S/4HANA: More Than A Style Statement

|January 5, 2017 0
Hopping, crawling, or dissolving into this new avatar from the familiar gardens of ECC and well-worn ERP grooves is understandably more intricate, far-reaching and personality-redefining than a bold hair-cut. The pendulum swings back to the same question: Why should a CIO bother?

Pratima H

INDIA: “I’ll stop wearing black when they make a darker color.” Wednesday Addams could have been speaking of more things than one readily assumes here. Sometimes, some shades really get so ingrained, so easy to wear (and not tear), so effortless to carry, so universally worshipped – that going off the tack becomes incomprehensible. You never know when fashion turns into function and when function settles into a force.

In its early days, ECC or any other enterprise-skin-deep ERP would have been as ritzy as HANA or other in-memory thunderbolts started to look recently. But decades of use, boring-yet-cozy-intimacy and customiSation stitches have made them too comfortable and stretchable to get out of.



Weaning off ERP customers towards something as snazzy and new as S/4HANA is definitely a task cut out for SAP at the moment.

The missing piece of this puzzle is the conviction and confidence that this unheard-of fabric is as much about function as it is about fashion. Specially as customers would not be too quickly-inclined to zip away full-body scuba-suits when the fitting and accessory parts (with their price-tags) are still up in the fuzzy air.

Are there any Catherine de Medici’s in the CIO/CXO royalty around who dare to bring these new forks on the table? Are expenses, interfaces, process-meltdowns, data issues, run-time charges, financial and other asterisks too clumsy and clunky for people who know about S4HANA? Why is the new route any better than the precedent – the Suite on HANA or SoH? Is the new corset easy to breathe in?

Neeraj Athalye, Head of S/4HANA, SAP Indian Subcontinent takes them all in this chain of if-and-buts and exhales a confident clarity for those who still swear by their favourite color in ERP.

Are you excited by the contours SAP has been taking in India?

Yes, the adoption of SAP has always been exciting, whether it was the ECC days, or this phase from ECC to HANA. With the whole digital transformation wave, HANA adoption has become strong enough. HANA under the hood of ERP is a new digital core and would help to orchestrate enterprise-level processes in a radical way. The key cases of adoption range from the IoT ones to assets-side (manufacturing, engineering, retail etc.) to networks (suppliers, business partners, customers etc.)

What’s really new about S/4HANA as a product? (vs. R3, ECC)? Can you explain the run-time charges’ model for customers considering S/4HANA and how is it better (or otherwise) as the financial/investment option?

SAP S/4HANAis Sap’s next-generation business suite, and like I said, it is providing a digital core for organizations. It is a new product fully-built on SAP HANA, one of the most advanced in-memory platforms today, employing modern design principles with the SAP Fiori user experience. SAP S/4HANA brings unprecedented innovations and simplifications to customers, combined with more than 40 years of experience across industries, in a completely re-imagined business suite only possible with SAP HANA.

SAP S/4HANA delivers massive simplifications in areas such as customer adoption, data model, user experience, decision making, business processes, and models. And it offers innovations for IoT, Big Data, business networks, and mobile-first to help businesses Run Simple in the digital economy.

Like? Any examples?

Few of the new process level simplifications and innovations in S/4HANA are like these: With in-memory technology and embedded analytics, S/4HANA provides instant, real time insight for better decisions. Because of its maximized throughput and speed, as well as its native integration into SAP solutions, S/4HANA gives greater performance. Also, S/4HANA uses a simplified architecture with a lean data footprint, and cloud deployment, to lower the total cost of ownership.

That’s interesting to delve into. What are the perceived or on-ground barriers in terms of financial investments, fine-print costs and other consideration points that may worry some prospects?

Some of those are easy to reckon with. There is an infrastructure angle that arises when moving to HANA that works on HANA-approved hardware. Those customers, who are incidentally in a hardware-refresh cycle, will find this is the right time. Implementation costs are there but they are not of the kind that constitutes a barrier, as how I see it. You have to consider this element with the fact that the metrics that CXOs used some years back have changed in a drastic way, almost flipping on their head. From a KPI of ‘how much percentage dollar of revenue’, the metric for a CIO has become so much IT-centric and business-defining that one needs disruptive elements to move forward.

How can CIOs or CXOs be assured of what they are getting into if they move to S4?

