SAP S/4HANA: The Speed and Power of Simplification

SAP S/4HANA is a future-ready enterprise resource planning (ERP) system with built-in intelligent technologies – including AI, machine learning, and advanced analytics. It transforms business processes with intelligent automation and uses SAP HANA to eliminate the complexities of legacy ERP databases. This gives organizations a vastly simplified architecture with access to business-critical data in real time.

The “S” in SAP S/4HANA is a nod to our legacy business suite. For the SAP S/4HANA team at SAP, however, the goal was not merely to move the legacy suite to an in-memory computing database. It is true that running ERP in active memory (rather than on disk) increases processing speed. Some competing databases, in fact, support this option. SAP S/4HANA is something much more.

SAP S/4HANA is optimized for SAP HANA, which supports a data model that simplifies the business computing environment dramatically. To take full advantage of this design, the SAP S/4HANA team set out to reimagine and recode the business suite from the ground up.



Traditionally, the typical enterprise computing environment was split between online transactional processing (OLTP) and online analytical processing (OLAP). This split was a compromise made long ago: each system gets a copy of the original transactional data, commonly in a different data model, with each optimized for the type of workload (OLTP versus OLAP) in that system. This compromise, though, increases cost and complexity by requiring the management of two separate environments and moving data between them.

SAP HANA performs both analytical calculations and transformations on the fly, so organizations can bring OLTP and OLAP together. Gone are the complex “helper structures” used to overcome system performance issues running at the speed of disk. Now, with a simplified data model and the speed of in-memory processing, organizations can perform analytics on all data (live and historical) in a single environment – in the moment, as needed.



By redesigning ERP for SAP HANA, the SAP S/4HANA development team reduced the number of tables involved across a wide range of functions. Take, for instance, finance and controlling. While in the past, data was structured in subledgers (accounts payable, accounts receivable, and general ledger, to name a few), today they run on a single universal journal.

This universal journal brings together postings related to finance (FI) and controlling (CO) in a single source table. The integrity of financial data is enabled by design, eliminating the need for reconciliation effort between FI and CO and helping ensure that everyone can always access the most current data.

Teams are aligned and more effective because the complexity has been removed. Forecasting is faster and more accurate. Key performance indicators such as days sales outstanding (DSO) are available in real time on a granular level. Profit center reporting, profitability analysis, and other real-time analytics performed on top of the universal journal become a reality.

Simplicity that helps customers

As much as this simplification helps SAP, it also helps our customers. The SAP Tax Compliance application, for example, helps to streamline tax compliance through an automated tax control framework and now runs in SAP S/4HANA instead of a separate system that requires data replication. This application provides an enterprise-wide repository of compliance checks and enables continuous correction, freeing tax specialists from searching for anomalies.

Changes like these are transformative across customer enterprises. Finance can move faster, the supply chain has more visibility, and IT can focus more on innovation. In the place of complex legacy databases, customers can now enjoy a single source of truth that speeds and helps simplify nearly everything.

This simplification by establishing a single source of truth supports new benefits – such as a comprehensive enterprise search. Now business users can search for master data and documents across different LoBs and across systems for a holistic view of the enterprise. At the same time, a built-in authorization framework helps to minimize administrative overhead and enables single sign-on.



SAP HANA is also a driving force behind the power of the SAP Analytics Cloud solution – which brings together business intelligence (BI) and enterprise planning on a single system.

Augmented with artificial intelligence, machine learning technology, and predictive analytics, this system drives insight, improves decision-making,
and enhances the user experience. This enables the following:

  • Business intelligence – A powerful combination of BI and analytics gives organizations the ability to move faster with fact-based decisions. Use cases range far and wide, including self-service data discovery and visualization, enterprise reporting at scale, mobile consumption on the go, sophisticated analytical applications, and embedded analytics for in-context insights.
  • Augmented analytics – Advanced technology, enabled by SAP HANA, helps organizations avoid biased and agenda-driven decision-making. Users ask questions in a conversational manner and get instant answers in natural language. They can predict potential outcomes to take the next best action – without data science skills.
  • Enterprise planning – Teams can improve accuracy and meet quarterly goals by quickly comparing actuals to plan. Use cases include budgeting, collaborative revenue forecasting, long-range strategic planning, workforce and capital planning, and predictive planning. With powerful simulation tools, users can quickly run what-if scenarios to evaluate the best way forward based on what the data says.


SAC powerful analytics

As the name suggests, SAP Analytics Cloud is a cloud-native solution. This means that organizations can get up and running with powerful analytics quickly – without the lead times associated with other analytics solutions. And because it is managed by SAP, updates and other solution management duties no longer burden an organization’s IT team.

But ultimately, it is the end user for whom SAP Analytics Cloud is designed. On an ad hoc basis, users can tap its self-service features to discover, access, and process data without performance constraints – and without the assistance of IT. An interface based on the SAP Fiori® user experience helps improve usability and the overall user satisfaction.

Real-time analytics with SAP Analytics Cloud

Because SAP Analytics Cloud runs on SAP HANA, users can perform real-time analytics on transactional data from virtually any source in almost any form (including spatial, graph, JSON documents, and text). With SAC, access to data and analytics in SAP HANA or the SAP HANA Cloud database is now replication-free. No copying of data into SAP Analytics Cloud is required, so the business has a single source for data and analytics.

This saves a tremendous amount of data management time and energy – enabling organizations to move faster while making better, more informed decisions. With live data connectivity to SAP HANA, SAP Analytics Cloud helps users to see data instantly, understand the business impact, and react immediately. This technology combination uniquely enables organizations to embed analytics directly into business processes to turn instant insight into action.

Direct access to data in SAP HANA helps streamline compliance with regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation. With no need to copy data into a separate analytics environment, organizations no longer have to replicate all the required authorizations.

Data, of course, can come from anywhere – and most businesses require the flexibility to create their own data sets. This is why SAC, together with SAP HANA, supports the ability to create mash-ups of data from multiple sources. This enables organizations to combine new data sources with existing corporate data for a comprehensive view into almost anything impacting the business.

SAP Analytics Cloud embed data

SAP Analytics Cloud empowers SAP customers to embed analytics and insight directly into cloud solutions from SAP. Take, for instance, SAP  SuccessFactors solutions, which embed data and analytics within business processes using SAP Analytics Cloud. This helps organizations increase the effectiveness and visibility of HR while improving business decisions at the time of action.

Sharing a common SAP HANA database allows these solutions to do reporting on live transactional data integrated from multiple systems. So, it enables HR professionals to investigate trends in hiring, diversity, turnover, and performance. The technology embedded in SAP Analytics Cloud provides a platform to share trends and insights that include compelling visualizations. In addition, simplified story-driven reporting can be included directly within existing workstreams in SAP SuccessFactors solutions.

SAP Analytics Cloud powers the “boardroom of the future” with SAP Digital Boardroom. People across the organization can instantly join discussions to spot risks before issues develop and seize opportunities before competitors act.


A simplified data model is imperative for intelligent technologies such as machine learning. Traditional database models that maintain acceptable performance only with added complexity simply cannot scale to meet the needs of machine learning deployments. To run simulations, train algorithms, machine learning technologies require a data model that is up to the task. This is what SAP S/4HANA delivers – within the solution itself. One example is accelerated accounts receivable.



With SAP HANA as its foundation, SAP S/4HANA helps drive agility, improve customer experiences, and increase business performance. To fully leverage the advantages of SAP S/4HANA, the various LoBs at SAP needed to migrate over to SAP HANA. Following are their stories.


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