May 2023 - September 2023

Expert Views on SAP HANA and S/4HANA

ey logoSAP HANA and S/4HANA are still current topics in IT industries and in companies. In that context and to offer you the latest developed SAP modules, erp4students has also begun to adjust its course offer, too, accordingly. We adjusted our TERP10 course already in the winter term 2017/18. After that, we switched our BW module in the summer term, too. We have also produced a series of articles about this topic that gives you an extensive insight into the history, the structure, and the functioning of SAP’s new pioneering database technology.

What we have been also curious about is: how handle experts the switch to SAP’s current product S/4HANA? Which advantages and disadvantages see experts in that product whose job it is to deal with the software every day? To answer these questions, we have talked with two experts who work for Ernst & Young (EY), one of the top four auditing companies in the world.

Markus Kleine-Vossbeck’s current position is consultation (developing strategies and cloud solutions) in the IT management sector. Apart from that, as an associate partner at EY, he is also a member of the leadership team in the field of Digital Business Services and is responsible for all matters regarding SAP technology. That consists of the conceptualization, production, and testing of solutions based on SAP Cloud Platform and SAP Leonardo.

Lars Eickmann and his colleague Markus Heinen are the heads of Digital Business Services at EY for Germany, Switzerland, and Austria (GSA). Apart from the responsibilities described further above, he guides customers through the end-to-end transformation with SAP S/4HANA and SAP SaaS (software as a service) solutions.

Erp4students: SAP’s development of the new Business Suite is seen as an answer to the digital transformation and that S/4HANA is going to reform the Enterprise Resource Planning management system. Can you explain what S/4HANA is and what the differences in contrast to the former ERP system are?

Markus Kleine-Vossbeck: S/4HANA is the succeeding release of the ERP system R/3 (also called Enterprise Core Component ECC from version 6 on). It is a re-implementation that allows optimizations in the logical processing of a program code on the one hand. On the other hand, the access to data has been aligned on the use of a new database called SAP HANA. Its advantages are:

  • Loading of the database in the main memory and processing of data in the main memory (in-memory technology). During this process, I/O-intensive (input/output intensive) writing and reading processes can be avoided. This results in the acceleration of the processing speed.
  • Optimized use of the memory through a column-based technology which organizes and comprises data. This is an additional performance advantage.
  • Apart from that, SAP HANA is implemented with an extensive development platform that enables the development and the operation of applications directly in the database.

The new implementation of the ERP system S/4HANA makes use of these new techniques. Hence, compared to the ERP system, S/4HANA works more efficiently and with optimized process procedures.

Lars Eickmann: Additionally, the operation of applications on HANA has further advantages regarding speed and integration. At least, applications that require a high performance such as the MRP (material requirements planning) process on R/3 or ECC 6.0, have been currently transferred on HANA. Further processes and applications will follow in future.

Erp4students: Can you name fields in a company where the database technologies SAP HANA and SAP S/4HANA are applied?

MKV: The benefits of the HANA database are there where many data operations and big data such as reporting are involved. Through the efficiency and the strong performance attributes of S/4HANA, evaluation can be done on the basis of raw (or primary) data now and must not be transferred in a data warehouse system first. However, also in other fields companies benefit from this technology such as if simulations or forecasts are required.

Erp4students: What makes S/4HANA (dis-) advantageous from a company’s point of view?

MKV: Every technological development has not only advantages but also minor disadvantages that can follow. If you wish, one of the disadvantages of S/4HANA is that one cannot simply upgrade on S/4HANA. Technically, that is possible. However, a technical migration from the present system to S/4HANA does not enable you to make full use of its potential. Then one needs to change processes as well.

Additionally, the intended “simplification” of processes could be considered as a further disadvantage. To guarantee solid back-end processes, the full functionality of the system has been minimized at some points. Hence, the aim of SAP is to provide a processor core as standardized as possible. Additional functions and extensions can be found either in the cloud-based SaaS applications from the SAP Digital Framework (e. g. Ariba, SuccessFactors, Fieldglass) or can be carried out according to the extensional and integrational mechanisms of the SAP Cloud Platform.

