Five key takeaways from an SAP S/4HANA on-premise implementation

22 June 2017

Ana Porfido

Ana Porfido

S/4HANA Consultant

Recently I’ve been involved in an SAP S/4HANA 1610 on-premise greenfield project. The scope included core finance and a simple approach to purchasing, all of it fully accessed through Fiori apps. Here are my key takeaways from this experience, which range from getting the most out of Best Practice configuration to letting change management play a stellar role in an implementation.

1. SAP-delivered Best Practices – how to reap the benefits

S/4HANA comes with a series of Best Practices that can be activated and used as reference for a number of scope items. A scope item is a specific part of any given business process for which SAP has provided Best Practice configuration, a recommended process flow and a standard test script. What I found particularly useful about SAP-delivered Best Practices is that once the scope of the project is defined, the standard process flows can be adopted or adapted to meet the clients’ needs. Test scripts provide you with a good basis from which to prepare testing documentation and ensure you’re not neglecting any important steps of your processes. This doesn’t mean that you can do without training documents – Best Practices test scripts are not meant to train users, rather to help them find their way through the implemented apps. They can also be used as a solid starting point to tweak the processes that require a bespoke approach.

2. Business Processes – why is it (still) critical to revisit them?

Once scope items are defined, existing business processes need to be thoroughly reviewed. Even when the approach is totally different to an S/4HANA Cloud implementation, in which case the business processes need to ‘fit-to-standard’, a complete analysis of ‘as-is’ and ‘to-be’ business processes is still required for a successful S/4HANA on-premise implementation. Every single scope item needs to be thoroughly mapped. As part of this exercise, business processes need to be properly documented to serve as the basis for:

  • Project background and rationale behind decisions made during the project. Taking the time to do this is usually overlooked, but it’s incredibly helpful for organisations to have this level of detail when the project delivery team is gone.

  • Testing. Even if the processes in scope are well known to the users, all scenarios still need to be carefully tested.

  • Training. The backbone of training are business processes. Training documentation and the training schedule should be structured around business processes.

The better documented and streamlined business processes are, the better results an organisation will get from an S/4HANA implementation.

3. Roles and Catalogues – design, build and test sooner rather than later

SAP provide standard ‘catalogues’ which basically include a number of Fiori apps, so this means that adding a catalogue to a role adds the Fiori apps contained in it to that role. The catalogues provided as standard are in line with Best Practices business processes. That said, an organisation will more than likely want to design and build its own catalogues and roles according to their own criteria. Understandable. It’s always been pretty much like this with roles and authorizations. But these activities need to be scheduled early in the project plan. 

A deviation of a click in a Fiori app might reveal a missing authorization object or a related app that requires activation. Contrary to what many of us would like to believe, activating a new app is not a two-minute job and it means an addition to the scope. It might not be the end of the world, but it needs to be factored into the project timeline. Designing, building and testing roles early in the project will certainly help you get into integrated testing and training in tip-top shape.

Taking time to set up the Fiori launchpad for testing and training activities is also highly advisable. This will help boost the users’ confidence in the system and add transparency in terms of what’s going to be available (or not) in their launchpad when the system goes live. 

It’s worth mentioning there seems to be some degree of anxiety with regards to security in S/4HANA. While it is true  the process of designing and building roles is slightly different to the GUI transactions one, security is as robust as in GUI transactions.

4. Fiori apps – a word of advice on different browsers

A central decision in a project that deploys Fiori apps is which browser will be used to run them. Fiori Apps for S/4HANA can be run on most browsers and SAP recommend versions of each of them. However, the performance and general functioning of a Fiori app can vary considerably depending on the browser and version. Certain features might not be available at all in Firefox ESR for an app that works like a dream with Internet Explorer. 

In addition, the Fiori launchpad is not the only browser-based tool that organisations use. During this project, we came across an issue with the upload of attachments when the latest version of Firefox ESR was not used, but the accounting team required this previous version to access their online banking services. Situations like this may lead to the coexistence of different browsers, or even different versions of the same browser, which might be confusing from a user perspective.

I guess all supported browsers will run bug-free soon, but for the time being I’d recommend making a decision on a specific browser as early as possible and stick to it, ensuring all team members and users work on the same browser and version.

5. Change Management – never underestimate its importance

Fiori apps might be the best-looking thing SAP has put so far in front of the eyes of end users, but change management is still an aspect of an implementation project that should not be overlooked. It is true that the time required by users to get their head around transactions has been significantly reduced thanks to Fiori apps, however, those apps are running on top of a system that is still new for the organisation. Some objects that previously were transportable are no longer transportable or the way a user profile is updated might be completely different to what it used to be.

The time spent on change management pays off in the short/medium term, when the initial support phase is over and the organisation finds itself effectively owning a brand-new system.

My personal view is that by taking these simple key points into account, the journey to S/4HANA can definitely be a smooth and successful one and the benefits of adopting the latest SAP offering will be far more visible and clear to all stakeholders within your organisation.


About the author

Ana Porfido

S/4HANA Consultant

Bluefin and SAP S/4HANA - welcome to the one horse race

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