How mature is SAP S/4HANA? Is it business ready?

12 April 2016

Mark Chalfen

Mark Chalfen

Former SAP S/4HANA Global Lead

One common concern from potential customers is the maturity of SAP S/4HANA. There are immediate reservations as to whether SAP S/4HANA is just a fancy demo touted on YouTube and displayed at conferences, or whether the solution is capable of supporting a large multi-national organisation with a current mature SAP ECC6 estate.

Understanding the versions

Mark-Chalfen-How-Mature-is-S4HANA.jpgThere is no one-size-fits-all answer here I am afraid. SAP S/4HANA has been around for just under two years. Over 150 customers are using the tool in a productive manner and there are a number of other productive projects in flight in addition to Proof of Concepts. I would expect this to increase to over 500 live customers by the end of 2016. However, when talking about SAP S/4HANA, you need to be precise around the version and the solution scope that is being deployed.

Focusing solely on the on-premise versions of SAP S/4HANA, there are two different and distinct versions that a customer may move to: SAP S/4HANA Finance and SAP S/4HANA Enterprise Management. As explained here, the SAP S/4HANA Finance version is based on the core SAP ECC solution, with only the Finance processes being changed to have the new data model. This was the first version to be released. It has been around for almost two years and is what over 95% of productive S/4HANA systems are using.

SAP S/4HANA Enterprise Management is approximately six months old. This has a similar functional scope to SAP S/4HANA Finance, however the solution has been significantly simplified and further functionality has been added. Furthermore, a number of modules that were available in core SAP ECC are no longer available due to the ‘principle of one’.

How to measure mature

The SAP S/4HANA Finance version is a mature product, based upon the number of productive customers utilising it and the duration it has been around. SAP S/4HANA Enterprise Management is approaching maturity. Since its release in November 2015, there has been one Feature Pack Support released in February 2016 with another due in May 2016. These packs contain fixes to the solution that was delivered and add small chunks of new functionality.

I am lucky to be working on a system conversion project to SAP S/4HANA Enterprise Management with a go-live of December 2016. The project utilises the latest functionality and scope for their conversion, with the assumption that the release in May will have further maturity. 

Given the number of releases scheduled, any organisation looking at an SAP S/4HANA Enterprise Management implementation with a go-live date of 2017 can feel comfortable in the knowledge that it will be moving to a more mature and well-supported product. SAP supports the first tranche of customers via the Customer Care program and RIG Program – Regional Implementation Group. It provides a free service for a small group of customers to ensure they have the latest product information.

Where maturity is lacking

SAP has not shied away from the fact that the core SAP ECC solution has been their direct comparison, with Industry Solution versions coming later on in their roadmap. SAP has shared its plans for the different Industry Solutions, so it would be prudent to check SAP’s roadmap if you currently utilise a specific Industry Solution.

SAP is also working with its third-party vendors to provide add-ons to SAP ECC6 to ensure these tools will work with SAP S/4HANA and align with the new processes and functionality. New functionality is also being planned and realised. The majority of this additional functionality will be delivered via the main Feature Pack Support releases in October 2016 which is the next major release.

There are currently less than 300 SAP S/4HANA Fiori apps. I would expect this figure to double within a year, so if you are expecting or looking for a pure SAP Fiori ERP system, S/4HANA is not ready just yet.

Is your organisation ready?

Let’s be clear, the customers I am seeing move to SAP S/4HANA have a defined purpose for a new ERP system: from wanting to improve analytics with real time operational reporting, to enhancing their month end process, to cleansing an old ERP of its unused custom code and unwanted master data.

The ability to utilise some of the tools that come with SAP HANA is also a key driver, with a focus on being able to predict or recommend options for a user. In order to achieve this however, significant planning is required to ensure the correct delivery approach is selected and the necessary level of business input is budgeted for to meet the level of transformation that is expected.

Summary

There is no simple answer around the maturity of SAP S/4HANA. It is clear that it is “maturing”. For a high proportion of customers, significant benefits can be achieved with the current version of SAP S/4HANA (Finance and Enterprise Management).

Those customers I am talking to now who are considering SAP S/4HANA or working on a business case will find it to be a pretty mature solution come implementation. For those favouring a system conversion, looking at the solution as it is today, the jump is achievable. However, the further the product grows and matures, the bigger that jump will become and new installations will become even more popular.

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About the author

Mark Chalfen

Former SAP S/4HANA Global Lead

Mark tells it straight - as an ex-boxer, what else would you expect?  Both his knowledge and experience of SAP products allow him to cut to the chase dispelling myths and hearsay.

As a result of working closely with various SAP Finance Product Management teams on product development, Mark understands these products inside out. This depth of understanding has led to him become a ‘thought leader’ in his field; after all, it is not often SAP consultants have helped shape and develop the very product they are selling.

Having such a strong relationship with SAP alongside being an SAP Mentor and Moderator means that Mark has an extensive network within SAP. For clients, this relationship proves to be a huge advantage and leads to configuration issues being resolved rapidly.

Mark has worked on short proof of concepts through to year-long multi-million pound global roll-outs. However, no matter how large or small the project, the true value Mark brings to his work is in the guidance he provides to senior stakeholders. In essence, he assists them to implement more effective processes and drive better behaviours within their finance teams.

Helping organisations transform their business with SAP S/4HANA is Mark’s current focus. The benefits of S/4HANA are numerous, including the simplification of tasks, embedded analytics and improved user engagement. Whilst the eventual move from SAP Business Suite into S/4HANA is inevitable, the journey to it is not always clear. Mark’s ability to understand an organisation’s needs coupled with his deep understanding of S/4HANA provides clarity and eases their transition.

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