LE: Software designs in companies are in the process of change. In addition to many advantages such as agile application frameworks and faster implementation cycles there are of course also disadvantages. This can be the coordination of particular needs of business processes, the necessity of better master data for data-driven business models as well as the management of all these change processes in general. Therefore, initially, bigger investments are necessary to finally be able to use all advantages.

Erp4students: Where do users see advantages and disadvantages in dealing with S/4HANA?

MKV: A considerable advantage for users are the Fiori applications that are included in SAP S/4HANA. These applications are modern and web-based (UI5) user interfaces in a responsive web design that allow the use not only with a computer or laptop browser, but also on other mobile devices equally. With the integration of this feature, SAP has finally mastered to shrug off its image of having complicated user interfaces. As another disadvantage, one might also see the fact that the usual transactions are either only available on a limited scale or entirely left out.

LE: Therefore, an important feature of a modern application design must be not only its sophisticated look-and-feel for its user. It is also crucial that the user, if at all, only becomes aware of the smooth functionality of an application or a system when he/she toggles between various or different applications and functions.

Erp4students: Please tell us why students should start dealing with SAP (S/4) HANA already during their studies.

LE: My recommendation for students is to start dealing with this topic as early as possible. Throughout one’s studies, one has often a limited perspective on particular functions, approaches or processes in companies.

MKV: If one is interested in starting a career as an SAP consultant, then knowledge in SAP software is a beneficial advantage in the application procedure. There are approximately 50,000 installations of SAP software worldwide. Currently, the new release is applied on all recent systems. The complexity of this changing procedure requires new workforces who are needed for larger migration projects. That is why there is a growing demand for applicants with SAP knowledge. However, even if one does not want to work as an SAP consultant: experience in SAP software could be a decisive advantage. It is likely that sooner or later one comes into contact with SAP at work – no matter if as a consultant, user, software developer, or project manager.

Erp4students: Tell our readers about your career and why you have opted for this particular career.

LE: I have always been someone who was fascinated about learning about everything rather than having knowledge in one specific field. Do not misunderstand, of course a society needs both developments! My affinity for IT has led me to the choice of studying something not specific. However, during my studies, I have put particular emphasis on SAP R/3 and when I started my first job, I had to deal with it right from the beginning. What I really like about our international project environment is that business processes and organizational IT topics are linked to an efficient and productive tool. In spite of that, there is a focus on the people who work together in a big company.

MKV: Already at school, it was for me obvious that I would like to be a computer scientist. During my studies I have discovered my enthusiasm for consulting because the job includes always new challenges, new customers, exciting projects, and travels. All that was appealing to me and is still until today. In fact, the first time I got in touch with SAP was at my first job position.

Erp4students: How important are theoretical and practical knowledge in the application process in the context of SAP?

MKV: In many cases, practical knowledge is an essential feature which can be decisive for a job position. For us it is a prerequisite to see if a candidate has understood basics, links and concepts from his/her studies. However, practical knowledge is more important. Internships or working student jobs, for example, as proof of experience are necessary. The experience or knowledge must not necessarily be about SAP. Instead, affinity to IT topics and analytical thinking are important and build a solid basis. These traits can also easily be transferred to SAP.

Erp4students: Our experience of over 10 years shows that also more and more students of other disciplines are interested in starting a career in IT or as a consultant. Do you have experience with such students or young professionals? Which advice would you give those students from the field of Psychology, Humanities or Social Sciences, for example?

MKV: Diversity is one of the principles of EY. We have consultants from all kinds of disciplines. Certainly, most of our colleagues have a business or IT background. However, there are mathematicians, humanities scholars, or lawyers, too. What they all have in common is their interest in IT and the design of processes. Disregarding the course of studies, in our digital age, IT knowledge is important for professional success. Apart from consultation, however, EY offers opportunities for many courses of study – no matter if it is in IT, strategic, processual, or organizational consultation. Especially in the field of change management, graduates from humanities are in demand.

LE: We are looking for people who are committed to an exciting and manifold job and who are committed to change. In other words: talents with varied skills are the ones we are looking for. For that reason, I agree to what my colleague has just said and ask everyone who is interested to contact us.

                                                                                                       Interview by Daniel Schnaithmann, translation by Gohar Zatrjan

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©   Dienstag, 31. Juli 2018 12:22 gz
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