Let’s be clear, this insight is not a deep dive into SAP S/4 HANA. I will leave that to those whose knowledge far surpasses mine when it comes to SAP’s latest ERP solution. However I do wish to pose a question, and for those of you that answer "yes", please feel free to stop reading, “Are you planning on moving your ERP solution away from SAP?".
You have continued reading so I’m going to assume that you are one of the thousands of customers who intend to stick with SAP on their technology roadmap. If this is the case we need to assume you will inevitably have to transition your ERP system onto S/4 HANA.
The end is nigh
The deadline for this event has been set by many as 2025 which may seem a long time off. However, I doubt many CIO's and IT Directors will risk their positions by leaving it that late in the day, and are likely to embark on this journey closer to 2023, if not before. This means that you could be planning your ERP migration as soon as 2020. Now suddenly that’s beginning to feel a whole lot closer to today, isn’t it? Onto question number two, “What is your business case?”.
But really, what is the benefit?
Let's be frank, if you are staying with SAP then you will end up on the HANA platform, so what does this do for your business? In short, many things, but for me the biggest benefit is HANA’s ability to enable your business to automate and run live based upon data in a zero batch world.
"One of the biggest benefits S/4HANA gives your organisation is the ability to automate your business."
Daniel Wilde, Global CoE Lead for BI HANA
With advances in technology, coupled with the vast amounts of data organisations have available to them today (both internal and external), removing the need for human interaction in many of your business processes is now possible and a whole lot easier, additionally the benefits of doing this are beyond belief.
Numerous organisations have looked at automation through the use of robotics, to improve things such as production. However, imagine your business doing in-store offer management which has a real-time effect on your production lines, stock, distribution and suppliers. An end to end business with its processes running live that continuously learns and evolves based upon data that it is fed. The possibilities are endless. Science fiction, perhaps, but the platforms, data and technology exist today with many companies starting their journey; creating neural networks aligned to their business processes.
I recognise that this level of automation is a leap in faith for many, but moreover, the ability to convince the board and shareholders that you have rock solid confidence in your data to drive these processes will be difficult. The problem is that if you don't start thinking about this now your competitors will, and it won't be long before you become a data dinosaur and your business becomes extinct.
Start at the very beginning: with data
My request is a simple one. The S/4HANA journey starts today and it starts with you looking at data. The journey to S/4HANA has been talked about by many as a future project and one that won't happen until 2025 at the latest, but my recommendation is that you start building that business case for your next generation ERP system today. The journey begins with looking at how you can delight your customers (both internal and external), being predictive in your approach to serving them, documenting the processes and striving to create processes that are alive and reactive to your customers' needs.
Once you’ve nailed this, move onto the data your organisation creates, and don't be scared to look at the wider scenario. Be brave enough to look at the data that is being created outside of your business but has relevance to it. Take a look at those big data projects within the business, running separate to your SAP ones. Look for the synergies in both worlds, and let's bring Hadoop out of the corner and put it centre stage in our SAP world.
Creating a business case where you delight your customers by having business processes that learn and evolve will help blow the justification for S/4HANA out of the water.
Tomorrow’s enterprise today
Whilst the above is a brave new world and one where we have not ventured before within the SAP stratosphere, make no mistake: it is a world that we live in today. I’m not saying that data will not be required for operational based reporting or that our rear view reporting methods are no longer required, far from it, but we can't stand still. Evolution is necessary for success.
The platforms, processes and people we have today are the foundation for the business of tomorrow and collectively we need to work together to create the vision of an enterprise that runs live and with the help of SAP Leonardo that’s exactly what we can do.