There has been a great deal of chatter and hype in the industry on the topic of S/4HANA. There are three reasons why I am excited about S/4HANA. For me, it comes down to simplicity, agility and non-disruptive migration. The trouble is these really sound like overused clichés.
To be honest, at first I was aggravated when SAP used the word “simple”. Over the past few decades SAP has been anything but simple. My entire business has been focussed on trying to simplify SAP in a way that it delivers real benefit to our customers. In the process, we have engaged in many heated debates to deliver simplicity. To be fair, handling 282,000 companies and 25 industries is bound to lead to some complexity.
Business users have always demanded better performance, quicker response times, and information at their fingertips. However, databases have simply not been fast enough to accommodate their demands. Therefore, complex workarounds had to be built into software like SAP. Much of this involved maintaining a number of aggregate tables, so that when a user wanted a total of some sort, we were not slowed down by long waits while the calculation was performed. Software engineers had to pre-empt different user demands which lead to dozens of different aggregate tables being maintained.
With the introduction of a faster database that can calculate these totals on the fly, we are on a road to a number of improvements:
- Far fewer tables so the software engineer can focus all their development time building stunning software with an improved user experience (instead of 80% of their time dedicated to ensuring integrity and performance). We are already seeing massive leaps forward in improved user experience in the form of SAP Fiori.
- Far fewer tables also simplifies the life of the ordinary accountant who wants to self-serve through ad-hoc queries. Everything is available through fewer tables/cubes, and can be reported real time from the core ERP system. The accountant does not need to worry about choosing the “right table” – there is only one to choose from. The accountant doesn’t have to worry about performance, the database can handle it. No complex expert knowledge required.
All of this comes down to a very real and noticeable impact for our finance analysts and decision makers. Simpler to use both in terms of ability to know where to go to get access to data, and a better user experience.
In my next blog I will address the point of how S/4HANA improves agility.