This winter, when SAP Co-Founder and Chairman Hasso Plattner introduced SAP Business Suite 4 SAP HANA (SAP S/4HANA) to the world, he began by offering a glimpse into SAP HANA’s nascent beginnings. Realizing that his students at the Hasso Plattner Institute were bored by lectures on stodgy enterprise systems, Plattner corralled a small team and set out to develop rules and requirements that captured his vision for the future of enterprise software. Rule number one, Plattner said, was to create a database with zero response time.
Today, that vision is behind everything SAP is doing to help our customers run their businesses smarter, faster, and simpler. Organizations all over the world are asking the same questions Plattner posed to himself, even putting technology aside for a moment: What if we didn’t have to wait for anything? What if we didn’t have to wait for information to process, or for reports to run? What if running the entire business in real time was just the natural order of how things worked?
Just the act of posing these questions is a springboard to innovation because the answers help a company reimagine its business processes. Present CFOs with the scenario of not having to wait a week for the books to close and they’ll reel off an extensive list of the various ways they could use a real-time cash position to drive profit and reduce costs.
And while SAP HANA can help solve such business challenges, it’s so much more than that. The purpose behind SAP HANA is not just to run one application or line of business, but to use it to reimagine the business as a whole, from bringing new, innovative products and services to market, to innovating in the cloud. Four years after its general release, SAP HANA now represents a fabric, if you will, that can radically simplify how an organization runs its business applications, runs in the cloud, and capitalizes on macro-trends such as big data, Internet of Things (IoT), and Industry 4.0.
Blanketed in Success
Of course, just as fabric is woven into something of higher value, so too can SAP HANA create further value by being more than a unifying enterprise platform. Customers ultimately care about use cases — how can SAP HANA help them get the most out of the applications that they want to use? This is the premise behind SAP S/4HANA, as the natural evolution progressing from using SAP HANA as the underlying platform to actually building a game-changing application on top of it.
SAP S/4HANA delivers on the promise of Plattner’s first rule of thumb for the future of enterprise software: to run a business with a response time of zero. Understanding and accepting the fact that SAP HANA is the underlying fabric, SAP S/4HANA leverages this concept for the core business suite, for cloud applications, for all of the macro-trends, and provides organizations with the ability to achieve that new and reimagined business model in which latency is a thing of the past.
Re-Engineered for Simplicity
To understand SAP S/4HANA, it helps to look at it not so much as a singular product, but rather as the sum of its parts. To use an analogy, applications such as SAP Simple Finance and SAP Simple Logistics are to SAP S/4HANA what Microsoft Excel or Word are to the Microsoft Office suite. For the back-office end user, this means ease of use (powered by SAP Fiori) and simplicity. From a technical perspective, every application that runs on SAP S/4HANA is predicated on SAP HANA, promoting simplicity on the backend.
For a truly reimagined business and to put latency permanently in the rearview mirror, SAP had to look at changing how applications that run on top of SAP HANA store data and ultimately discover ways to increase profit and reduce costs within that data. SAP S/4HANA was engineered with the intention of significantly reducing complexity in the data model. With SAP Simple Finance, for example, thousands of tables and views were reduced to four or fewer. This is huge, because the basis for re-engineering the business suite is that complex data models produce complex business processes. If the core operational data for a business is simple to store, manage, and understand, then the business processes that support it will be equally simple to work with.
The SAP “Run Simple” message is two-fold: It represents SAP’s commitment to create radically simplified solutions, and a vision that customers will be able to leverage this simplified solution set to deliver innovations to their customers.
Stitching Together Innovation
Another key to simplification is SAP HANA Cloud Platform, the in-memory platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offering that extends the value of SAP HANA to allow customers to customize the look and feel of their business applications. An organization running a mix of on-premise and cloud solutions can use SAP HANA Cloud Platform to spin up a custom application on top of, say, SAP ERP Financials and SuccessFactors data in a matter of hours. This is just one example of the radical simplification that SAP HANA is starting to drive, and not just on the backend as mentioned previously.
SAP HANA Cloud Platform crystallizes this concept that the fabric is in place to give organizations the tools they need when they answer the key question, “What would happen if I run this business process with a zero response time?” SAP S/4HANA is of course a large part of helping to make this a reality, but it’s important to remember that while this builds on SAP HANA as the foundational fabric, it’s not the only important thread. SAP has enabled organizations to have a complete end-to-end, cloud-based business as well as a dramatically simplified business suite.
The SAP “Run Simple” message is two-fold. On one hand, it represents SAP’s commitment to create radically simplified solutions that are easier to adopt and run. On the other, it is a vision that customers will be able to leverage this simplified solution set to deliver new products, innovations, and services to their customers. Of course, both aspects depend greatly on SAP’s trusted and valued partner community; both in helping customers understand the real business benefits from SAP HANA, as well as leveraging SAP HANA Cloud Platform to help strengthen the fabric. Simplified enterprise software also trickles down to the partner community; now, rather than focusing on integration, they can be part of the push to innovate with SAP HANA to drive value.
SAP has put the fabric of innovation in place — we look forward to seeing the finished products that arise as a result.