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SAP S/4HANA: Extensions with SAP HANA Cloud Platform Possible in 2015

Feature Article | September 22, 2015 by Andreas Schmitz

As soon as the new business suite SAP S/4HANA is launched at the end of the year, SAP HANA Cloud Platform will be also be available to enable companies to build their own extensions and adapt standard business software to their needs.

When call center agents from the food products company Danone enter orders in the system, they only have to access order management once in SAP Business Suite. From here, they take what they need and then work with the data. The app that the employees in South Africa are currently testing was built using SAP HANA Cloud Platform and is just loosely connected to the back end, SAP Business Suite with its sophisticated finance, logistics, and marketing processes. This means the SAP Business Suite cosmos remains largely unaffected – only one function was added using SAP HANA Cloud Platform.

The advantage of the call center app is that it can be also “be used in other international subsidiaries and scaled as required,” explains Wolfgang Weiss, product manager at SAP responsible for extensions to SAP S/4HANA with SAP HANA Cloud Platform.

SAP S/4HANA as the Core, SAP HANA Cloud Platform as the “Connection to the Outside World”

SAP Business Suite comprises the core functions into which, for example, the Ariba Network, shop systems from hybris, and talent management from SuccessFactors can be directly integrated.

“For hooking up the outside world to SAP Business Suite, SAP HANA Cloud Platform is the technology of choice,” says Weiss, that is, for employees who want to use data from the core software in their own applications.

For example, if a jewelry maker wants to send personalized offers to customers’ smartphones when they enter a shop, information about each customer’s loyalty can be retrieved using an app that was developed on the cloud-based platform and offers can be tailored appropriately. The application – which in this case, too, is only loosely connected with SAP Business Suite – accesses the customer’s data, but works separately and puts little load on the ERP back end system, as Weiss explains. Many SAP customers and partners have already developed applications that draw on sensor data from external devices for the Internet of Things, incorporate feedback systems, and enable big data analyses. The great benefit of these applications is that they can be built fast and it doesn’t hurt much to replace them when they become outdated.

“We can develop the apps much faster. At the end of the day, we don’t know how long we’ll need them,” says Ralf Steinberg, director of Global Software Architecture at Danone.

Extensions: An Overview

From the end of this year, it will be possible to extend the core functions of SAP S/4HANA in two ways.

1. In-App Extensions for SAP S/4HANA

Within the core system, adjustments can be made by key users who don’t need any technical developer tools or expertise. Felix Wente and Tobias Stein, project leads and architects for SAP S/4HANA extensibility, explain the feature like this: “Customer-specific fields and tables can be inserted directly in the user interface (UI) or reports and printed forms can be tailored intuitively.” In addition, there are plans for customers and partners to be able to change or supplement the logic of standard applications using decision tables or the Cloud ABAP Web Editor.

The benefits:
  • Use of SAP Fiori for desktop applications
  • Flexible variants are available for standard processes
  • Tailored reports and forms are easy to create
  • Close integration with SAP S/4HANA

2. Side-by-Side” Extensions with SAP HANA Cloud Platform

According to SAP expert Weiss, these extensions relate to customers’ “more complex autonomous business processes.” The strategic objective of the extensions is to enrich a company’s own systems from the outside. This can be done with other cloud solutions from SAP, as well as with solutions from SAP partner companies or other third-party providers. Companies can build their own individual solutions that are only loosely connected with the core systems. The extensions are characterized by certain features, for example, they incorporate the new SAP Fiori user experience, cloud applications such as for SuccessFactors and Ariba can also be deployed, and – what’s more – SAP HANA Cloud Platform can function as a complete development platform for Java-based and SAP HANA-based applications.

The benefits:
  • Connection of external (and mobile) users through SAP Fiori
  • Standard processes can be enhanced with upstream and downstream process steps
  • It is possible to incorporate external systems and data sources, for example, for big data applications and the Internet of Things
  • Cloud and on-premise solutions can be more closely dovetailed
  • Customers and partners can develop new cloud apps that integrate very neatly with SAP

Premiere: SAP S/4HANA and SAP HANA Cloud Platform Entirely from the Cloud

Up to now, it has only been possible to extend on-premise ERP systems with SAP HANA Cloud Platform, but from the end of the year, companies will be able to use SAP S/4HANA cloud edition together with the extension functionalities of SAP HANA Cloud Platform, and also enjoy improved tool support.

“At the end of the year,” says Weiss, “everything will be possible from the cloud.” In other words, even companies without servers in their basements will be able to run SAP S/4HANA and SAP HANA Cloud Platform.

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