SAP S/4HANA is the SAP product of the hour - an integrated and intelligent ERP system with which companies can measurably improve and significantly accelerate their business processes.

What exactly SAP S/4HANA is all about, where the advantages of the latest ERP suite from SAP lie and how to best make the switch - the answers to these and other questions can be found here.

1) What is SAP S/4HANA?

SAP S/4HANA is the core product of SAP SE. It is a comprehensive software solution for companies, also known as ERP suite. ERP stands for Enterprise Resource Planning. SAP S/4HANA was introduced in 2015 and is the successor to SAP ECC 6.0 (SAP ERP).

The abbreviation SAP S/4HANA stands for SAP Business Suite 4 SAP HANA. The "S" in the product name means simple (single), the "4" stands for the fourth ERP product generation and "HANA" for the HANA database on which the product is based.

With an ERP system like SAP S/4HANA, companies plan and control their resources and business processes. SAP S/4HANA is thus a software for business applications - for smaller companies as well as for corporations, for existing SAP customers as well as for new SAP customers.

The aim of such an ERP system is to ensure an efficient value-added process and to continuously improve all processes in the company.

As the digital core of companies, SAP S/4HANA is thus the basis for all essential, business-critical business processes. These include areas such as procurement, accounting, logistics and sales.

One of the main differences to other ERP solutions is that SAP S/4HANA with SAP HANA is based on an in-memory database.

Such an in-memory database uses the working memory as a permanent data storage. The processing speed is thus significantly higher than with classic database architectures.

Various operating models are available for SAP S/4HANA: on-premise solutions as well as public and private cloud solutions.

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2. Why SAP S/4HANA?

One of the reasons for the conversion to SAP S/4HANA is the discontinued maintenance for SAP ECC. Previously, maintenance was only guaranteed until the end of 2025; SAP extended it to the end of 2027 some time ago.

More important than the end of maintenance, however, is the alignment of SAP S/4HANA to the requirements of digitization - to digital business processes, to trends such as digital platforms, to user experience, or to new technologies such as cloud computing and machine learning.

In this sense, SAP S/4HANA is much more than just an upgrade from one product generation to the next - rather, the change is an opportunity for a fundamental, strategic realignment of companies.

SAP S/4HANA creates the opportunity to transform the benefits of digitization into measurable results. In addition, companies can reduce the complexity of IT landscapes and handle ever-increasing data volumes more efficiently than in the past.

The basis for all this is the in-memory technology of the SAP HANA database, which marks a technological breakthrough in the ERP segment and for SAP.

It eliminates the need for time-consuming aggregation of data, for example in the run-up to analyses. The database can perform queries in real time and can process and analyze even large amounts of data in fractions of a second.

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3. What does SAP HANA stand for?

SAP HANA is the name of the database on which SAP S/4HANA is running.

The HANA database is based on in-memory technology. This technology also uses the working memory as data storage. This increases the speed of data access and data processing.

But HANA is more than just a database - in recent years, SAP has developed SAP HANA into a platform for integrating and developing applications. One advantage over other databases: SAP HANA is already optimized for business applications.

In-memory technology makes it possible to perform transactional (OLTP) and analytical operations (OLAP) in the same system simultaneously.

In contrast to other databases, the data for this is available in both a row-oriented and a column-oriented format - and not exclusively in a row-oriented format, as in many other databases. Column oriented databases have proven to be more efficient, especially for analysis-oriented applications.

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4. What are the advantages of an in-memory platform?

For a long time it was the case that large amounts of data could not be stored in main memory. The working memory was comparatively expensive and its capacity limited.

As a result, companies had to store their data primarily on hard disk drives. Parts of the data were only loaded into the working memory when they were needed. However, the processing of the data was slowed down by the hard disk access required.

This changed with the technical development of hardware. Main memories became more and more powerful and cheaper. In addition, multi-core processor architectures were developed that made it possible to parallelize memory accesses.

In-memory databases take advantage of these developments: The main memory also serves as a permanent data storage. This leads to significantly higher processing speeds because the data is available more quickly. On the hard disk, the data is only backed up and archived.

The advantages of an in-memory database such as SAP HANA are therefore above all a significantly higher speed in data processing. With SAP HANA, transactions and analyses can be carried out in real time on just one platform.

In addition, SAP HANA reduces data redundancy and lowers the space and hardware requirements of a company.

In addition - due to the high speed and accuracy of SAP S/4HANA - possible machine breakdowns or imminent stock shortages in the warehouse can be detected and eliminated earlier.

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5. What functions does SAP S/4 HANA have?

With SAP S/4HANA all business processes of a company can be managed and controlled, monitored, networked and analyzed. The functions of the ERP suite cover all essential areas of a company.

The central functions include finance, human resources, logistics, manufacturing, R&D and design, sales, procurement, asset management, marketing and service.

Certain functions are already included in the digital core, others are also available as LoB Solutions (Line of Business Solutions). These additional solutions offer an extended range of functions, but may need to be licensed and installed separately.

