The impact of SAP S/4HANA on Human Resources

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Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.” In this blog post I discuss the impact of SAP S/4HANA – looking beyond its role in technological development, to its potential for business transformation directly impacting human resources.

I often hear customers, fellow colleagues, and competitors ask if SAP S/4HANA and the Intelligent Enterprise paradigm will transform the whole information management ecosystem around SAP? Just as autonomous vehicles are predicted to transform the transportation of people and goods, what will be the impact of this development on human resources?

I broadly categorize people working with and around technology products into three group: operators, owners, and advisors:

  • Operators are end users who use the technology product to execute their work: business controllers, warehouse operators, sales representatives, etc.
  • Owners are people responsible for the application of the technology solution within the end-user organization: solution owners, IT business partners, key-users, etc.
  • Advisors are consultants, service providers, and experts who help end-user organizations implement, adapt, and run the technology solutions

(I am excluding the creators here, by whom I mean the people who work with the initial development of the packaged software – developers, product owners, etc.)

Will the impact of SAP S/4HANA on operators, owners, and advisors differ completely from one group to another? Not quite, in my opinion!

The ubiquitous introduction of intelligence (artificial intelligence, machine learning, predictiveness, intelligent automation, etc.) will, in the long run, result in a dramatic decrease of human-technology interaction in repetitive, routine, past-oriented, and low-impact tasks. So, what’s next? The answer is high-business-impact task. For operators, owners, and advisors, this means they must become more competent in the business itself, and focus on value creation for their end customers.

Apart from the introduction of intelligence, clear trends in technology products include the breakthrough of cloud/SaaS solutions – in general, and also specifically in the ERP space – and a greater adherence to best practice and standard solutions. If you think an organization can differentiate in the market with very specialized procurement or accounting processes, then think again. Instead of focusing on how to adapt and tailor the technology product into the current ways of working in the organization, operators, Owners, and advisors will shift into a business-focused approach, selecting and applying best practice processes, and strongly driving organizational change in support.

The introduction of intelligence drives another change. With a large proportion of operations becoming automated, the focus of technical competence is shifting. Deep knowledge of database table structures, low-level configuration options controlling a process variant, or the specific way to execute that process in the system, are being overtaken by requirements to understand data, algorithms, statistics, and analytical models. These skills are needed so as to select and apply the intelligent models, and to feed them with the correct data – and to validate and trust the results the intelligence creates. Without this trust, the intelligence of the system is worth nothing.

To prepare for this change, human resources need to act now on a few points:

  • Decide which areas of work will be executed in house, and which will be sourced externally in the future.
  • Revise career models and job descriptions, and create learning journeys to support them.
  • Implement tangible changes in recruitment, to ensure organizations hire the right type of talent and competence – starting today.


The change is massive, and it is coming. With the right preparation, an organization can be ready to embrace it.

If you would like learn how my team and my colleagues at Capgemini’s European SAP Center of Excellence are surfing this transformation wave, please contact me or my colleagues in the SAP CoE.


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