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A question I hear frequently about Simple Finance: “What exactly is simple about it?” This is a good question you could apply to anything we give the “simple” label—including applications that are or will be part of S/4HANA.

Let’s look at an analogy that illustrates simplification and what you can expect from S/4HANA. Do you remember how complicated it was to take a photograph and send it to a friends or family far away? Here’s an overview of that process:

This illustration does not show the full depth of the complexity. For example, the postal service requires stamps, envelopes, trucks, aircraft, large buildings, sorting equipment, and hundreds of thousands of people. Experts were required, too, especially in photo development.

Parts of this process were eventually made faster. For example, there were one hour photo processing shops, and you could send a letter overnight. This reduced the process to a maximum of one day, but speeding up individual parts of the process did not simplify it—only made it faster. The extra speed also came with a price.

Thinking about SAP and HANA, this is where we were before with HANA. We could certainly speed up components of the architecture, but the architecture was still too complex. But when you combine speed with new user experiences and networks, you see a dramatic difference. Here’s where photography is today:

The system isn't merely faster; the architecture is greatly simplified. Now you can take and send a photograph or video to friends and family wherever they are in merely seconds. The cost is reduced to a fraction. The “footprint” is smaller and the maintenance points are fewer. This is real and true simplification. This simplification has enabled an entire ecosystem of applications and new capabilities that were impossible a generation ago.

This is where we are now with S/4HANA, and Simple Finance in particular, the first step in the S/4HANA roadmap. We didn’t merely speed up parts of the process. We redesigned the applications to take advantage of the speed. I like to think of the resulting simplification in two areas: data model and user experience.

The data model is where HANA’s speed has been put to greatest use. We now operate applications directly from the source transactions. No need for OLAP structures like aggregates. No need to build indices to make queries run faster. We have removed entire layers from the architecture—true simplification. Our customers now have fewer objects to maintain, and they can do things not possible before, like reconcile financial data in real time (see this article for more information on data model and finance).

The user experience, based on Fiori, allows users to go further on their own and not wait for experts to help. It is role-based, personalized, and allows users to start at a high level and drill down all the way to the base transactions. They are no longer tied to pre-defined subtotals or need to export to spreadsheets to get the detail they want. Combine the data model with the user experience, and you have capabilities not possible until now.

When you learn about Simple Finance, Simple Logistics, or any other S/4HANA application, I hope this photography analogy will help you understand what to expect. Be looking for real simplification in the data model and the user experience. And be looking for that simplification to be as impactful as it was for photography.