Fiori also provides users with a uniform, role-based user interface. Companies can also develop new applications with Fiori.

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6. What is the difference between SAP HANA and SAP S/4HANA?

SAP S/4HANA is a comprehensive software solution from SAP - an application with which all business processes of a company can be controlled, monitored and analyzed.

Since the processes can be processed and analyzed in real time, SAP S/4HANA is also known as a real-time ERP suite.

SAP HANA is the platform (and database) on which SAP S/4HANA runs. SAP HANA is an in-memory platform. This means that the data is not stored on the hard disk, but permanently in memory.

The use of this database technology makes it possible that the speed of processing the data is significantly higher than with conventional databases.

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7. What is the difference between SAP ERP Business Suite, Business Suite on HANA and S/4HANA?

The SAP ERP Business Suite is SAP's ERP offering prior to the introduction of the SAP HANA platform. The SAP ERP Business Suite is also known as SAP ECC or simply SAP ERP. The latest version of the SAP ERP Business Suite is SAP ERP 6.0.

Business Suite on HANA is the name given to the operation of SAP ECC on the HANA database. It has been possible to follow this path since 2013. Users could thus benefit from the advantages of the HANA in-memory database even before the introduction of SAP S/4HANA (available since 2015).

SAP S/4HANA is the latest ERP software suite from SAP. It is completely based on the HANA platform. SAP S/4HANA is an "intelligent" solution that enables companies to simplify, accelerate and improve their business processes. Among other things, SAP S/4HANA offers a new user interface for all devices, real-time analysis functions and the free choice of operating model.

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8. What concrete benefits does SAP S/4HANA bring?

The concrete benefits of SAP S/4HANA depend on the individual goals of each company. But one thing is clear:

  • SAP S/4HANA ensures more speed in data processing,
  • simplifies processes ("Run simple"),
  • reduces the risks,
  • creates new possibilities for analysis and simulation and
  • thus ensures better results overall.

Until now, if companies wanted to create a forecast or needed data for their material planning, they had to fall back on legacy data and laboriously determine and compile it first.

SAP S/4HANA, on the other hand, can process and analyze data in real time, thus creating a database that can be used to make faster and better decisions in the area of corporate strategy ("SAP Digital Boardroom").

In addition, the SAP Business Technology Platform helps companies to develop and implement innovations more quickly.

The added value of SAP S/4HANA can be demonstrated in figures:

  • The effort for the inventory is reduced by up to 15 percent.
  • The costs for logistics are reduced by 10 to 15 percent.
  • The production cycle is 25 to 30 percent shorter.
  • Companies can increase their productivity by 10 to 15 percent.
  • The total cost of ownership is also reduced. The storage requirements for data, for example, are 10 times lower.

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9. What are the advantages of SAP S/4HANA?

SAP S/4HANA is the next generation ERP system. In many ways, the system ensures faster and more efficient processes, real-time analyses and thus creates added value throughout the company.

SAP S/4HANA also enables the development of digital business models and the use of new technologies such as AI and Machine Learning.

With SAP Fiori, SAP S/4HANA also offers a user-friendly, intuitively operable, contemporary interface. Fiori is role-based and can be used on various devices - whether on a laptop in the office or on tablets or smartphones.

One of the advantages of SAP S/4HANA is that the system - based on the SAP HANA database - is much simpler than SAP ERP. This applies to both the system architecture and the data model.

Among other things, the simplified functionality results in lower IT and maintenance costs and a higher reaction speed. The simplification of the data structure increases the performance of the entire system.

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10. What types of SAP S/4HANA operation are there?

SAP S/4HANA can be used both on-premise and in the cloud. Hybrid scenarios are also possible.

  • On-premise means that the software is operated with the company's own hardware in its own data center. The company itself is responsible for operation and administration. The advantage of such a solution is that the control over hardware and software is completely up to the company. One of the disadvantages is that the costs - for personnel, maintenance or renewal of the hardware - also remain entirely with the company.
  • With a cloud solution, companies buy or rent the software of an external provider. The company therefore uses the services of a provider.
  • The hybrid scenario is a mixture of on-premise and cloud - parts of the business scenarios are shifted to the cloud, others remain on-premise.

The cloud solution creates cost transparency. The company no longer needs its own hardware.

The service models are divided into Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Software Subscription.

If the service and hosting are provided by the provider, for example, and the software is subscribed to and provided via the internet, this is a SaaS solution.

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11. How is the changeover to SAP S/4HANA done?

Basically, SAP distinguishes between three ways to migrate to SAP S/4HANA:

  • the new implementation (New Implementation or Greenfield)
  • the system conversion (System Conversion or Brownfield) and
  • selective migration (selective data transformation, color field approach or hybrid strategy, formerly known as landscape transformation)

During the new implementation, SAP S/4HANA will be completely reinstalled, so to speak "on a greenfield site". Such a complete re-design is always carried out close to the SAP standard and best practices.

