Burning questions following SAP S/4HANA announcement

Profile picture for user brianssommer By Brian Sommer February 11, 2015
Summary:
A near constant buzz in back channels, customer inquires and public debate fuel many questions for SAP about S/4HANA. Try this checklist.

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Very few of us would confuse a wedding announcement with the actual wedding. The former is merely a stated intent with few known details (e.g., the couple may not have even set a date yet) while the latter delivers the marriage at a specified date, time, place, etc. Software announcements, like wedding announcements, are often vague, non-specific things that cry out for clarity and specificity.

I find the lack of specificity especially frustrating when it comes it to software announcements. The recent S/4HANA event was right there with lots of hope and few details.

I wasn’t in New York City for the full-day S/4HANA media announcement. All I got was the televised one-hour announcement. At the end, I had a lot of unanswered questions. So as a public service for SAP customers here are my open items. Feel free to get answers to these questions before deciding the next phase of your SAP experience. If you have already received answers or assurances then feel free to add them into the comments. This is a constantly moving target so don't expect the list to get any shorter!

Product

  • Can we get a release map showing SAP’s best guess as to when the functional and vertical modules will be ready under S/4HANA?
    • Please confirm that the HCM piece of the solution is not in the current announcement. Note: we understand SuccessFactors moves off Oracle in 2015-16
    • Please confirm that SAP Simple Finance is the lead off functionality that will be the first available product grouping.
    • Please provide a functional comparison between Simple Financials and financials as it currently exists in the Business Suite.
  • The S4HANA products will be similar in functionality to the Enterprise Suite applications not the newer Business ByDesign products. Correct?
    • Might I usefully consider Business ByDesign alongside S/4HANA for future Tier-2 implementations in my large group of business entities?
  • Aren’t the S/4HANA applications essentially using the same or similar data model as the predecessor R/3 applications?
    • Why didn’t this change?
      • Was this to more easily migrate existing customers?
      • Shouldn’t the data model change to support more modern nuanced business models (digital economy firms), video (not just textual transactional data), big data (as part of the IoT phenomena), analytics-driven (not internal transactional driven) firms, etc.? Was this a missed opportunity?
    • When applications are tweaked/rewritten for S/4HANA, user customizations will not carry over. Correct?
    • When SAP reworks its applications for S4HANA, it must make some substantive I/O changes as it is not simply replacing ABAP I/O calls with HANA DB calls. All of the enhancements to in-memory and reductions in data redundancy are impacting how applications access data. Correct?
    • The Fiori UI technology was discussed as part of the new applications look and feel. I don’t recall any mention of Personas. Will Personas be part of S/4HANA? How?
    • The old UI, by SAP’s own estimates, had over 300,000 unique screens and also includes UI’s from acquired firms like FieldGlass, Concur, Ariba, SuccessFactors, etc.
      • Will all of these be replaced with Fiori-like UI going forward?
      • How will all of this get done in a timely and economical manner?
      • What assurances can you give customers and prospects that new UIs can be created with speed and clarity?
    • How will the initial S/4HANA products will be delivered?
      • What is the timetable for the different flavors of deployment like on-premises, hosted, public cloud etc.?

Money

Existing Customers

  • Will S/4HANA be free to Enterprise Suite customers who are current on maintenance?
  • What is the ROI for this product migration?
    • Specifically, where will customers see material financial savings?
      • Hardware
      • Systems software
      • Application software costs
      • Maintenance costs
      • Internal labor costs (e.g., patching, upgrading, troubleshooting)
    • Is SAP planning this upgrade to be cost neutral, lower cost or higher cost for its customers? If not a lower cost solution, what is the justification for this? Shouldn’t this product line cost less to implement, own and support?
    • For those customers using Enterprise Suite on-premises with Oracle’s RDBMS, what can SAP do to help these customers reduce their third-party database license or maintenance costs?
      • Without this relief, aren’t SAP customers missing a key cost savings?
    • Integrators usually see pronounced opportunities to increase their revenues whenever a vendor triggers a major upgrade cycle. For customers who have completed multi-year, and in some cases billion-dollar, implementations, how exactly are these firms going to minimize their need for third-parties?
    • How should existing customers start to plan for this upgrade cycle?
      • Where can they get budget templates?
      • What are probable timeframes for completing these upgrades?
      • Can a customer only upgrade the FI (finance) functionality to Simple Finance while leaving the rest of their Enterprise Suite on the old technology stack?
        • How kludgy will that be?
        • Is that even an option?
        • Is this an all-or-nothing upgrade? If not, what are the logical upgrade chunks?
      • Has SAP created a briefing book that CIOs can share with their executive team for this change?

Net New Customers

  • Much of the focus of the announcement was clearly aimed at helping existing customers move their Enterprise Suite solutions to a more modern technology stack. That stack includes in-memory capabilities, faster processing, etc. But, outside of the technology stack refresh, what is there to entice net new firms to select S/4HANA?
  • Why would a CIO choose SAP’s products right now?
    • If they select the Enterprise Suite, they might have to/want to upgrade this again soon to the S/4HANA solution. That seems very expensive.
    • If they select the S/4HANA solution, what can they really implement for now? Just SAP Simple Finance?
    • Is a CIO or other buyer supposed to be more interested in the acquired cloud applications (e.g., Ariba) until more of S/4HANA becomes available?

Migration

  • What utilities will be provided to make the transition as easy as possible?
    • Are these an extra cost item?
  • Where do your integration partners stand in their development of migration utilities?
  • What new skills (e.g., big data analytics, in-memory computing, etc.) should integrators possess so that they do a great job of migrating existing customers to the new S/4HANA solutions?
  • How will prior customizations be accommodated in the S/4HANA environment?

Integration

  • How will customers integrate the Simple Finance cloud product to an on-premises Enterprise Suite solution?
    • Will this be a SAP tool or a tool sourced from third parties?
  • How will customers integrate the Simple Finance cloud product to other SAP cloud products like Ariba, SuccessFactors, etc.?
    • Will this remain an SAP tool or is it being replaced with something else?

Disclosure: SAP is a premier partner at time of writing