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Getting to Know: SAP S/4HANA – A Primer

This blog is the introductory post of a four part series which will help those interested in understanding SAP S/4HANA.  The series will cover the following topics:

  • Firstly, getting to Know: SAP S/4HANA – A Primer
  • Getting to Know: SAP S/4HANA AnyPremise
  • Getting to Know: SAP S/4HANA Cloud – Essentials & Extended Editions
  • Finally, getting to Know: SAP S/4HANA on Hyperscalers

SAP S/4HANA Explained

SAP S/4HANA is SAP’s 4th generation enterprise resource planning business suite. It is a “NextGen ERP” solution.  The “S” stands for simplified, the “4” designates that it is 4th generation, and “HANA” is SAP’s in-memory “columnar data structure” computing data model.

The underpinnings of SAP S/4HANA are simplified business processes on a more efficient and robust code base, thus allowing streamlined business integration both native to SAP but also via extensible solutions to 3rd party systems and platforms.

Is SAP S/4HANA truly simple?  Yeah, well…kind of…

Initially, enterprise resource planning software started with the key functional areas of Finance & Accounting and then quickly moved into Material & Inventory Management and subsequently into the realm where entire enterprises and corporations are run through full value-chain lifecycles.  Throughout this ERP journey spanning dozens of sectors and industries a common theme has emerged…namely, the vast majority of organizations have the exact same core processes. Those processes are NOT the value differentiators (i.e. secret sauce).  Therefore, we are seeing ERP providers shifting to “simplified” business processes, user experience, and technology enablers.

SAP has embarked on this initiative for the past several years, initially back in 2015 with the SAP HANA columnar data model which is the backbone of SAP S/4HANA.  SAP had initially taken a pragmatic approach to building it out, they introduced products such as SAP Simple Logistics and SAP Simple Finance; these products were received with “lukewarm” reception whereas they lacked robust “end-to-end” solutions and in some cases integration to other business critical applications required from an ERP perspective.  Hence,, within the past few years SAP has taken a dramatic step forward, they’ve shaken up their leadership ranks, placed uber emphasis not only on product strategy and development but also product maturity of SAP S/4HANA.

The Mixed News of SAP S/4HANA…

Whereas SAP has it’s origins in the “on-premise” world; SAP historically lags in the ever popular “cloud” movement. There are mixed messages and divergent product strategies in years past. Further, this is not only from SAP but also from competitors, system integrators, and industry analysts; much to the dismay and displeasure of the all important SAP customer.

The Good News of SAP S/4HANA…

Over the past 18-24 months, under the leadership of Jan Gilg, Sven Denecken, Dr. Wieland Schreiner and others at SAP have steered its product strategy and development landscape into a cohesive solution. Further, a solution with multiple ways of consuming the product.  Whether on-premise or cloud based, SAP customers have multiple ways to deploy their solution based on their business strategy or requirements.  And yes, it is simpler… From the user experience to many of the business processes. Further, to the underlying data structure and code base from many of the predecessor SAP products.

In subsequent blogs in the coming weeks, we will be looking at SAP S/4HANA deployment options, namely:

  • Firstly, SAP S/4HANA AnyPremise
  • SAP S/4HANA Cloud – Essentials & Extended Editions
  • Finally, SAP S/4HANA on Hyperscalers


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Adam Anderson is Mindset Consulting’s Managing Director of SAP, Managed Services, & Delivery Excellence. He's held executive leadership roles both in consulting and in industry throughout his career and a former SAP Customer Advisory Council member for SAP S/4HANA Cloud and holds certifications as an SAP Solution Architect and Systems Integration & Technology Delivery Lead. His passion is driving business innovation through business-led, technology enabled solutions via a simple, standard, and efficient mindset. Adam lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with his wife and three children, and can often be found ferrying the family around to baton twirling competitions and football games.

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