SAP S/4HANA: What customers want to know

21 July 2015

Mark Chalfen

Mark Chalfen

Former SAP S/4HANA Global Lead

Since the announcement of SAP S/4HANA I have been working with a number of customers to help them understand what it could mean to them. The noise SAP has made around S/4HANA has definitely reached the mature customer base and whilst they aren’t all going out and implementing it today, serious thought and planning is taking place to ensure SAP S/4HANA is on their future SAP roadmap.

Here I want to share some of the common themes and questions that I’m hearing and the advice/answers that I’ve provided.

What is SAP S/4HANA?

For obvious reasons this is the most common question asked. The answer to this is a blog post in itself, or even a series of posts. A good starting point is The SAP® Business Suite 4 SAP HANA® (SAP S/4HANA) FAQ by John Appleby.

It’s worth noting that following the question around what SAP S/4HANA is, the conversation tends to move to questions around Cloud or On-premise editions/versions. The messaging that customers have heard does not go down to the version of S/4HANA and therefore people assume the versions are the same, which is not the case.

How does this impact what people see? 

I get a lot of questions relating to the SAP Fiori screens as there are some customers that require access to the traditional Gui for SAP Business Suite transactions. It is worth noting that the On-premise version of S/4HANA allows the user-base to access the new SAP Fiori screens as well as access to the traditional routes. The Cloud-based solution will not have access to the traditional SAP Gui screens, only the SAP Fiori screens. Customers with users who have used SAP Gui for many years believe that it would be hard to move them to SAP Fiori screens as they are comfortable using the old ones. It’s worth throwing in that those who have an SAP user-base made up of generation Z users should look at the SAP Fiori screens as this would align to the expectations around the user experience.

SAP Suite on HANA or SAPS/4HANA?

SAP Business Suite on HANA has been available for more than two and half years and there are over 1000 instances currently live globally. S/4HANA is the next step on the journey from the traditional SAP Business Suite. A number of customers are asking what the difference between the two versions is and whether they need to break their journey to SAP S/4HANA into two steps.

There isn’t a single answer to this question as different factors will influence the decision a customer will make. There are pro’s and con’s for each of these approaches. Some common themes to consider are:

  • Moving to SAP Business Suite on HANA requires just an Enhancement Pack upgrade to Enhancement Package 7 (if you’re not there already) and a database upgrade. The ‘just’ is around the steps you need to perform, it does not mean this is a simple approach
  • Moving to SAP Business Suite on HANA will introduce the benefits of HANA to a Business Suite environment. Benefits include compression, speed and real-time analysis
  • SAP S/4HANA is an additional upgrade step to SAP Business Suite on HANA. You need to activate the Finance add-on (the latest version is SFIN200)
  • With SAP S/4HANA you get access to new SAP Fiori screens, a simplified data structure (the universal structure) and new apps and processes such as Integrated Business Planning and the Cash Management app.

Some of the points will be more compelling than others and that will sway your decision around moving to SAP Suite on HANA or SAP S/4HANA.

What are the use cases for SAP S/4HANA?

Customers are at different stages on the SAP Business Suite journey. Some have been using SAP Business Suite in some form or another for a few years or even a couple of decades. Some have heavily bespoked solutions and others have fairly vanilla solutions. Some have many SAP ECC instances and want to simplify and others have complex reporting structures with SAP BW.

It is evident that SAP is not forcing customers to SAP S/4HANA. The extension of the maintenance on the core SAP Business Suite 6 solution does not mean customers have a burning platform. However customers are aware of the benefits of SAP HANA and the need to simplify.

Organisations are looking at how they can sell SAP S/4HANA internally. Some see system simplification as the driver (migrating many SAP instances into a single one, or removing non SAP systems and replacing them with some SAP S/4HANA process). Some are focusing on the benefit the Finance team will get with the improved data model and the reduction in effort during month end and the overall finance team. Others are focussing on moving to a more forward thinking approach and the ability to reduce processing time, by utilising SAP Fiori and getting additional layers of data for reporting and access to tools such as HANA live and Lumira.


Whilst awareness of SAP S/4HANA is strong, understanding of what the product actually means and does is not so great. There is a lot of confusion around the options and the versions available. Focus on how to approach SAP S/4HANA and how to get there depend on where customers are within their SAP Business Suite journey.

What is clear is that SAP S/4HANA is appearing on customers’ SAP roadmaps. Some will be in the short-term and others will be pushed further back.

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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

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