As the end of support for SAP ECC looms, the option of migrating to SAP…
Introduction and Highlights of SAP S/4HANA 1809
SAP announced the availability of SAP S/4HANA 1809 in September of 2018. This is the fourth annual release of a major update to the S/4HANA product. It overtakes S/4HANA 1709 as the most current version of the software. 1809 includes a number of technical advances that augment the evolving digital core and the new “Intelligent ERP” approach that defines the S/4HANA strategy. It also introduces a range of functional and industry-specific innovations.
Overview – the Evolving Digital Core and Intelligent ERP
To understand the impact of S/4HANA 1809, it’s necessary to grasp the bigger picture of SAP’s evolving digital core and the rise of intelligent ERP. At a high level, S/4HANA is the new platform for ERP. It is meant to supplement the older SAP Business Suite. S/4HANA runs atop the SAP HANA in-memory database, which improves performance and offers expanded capabilities beyond those of a traditional RDBMS platform. It works with the new SAP Fiori UX, which modernizes the user interface and introduces a more fluid, API-centric architecture for SAP landscapes.
SAP views S/4HANA as the foundation of a new kind of intelligent enterprise, one with a scalable and powerful core ERP capability. This vision is based on three premises: A UX for the digital age, which enables a hands-free experience; Automation, with ERP functionality augmented through Machine Learning (ML) provided by SAP Leonardo; and next-generation processes.
What SAP calls the “New Generation of Intelligent ERP” is built on a new digital core. The digital core is defined by four characteristics:
- Architecture for a scalable foundation, with a high level of automation
- Support for real-time analytics, which are embedded in processes – these include simulation, decision support and prediction capabilities
- Faster implementation, along with rapid adaptation to changing requirements
- Open architecture to support micro services and a high level of connectedness
S/4HANA 1809 continues to enhance and refine all of these characteristics. This is the essence of 1809’s technical feature upgrades. It makes another step toward the realization of the vision of an intelligent enterprise and intelligent ERP.
Transition in Versions from S/4HANA 1709 to S/4HANA 1809
S/4HANA 1809 also introduces a host of innovations, that are specific to lines of business (LoBs) and industry verticals. LoB innovations include improvements to Finance capabilities. Goods and Invoice Receipt Reconciliation will now leverage ML, for example. Central Procurement gets simplified in order to increase transparency for multiple procurement systems.
Demand-Driven Replenishment in Manufacturing lets users manage supply chains based on customer demand. Previously, this was a matter for Materials Requirement Planning (MRP) procedures. Inventory management is also now improved by the inclusion of predictive analytics.
In Sales functionality, S/4HANA 1809 now makes natural language available through an additive technology called “SAP CoPilot”. This advance lets sales people engage in intuitive dialogues with CoPilot to track orders and related processes. CoPilot allows for user communication with SAP S/4HANA through voice or text. This is the basis for “hands-free ERP.” For example, a user can ask S/4HANA to show a customer’s open sales orders for a given period of time by saying, “Show me open orders for X-Corp for the week of June 1.” CoPilot will then facilitate a response from S/4HANA that shows the open orders.
SAP Finance contains several intelligent innovations in its 1809 iteration. Predictive accounting is one example. To illustrate how this works, consider what happens when a sales order gets confirmed, but will not be recorded in the general ledger until the goods are actually delivered and the order is invoiced. Under predictive accounting, the system will issue a predictive order for goods and a predictive invoice.
Industry specific innovations affect Retail and Fashion, Banking, Public Sector and more. For Banking, 1809 introduces enhancements to Loans and Deposits Management. In the Public Sector, SAP 1809 simplifies the system architecture. Utilities can take advantage of new analysis capabilities in meter reading. Insurance companies gain new features for product configuration with S/4HANA 1809.
Transition to SAP S/4HANA
The release of S/4HANA 1809 also introduces improvements to tools for the adoption of S/4HANA itself. The S/4HANA transition can be challenging, so SAP has endeavored to make tooling available to facilitate the process. In 1809, users will find:
- Readiness Check – Before you convert your SAP ERP system to S/4HANA, you can run this tool to summarize the key planning aspects for the conversion process. It will look at issues like custom code, add-ons, business functions and so forth, and then offer recommendations for the transition.
- Migration Cockpit: This tool offers content to guide the migration process. Its goal is to speed the overall time to value in the transition to S/4HANA. This includes effective data migration and the integration of custom-built objects.
- Transformation Navigator: This is a self-service tool. It provides guidance for all industries and LoBs, reflecting business priorities and IT strategy.
Working with an SAP Partner for the Transition to S/4HANA 1809
Making the move to S/4HANA 1809 takes planning and careful execution. As SAP notes: it’s a transition, not an upgrade. It requires analysis of business processes and data management. Ensure you find a provider who can help you with this process from start to finish and that they have proven experience working with customers in the planning and execution of the S/4HANA migration.