The release of SAP’s next-generation business suite S/4HANA was billed as a watermark moment for enterprise management in some quarters, but how is it different from previous SAP releases? And, how can it help you improve your Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)?
What is SAP S/4HANA?
SAP Business Suite 4 SAP HANA or S/4HANA for short, is SAP’s latest ERP solution. Created with the day-to-day processes of businesses in mind, S/4HANA covers everything from financial and supply chain management to business intelligence and marketing support — alongside a wealth of industry-specific features.
Whereas previous iterations of SAP ERP software provided the functionality for integration with other programs in the SAP business suite, such as SAP SRM, SAP CRM and SAP SCM, S/4HANA simply includes them in its offering. This gives businesses all of SAP’s enterprise management tools in one consolidated package, in theory providing everything businesses need to accurately plan for resource allocation and management.
How Can it Help You Improve Enterprise Resource Planning?
The key benefit of S/4HANA is in what it does for your data. Accurate ERP is reliant on the veracity of your data, how quickly and easily you’re able to access it, and your ability to respond to changes as they happen. And, it’s these areas that S/4HANA principally tackles:
Better Connections Within Your Business
One of the major problems posed by traditional approaches to ERP is that they often rely on an unwieldy hodgepodge of different tools and applications melded together. More often than not, this leads to data-silos with a clear disconnect between different departments and functions within the business — hardly the best foundation for data-driven insight.
Even SAP’s older offerings required you to integrate the dedicated ERP component with other applications in order to draw data from across your business.
S/4 HANA consolidates all of the business processes you need into one package, consolidating your data as a result. This means your analytics software can access a large pool of data — from every aspect of your business — opening up the possibility of making completely informed decisions.
Power to Handle Big Data
We live in an age driven by data and, for businesses, the ability to quickly and accurately process large datasets has changed from ‘nice to have’ to ‘essential’ in a relatively short time. So, its crucial businesses are able to process data from a variety of different sources from across their operations, regardless of the form that data comes in.
S/4HANA gives you the tools to access data from anywhere inside or outside of your business. It’s use of technologies such as machine learning and advanced analytics, mean that even unstructured data such as text, predictive, spatial, time series and event streams no longer pose a challenge — instead, it can be easily harnessed to inform business decisions.
We’ve all experienced the confusion of coming across data-points that say one thing in one place and something completely different in another — it’s an occupational hazard if your business draws data from several different sources. S/4HANA solves this issue by giving you a single database for all your business processes. So, not only can you be certain that data you’re using is correct, there’s also no need to update each data-set manually as once the data is entered in one place it will automatically change in all instances.
Responding to market conditions as and when they change is a vital part of modern business. However, it’s often the case that by the time you've gathered the information, analysed the data, produced a report and run it past the board an opportunity has been missed or a problem becomes acuter.
For users of S/4HANA, this is a thing of the past; thanks to SAP HANA’s in-memory computing, data is processed at much higher speeds. This means that even the most comprehensive reports can be produced in very little time — giving you the ability to respond to market conditions in near real-time and make business decisions based on live information from across your organisation.
S/4HANA provides businesses with all the tools they need to better harness their data and, ultimately, boost the speed, accuracy and agility of their processes. However, the benefits of S/4HANA extend far beyond ERP and data.