S/4HANA Takes Center Stage at SAP TechEd

The recent SAP TechEd conference in Las Vegas once again provided an excellent opportunity to hear from SAP developers about the technical direction of their software offerings, as well as from SAP users and partners. At North America’s 20th SAP TechEd event, the sessions and show floor were buzzing with discussions about S/4HANA—the SAP ERP business suite built on SAP’s proprietary Operational Database System and in-memory computing platform called SAP HANA.

The Good News

It appears that the S/4HANA application finally seems to be settling down and the platform “winners” are being finalized. This is truly good news for customers and partners, who can now begin really analyzing its true capabilities and benefits for road map decisions.

Some of the concerns we heard SAP customers mention were around the effort, cost, and complexity of their current SAP landscape and uncertainty about S/4HANA’s ultimate business benefits. Also, some users were still doing major ECC-related projects and simply weren’t ready to think about S/4HANA yet.

A Bit of Reality

TechEd attendees were definitely looking for information on the options available to migrate to S4 and/or HANA. A substantial amount of attendees we spoke with reported not even being on a HANA database.

There were some points raised by customers of slow performance on a HANA database, depending on configuration and application design, so it was interesting to note that HANA is not a silver bullet that is always incredibly fast. The takeaway? HANA requires careful and skilled implementation or the advertised performance improvements may be hard to achieve.

For a few users, handling of data in the HANA database is determined in terms of where the data resides, based on whether the data is hot, warm, or cold. It seems like this will be a challenging new area for IT resources to manage.

In addition to S/4HANA, attendees at this tech conference were interested in how they could apply the relatively new functionality that SAP is promoting, such as Fiori, data modelling with CDS views, mobile, cloud, and predictive analytics.

Technical Developments

Perhaps the biggest product announcement at TechEd was the introduction of SAP BW4/HANA, a replacement—after 20 years—for SAP Business Warehouse (BW). The SAP BW/4 HANA is built on top of SAP HANA platform specifically to address the digital business needs on cloud and on premise.

One announcement of interest to programmers and administrators was the availability of SAP HANA Express Edition. This is a downloadable version of the HANA in-memory platform that can be installed almost anywhere. The version of SAP HANA that comes with Express Edition contains most—but not all—HANA features.

Customers Share Experiences

A number of SAP users were at TechEd to discuss company experiences working with the ERP software. We were pleased to have Dana Inc., a multi-billion dollar automotive manufacturer; IHS Markit, a provider of market data and intelligence solutions; and Foss Maritime, an American shipping company on hand to share how their IT teams have leveraged Excel add-on software for SAP to help their Finance and Controlling users become self-sufficient. These customers participated in a panel session to discuss the Excel reporting and uploading challenges they faced, how they evaluated the add-on software, and the results of enabling their business users to build and maintain their own reports and upload templates. Dana Inc. also discussed the challenges of using one ECC Central Ledger for multiple manufacturing plants in different countries.