S/4HANA Cloud. And the new dynamics of quarterly release cycles

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S/4HANA Cloud 1808 is live. And 1811 and 1902 are already knocking on the door. Work to be done for the end-user organizations and their implementation partners!

First, a few words about S/4HANA Cloud 1808. The focus of this release is on making SAP’s ERP core more intelligent – enriching the best-practice, standard business processes in S/4HANA with Leonardo scenarios, such as machine learning, predictive analytics and SAP CoPilot. The purpose of this is to further automate the standard business processes (hands-free ERP), to further assist the end-user in their day-to-day work with their IT-platform (digital assistance) and to improve business decisions by providing insights into the future (predictive).

The scope of the 1808 release is in line with SAP’s go-to-market (GTM) strategy for 2018 in which “intelligent ERP” and “the intelligent enterprise” are still the credos. And as an enterprise architect, I like the idea of leveraging innovation scenarios into SAP’s systems of records. In this way, SAP enriches the functionality of the systems of records and keeps them up to date. New innovations will first be enrolled in the innovation platform (SAP Cloud Platform). And after a while they will be transferred to the ERP core to support the day-to-day business processes.

So far so good. But end-user organizations and their implementation partners, including Capgemini, must now continuously be prepared for these frequent, quarterly releases – and this is new for them. No longer can they lean back, awaiting SAP’s new release announcements, and take months or years to make decisions about heavy and costly migration projects. Or the more prevalent strategy of the past 10–15 years, which involved sticking to their current SAP landscapes, resulting in out-of-date SAP-landscapes and burning platforms.

S4HC is SaaS ERP. And that differs from traditional deployments, including on-premise, HEC, or even classical, single-tenant deployments on cloud infrastructures, such as AWS, GCP, and Azure. With S4HC (SaaS ERP), SAP SE (the vendor) is in control of new software releases. SAP SE decides upon the frequency of new releases (quarterly) and promptly implements them to end-user organizations. End-user organizations and their implementation partners must repeatedly anticipate which new releases are scheduled and what potential they bring for the end-user organizations and prepare the implementations both from a business and technology perspective. This must happen every quarter, again and again – no leaning back anymore!

This is a good thing for the end-user organizations: maximum unburdening of IT-management, always up-to-date ERP-software (latest innovations and compliancy), simpler, cheaper, faster. Read more about this in my previous blog (https://www.capgemini.com/2018/05/s-4hana-cloud-i-am-a-believer/). At the same time however, they must also constantly stay on top of everything and anticipate on these new releases. They must deal with a completely new dynamic and way of working, with the help of their implementation partners. In a next blog, I will provide insights on how to deal with this.

So, 1808 has been released, but 1811 and 1902 are already knocking on the door. And mind you: “let’s skip this one” or “let’s delay it by a quarter because of other priorities or budget constraints” is not a part of SAP’s release strategy for their SaaS ERP (S4HC). Work to be done for end-user organizations and their implementation partners!

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