SAP S/4HANA is SAP’s next-generation enterprise resource planning (ERP) suite. Since its 2015 launch, it has evolved to become the fastest-growing product in company history, with adoption by more than 14,100 customers in all industries as of the first quarter of 2020.
The recently published SAP S/4HANA strategy paper provides an overview of the strategy for the flagship product, but I would also like to share some of my thoughts on this here.
In the past, ERP systems were built during a time of stability; business strategy did not change as quickly as it does today, and market trends took longer to find their footing. This resulted in heavily customized, monolithic IT landscapes that no longer suit the rapidly changing business environment of today, nor can they keep up with future trends.
Whatever the size of a business, SAP believes that organizations cannot solve today’s challenges with yesterday’s tools and processes. Businesses need an intelligent IT platform where agility is the key differentiator. With nearly 50 years of experience in ERP, SAP is a trusted partner that recognizes the needs of its customers. By continuously evolving the ERP product line, we are meeting customer needs with solutions they can rely on to succeed as best-run businesses now and in the future.
Flexible, Predictive, Responsive
SAP S/4HANA was launched as a purpose-built product for its underlying in-memory database SAP HANA. It is available in two flavors: a traditional on-premise solution and as a cloud software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution. SAP S/4HANA enables critical business processes for finance, human resources (HR), manufacturing, and supply chain, to name a few.
SAP S/4HANA is changing the game regarding intelligent ERP. By leveraging advances in technology like predictive analytics and artificial intelligence (AI), SAP S/4HANA helps businesses to be flexible, predictive, responsive, and adaptable to organizational growth. Because SAP S/4HANA has intelligent technologies embedded, it provides data-driven insights that allow organizations to continue to run operations at their highest efficiency so they can allocate precious employee effort to more mission-critical tasks. This helps customers optimize their bottom line through increased automation while also helping grow the top-line by generating new data-driven insights and decisions.
By releasing many of the new SAP S/4HANA innovations cloud-first, SAP is helping ensure faster time to market for SAP S/4HANA Cloud customers, with on-premise options following once a year. By providing real-time insights, real-time planning, forecasting, and simulation, as well as embedded analytics at every step, customers can reimagine and redefine processes with greater ease. They also benefit from enriching industry-specific capabilities and deep integration into other SAP applications as well as open interfaces to integrate third-party applications for end-to-end business process support.
There is no doubt that the best-run businesses of tomorrow must run their operations efficiently and with highest flexibility in order to remain sustainable and viable. SAP S/4HANA helps businesses to be responsive and responsible because it can simulate and understand the viability of new business models while also managing a company’s impact on the earth, communities, and ecosystems, as well as on the employees and customers it serves.
SAP S/4HANA is at the core of the company’s intelligent enterprise strategy. The integrated, industry-focused, and flexible intelligent ERP platform grows with a business and helps customers accelerate the deployment of new business models.
Especially in the cloud, companies are looking for standardized services that cover end-to-end processes rather than individual capabilities. Our vision for SAP S/4HANA Cloud is to provide a business-process-as-a-service (BPaaS) ERP platform with out-of-the-box integration into other SAP solutions and open interfaces to third-party products.
Examples of our end-to-end processes include the recruit-to-retire scenario that provides a new simplified employee/employment integration in conjunction with SAP SuccessFactors Employee Central, our travel-to-reimburse scenario that supports the payment of travel expenses, and the source-to-pay scenario, which integrates the processes for sourcing, guided buying (including lean services), and supplier collaboration using Ariba Network.
One Size Does Not Fit All
Through nearly 50 years’ experience in ERP, SAP knows that businesses of different sizes have different requirements of their ERP solutions — one-size-fits-all is not a likely scenario for an ERP solution. A 10-person shop looks for something much different than a 200,0000-employee multinational conglomerate, and at SAP we are in the unique position to be able to offer something to both of these businesses — and everything in between. While SAP S/4HANA represents the core of our intelligent ERP offering, we provide additional solutions for small enterprises.
SAP S/4HANA is aimed at large and upper midsize customers with more complex organizational structures and industry requirements. Available both on premise and in the cloud, SAP S/4HANA is infused with intelligent technologies to automate processes and converges the world of analytics and transactions to drive unprecedented insights that help steer a company to achieve both operational excellence and top-line growth. SAP S/4HANA Cloud is a SaaS offering fully managed by SAP. With predefined business process content and best practices that allow customers a high degree of standardization and fast time to value, it is a true SaaS solution that allows customers to consume the latest application innovations on a regular basis.
For small and (lower) midsize enterprises (SMEs), SAP Business ByDesign is the available easy-to-use and fully integrated suite-in-a-box solution. While the business processes of SME customers do not differ much from those of large enterprise customers, they typically have less complex organizational structures, which means that an out-of-the-box solution can work well.
In short, SAP is the provider that has coverage for a range of companies of all sizes. We can provide a solution that suits a customer’s needs and helps them grow into a successful, best-run, and sustainable business of tomorrow.
Jan Gilg is president of SAP S/4HANA.