The advantage is that companies can use the full potential of SAP S/4HANA in this way. The path makes it possible to get rid of legacy problems and to arrive at a new and contemporary architecture in one fell swoop.

In a system conversion, the existing SAP system is converted to S/4HANA - there is no need for a complete rebuilding. Existing processes and developments are transferred to SAP S/4HANA during conversion. The sometimes high complexity of the existing system is thus retained.

The selective migration is based on System Conversion. Here, the migration experts create a copy of the previous system without data. They then convert the empty system to SAP S/4HANA and then "selectively" fill it with legacy data via data migration.

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12. How will SAP SE further develop SAP S/4HANA in the future?

SAP's strategic path continues to lead in the direction of the cloud. Other focal points are in the areas of integration and enabling end-to-end processes. For SAP, the SAP Business Technology Platform is the basis for integration and expansion.

With RISE with SAP, SAP presented an offer at the beginning of 2021 with which the group wants to make it easier for companies to move to SAP S/4HANA and, above all, to the cloud.

With RISE with SAP, SAP offers "Business Transformation as a Service". The core of the offer is the migration to the SAP S/4HANA Cloud or RISE with SAP S/4HANA Cloud, private edition.

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13. When do companies need to convert to SAP S/4HANA?

A quick changeover is recommended. The old SAP ERP 6.0 will no longer be supported from the end of 2027 at the latest.

Exceeding the maintenance limit can have serious consequences: Errors and weaknesses will then no longer be eliminated in SAP ERP. This results in considerable risks for the operation of the systems and operational processes.

Although SAP guarantees mainstream maintenance of SAP ERP until at least 2027 at no additional cost, and only recently extended its maintenance commitment by two years from 2025, the company has now extended its maintenance commitment by two years.

However, the cost of preparation and conversion to SAP S/4HANA should not be underestimated. If companies wait too long to convert and implement, they also risk limited capacity on the part of implementation partners - as demand from companies increases towards the end of maintenance.

In addition, the competitive pressure is increasing due to digitalization and globalization. The earlier companies set the course for a modern IT architecture and efficient processes, the better.

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14. What is SAP S/4HANA certification?

With certification, specific knowledge and experience can be proven and documented. SAP distinguishes between certifications for consultants and certifications for users. SAP partner companies can also be certified.

Consultants demonstrate their special qualifications with an SAP consultant certification. They demonstrate that they are proven experts in their field, have a thorough knowledge of specific SAP solutions, and can guarantee optimal deployment.

SAP consultant certification is therefore primarily a quality feature for companies looking for a consulting company for an SAP project. SAP offers a global certification program for SAP consultants. There are currently almost 150 different certifications on offer.

The SAP user certifications are aimed at users of SAP solutions. With such a certification, users document their knowledge in handling a specific SAP solution.

In addition, the user certifications offer the opportunity to deepen one's own knowledge in order to use SAP solutions even more efficiently in everyday life. SAP currently offers ten corresponding examinations - from financial accounting to warehouse management.

SAP partner companies can also be certified by SAP. With the "SAP Recognized Expertise" label, SAP confirms the high level of expertise and project experience of consulting companies within the SAP PartnerEdge program.

15. What is the SAP S/4HANA Cloud?

SAP offers various cloud solutions. A distinction is made between public and private cloud solutions.

The SAP S/4HANA Cloud (resp. RISE with SAP S/4HANA Cloud)is a public cloud solution. Earlier names for this solution were Multi-Tenant Edition, SAP S/4HANA, Essential Edition (Cloud ES) or also Public Cloud.

SAP S/4HANA Cloud is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering.

In the case of such a SaaS solution, the provider (in this case SAP) provides the hardware. It also takes care of the infrastructure and the installation of the applications. The operation and maintenance of the software as well as the administration are also carried out by the provider.

Overall, the cloud significantly reduces the operational effort for companies. In addition, they no longer have to provide, operate and maintain their own hardware. Companies subscribe to the provider's services as a service.

Companies thus become more flexible and can react more quickly to changing conditions. SAP provides its customers with quarterly updates, industry-specific core functions and innovations - in this way, cloud customers are always "up to date".

The second main solution is RISE with SAP S/4HANA Cloud, private edition (formerly: Single Tenant Edition or Private Cloud).

In addition, there is still the SAP S/4HANA Cloud, extended edition (Cloud EX), which all in all differs only slightly from RISE with SAP S/4HANA Cloud, private edition. However, RISE is not included in the Cloud extended edition.

With RISE with SAP, SAP offers its customers "Business Transformation as a Service". RISE comprises a wealth of tools and methodologies that are intended to facilitate the digital transformation and the path to the cloud for companies - regardless of the starting point and the chosen speed.

The two private cloud variants are licensed as a "software subscription": the software is thus provided by SAP and hosted by a hyperscaler or - depending on the variant - also by SAP. The scope corresponds to the on-premise variant.

Companies can introduce RISE with SAP S/4HANA Cloud, private edition with the greenfield or brownfield approach or choose the path of selective migration.

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