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John Appleby on HANA's Evolution and SAP S/4HANA

by John Appleby

March 17, 2015

In this podcast, John Appleby, SAP Mentor and Global Head of SAP HANA for Bluefin Solutions, shares his perspectives changing customer perception of SAP HANA, and what the S/4HANA release means for customers and SAP.
Listen to this interview, held at the HANA 2015 conference in Las Vegas, or read the transcript excerpt here:

Ken Murphy, SAPinsider: Hi, this is Ken Murphy with SAPinsider. I am at the SAPinsider BI and HANA 2015 event here in Las Vegas. And I am here at the event right now with John Appleby, who is the Global Head of SAP HANA for Bluefin Solutions.
John, thanks for taking time out of your day to join us….How is the conference going for you so far? 

John Appleby, Bluefin Solutions:  Thanks, Ken, for the opportunity to speak again with you. I mean, it’s just incredible how this conference has come from… you know…it is the third year of this conference, is that right?

Ken Murphy: HANA? This is its second year. 

John Appleby: The second year. The maturity of the content, the quality of the content, the quantity of the content, the number of people who are interested is just -- it’s almost overwhelming. Just amazing how the interest has come along since the announcement. It didn’t exist in 2011, that’s all I can say.

Ken Murphy: And obviously another topic coming out of this conference is now SAP S/4HANA. We spoke in January, did a podcast, and we talked then about support pack 9. Since then obviously SAP has had the announcement last month on S/4HANA, and we heard Quentin Clark talk about it quite a bit at the keynote.  So let’s talk about that: What is SAP S/4HANA and, if you can address it, the strategic importance to SAP?  

John Appleby: The short version is real simple. S/4HANA is a replacement to SAP R/3, which was created 23 years ago. Everything that came since then has really been an extension to R/3 — so mySAP, Business Suite 7, Innovations, all of that was building on the R/3 platform. S/4HANA will replace the R/3 platform over time. 

Ken Murphy: If I’m an existing customer running Suite on HANA, what are the differences?

John Appleby: There are two main things. One is that S/4 will only run on SAP’s platform and stack, so it is a move away from an open platform strategy to a closed platform strategy. And the second thing is that, along with that will come a renovation of the existing processes — a simplification of those processes — and a renewal of the user interfaces using the Fiori user interface rather than the SAPGUI user interface.

And also, I expect there to be shift towards digital innovation that the rest of the world has got going on. So a move to doing new processes that weren’t done before, or completely changing existing processes with new functionality. A shift away from just core ERP and into consumer, digital, the internet of things. So the S/4 platform will be much more than R/3 was.

Ken Murphy: And everything then is optimized for HANA. 

John Appleby: Yeah, I mean, that’s Job 1. Job 1 is optimize for HANA. Job 2 is renew the interface.  Job 3 is simplify the entire code line from an installation perspective. And then Job 4 is to do new things.

Ken Murphy: And so then from a business standpoint, it brings a lot of advantages to customers. 

John Appleby:  Well, SAP has cast their die in this respect. So R/3 will end of life in 2025.  That’s giving customers lots of time. But they have to eventually either move to S/4HANA, which will presumably have a 20-, 25-year lifespan, or move to something else.

Ken Murphy: So what is the migration path for the customer?  What do companies need to do to prepare? 

John Appleby: The first thing to note here is that R/3 is a 23-year, mature product, and S/4 is a new product. Customer journeys are going to be measured in years from now, not months from now. So if the details are a little bit sketchy, we shouldn’t worry about that too much right now. That will come in time, especially at the SAPPHIRE conference.

So S/4HANA is available in a public cloud, a private cloud, or on-premise. The cloud versions will have quarterly releases, and the on-premise will have yearly releases and will lag the cloud releases. That’s deliberate and reflects the buying patterns of on-premise. 

The first wave is coming in March. That will support three business scenarios — I’m trying to remember this stuff off the top of my head and I think I’ve got that —  [and] one is the straight Simple Finance that’s already available as part of the Suite on HANA package.

Ken Murphy: Lastly, can you leave us with what are you taking away from this event, from all the people you’ve been speaking to in the exhibit hall and throughout the conference? 

John Appleby: I’ve said this before: Last year was all about BW on HANA. That is where we did most of our work at Bluefin. And we’re not selling software, we’re implementing projects, so what we’re doing is generally representative of what the market is doing.

What people want to talk about this year is Suite [on HANA]. So almost all of our focus has shifted to Suite, and getting customers live on the Suite on HANA platform. Not S/4 yet — they want to understand what that means — but that isn’t stopping them from implementing Suite today.   

Ken Murphy: Great, John. Thanks for taking time from your busy day to join us. 

John Appleby: Thanks, Ken. Always a pleasure.

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