I can offer five perspectives here. First, the CEO perspective – how can I improve profitability, where speed and agility matters? Second, the CIO or CDO angle – How do I mobilise organisation’s resources better and in a way that fits in this new era; and how can I simplify infrastructure here? Third, SAP offers 25 different industry solutions with industry modules. Fourth, the process perspective: here some processes are going to drastically change with this implementation; and real-time decision-making instead of point-in-time reporting will become the new status-quo. Then, there is the next level of cognitive, predictive and process-centric analytics. And of course, there is the CoB point of view where not just the vertical focus but functional-add-ons for sales, procurement, and quality control folks happen.

All these angles make S/4HANA quite a proposition, stronger than the competition and I can say that there is absolutely no one around in the entire ecosystem that can come closer to what we can offer.

Do customers need to invest in interfaces and other SAP footprint too? (Would this imply any data-lock-in concerns since everything would be under SAP ambit for core and other apps, d/b etc.)?

Customer is at the core everything we do. It would be misconception that the benefits to customers that SAP HANA provides as the engine behind a digital transformation are only applicable to SAP applications. The truth is that many existing non-SAP systems and applications will continue to run on SAP HANA. Typically, any client-server application that runs on most programming languages and on a relational database can run on SAP HANA and achieve significant benefits.

Neeraj A, SAP

Neeraj A, SAP

The main point to keep in mind is that moving non-SAP applications to SAP HANA does not have to mean discarding current investments in tailor-made competitive and unique business logic. Protecting current investments is possible because existing non-SAP applications are not reimplemented on SAP HANA, but are rather moved onto it.

Can you walk us through the options available?

Yes, additionally, SAP offers 2 licensed and compliant methods amongst others for interfacing SAP Solutions with non-SAP Solutions-

• SAP PI (Process Integration based on Exchange Infrastructure) – It takes the responsibility of integrating different SAP and non-SAP systems in the Heterogeneous Landscape (network of different computers). PI acts as Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) Middleware and forms the backbone of SOA in SAP environment.

• SAP HCP – Hana Cloud Platform – SAP HANA Cloud Platform is an open-extension platform that simplifies integration with SAP and non-SAP solutions. SAP HCP provides the unique ability to connect devices to business transactions, as well as allows companies to build business networks, offering enterprises the ability to scale and innovate while opening up new channels, partner ecosystems, and revenue opportunities.

And no hassles of data-lock-ins?

If the customer is using S/4HANA Private or Public Cloud, we offer multiple methods of retrieving, migrating, archiving or deleting data. The appropriate method is selected based on customer requirements and end result expected.

ERP, in the trenches, is a lot about customisation. Can security and tweaks work easily enough for HANA options now?

Let me explain this with the scooter-and-side-car analogy here. One has to keep the scooter clean that is HANA, well-looked-after in terms of security updates. The side-car or the cloud is where one can keep doing customisations and then plug it to the scooter without any worry. Those who are evolved will do the customisation not to the core but to the cloud.

What’s your stance on the SAP security vulnerabilities for older software versions that keep coming up?

SAP stands for secure and reliable software solutions. We at SAP takes the security of its products very seriously, with a comprehensive secure software development lifecycle process, clear quality and security standards for software development, and a dedicated Product Security Response process in place as the most visible evidences of its commitment.

The SAP Product Security Response team is responsible for investigating all reported security vulnerabilities, working closely with reporters of vulnerabilities and SAP product development to provide patches, and informing customers about the patches and their importance.

We also have a SAP Standard for Security that aims to protect the company’s critical business processes and assets, as well as to ensure compliance with external regulations and standards, such as data protection laws and the Sarbanes Oxley Act (SOX). As a vendor of business software we provide security fixes not only for the latest version, but also for many older versions of our software products.

Hence, we need to develop patches for a broad range of product versions. The deployment of patches for SAP enterprise systems is usually more complicated than a software upgrade on a consumer PC. Our recommendation to all of our customers is to implement SAP security patches as soon as they are available. Timely security patching of SAP systems is the best policy to protect the SAP infrastructure from attacks.

Shouldn’t someone be worried about the impact on processes that moving away from earlier systems to something as new as S/4HANA could lead to?

Once someone makes the shift, there would be tremendous simplification of processes besides the speed and performance factors that would be come in. It is now about a brand new approach to business and a whole new way of working.

Finally, do you think that enough of the right people know about S/4HANA and in the right way?

Yes. Look at the level of noise that is there in government and analyst circles and the excitement around digital transformation. We have enough and more customers aware about it and what remains now is to adequately answer the questions that are coming up. GST is going to be quite a transformation in that context and we are very ready for the big leaps.

No Comments so fars

Jump into a conversation

No Comments Yet!

You can be the one to start a conversation.