Cloud) or if you need greater flexibility in your business processes (On Premise).

Also bear in mind that there are many ways to approach a migration and if you don't yet have a solid business case, you don't have to move yet.