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Product and Topic Expert
Product and Topic Expert

Before I talk about the critical success factors of an SAP S/4HANA Cloud, public edition, implementation and ongoing operations, let me just share that I have been supporting public cloud deployments and ongoing operations for our customers for more than 8 years in the Americas and Greater China regions as part of my vast 27+ year career working for SAP.

Why do I share that I have been with SAP for 27 years? Because when I started to work with SAP S/4HANA Cloud, public edition, after having done many implementations and upgrades in SAP R/3 and SAP ERP, I thought SAP S/4HANA Cloud, public edition, was just another deployment option. During these last 8 years, I have learned the real meaning of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and some of the critical success factors that distinguishes it from a traditional on-premise implementation (fit-to-gap vs. fit-to-standard, infrequent upgrades vs. frequent upgrades, modifications vs. extensibility, ABAP remediation vs. no remediation, etc.). This has changed my view on some of the learnings I have collected during my SAP Career.

This blog intends to provide some of the key factors for successful SAP S/4HANA Cloud, public edition, implementations and ongoing operations. While I provide some of the most important insights, based on my personal experience, it is not an exhaustive list. It is also important to note that our product evolves continuously, and I am sure a few new learnings will come. I invite you to read this blog and feel free to post your comments or add any of your own learnings.

Sample SAP S/4HANA Cloud, public edition, 2302 – Horizon, SAP’s fresh new visual theme for SAP Fiori

Before the implementation project:

    • Understand that SAP S/4HANA Cloud, public edition, provides the highest degree of standardization. - Speed and rapid innovation with a high degree of standardization to quickly enable new business models, e.g. new acquisitions, new business expansion, removal of old legacy systems that are heavily customized and that prevent innovation due to lengthy and costly upgrades, etc. are the cornerstones of SAP S/4HANA Cloud, public edition. SAP S/4HANA Cloud, public edition, provides the highest degree of standardization, allowing you to create differentiation using configuration and cloud extensibility. However, if what you are looking for is the highest degree of flexibility to cater to complex customer-specific business requirements you will face difficulties to do this with SAP S/4HANA Cloud, public edition, as the system will drive you towards a fit-to-standard approach. If you need that higher degree of flexibility to accommodate very specific and complex tailored made requirements, you can look at SAP S/4HANA Cloud, private edition. SAP S/4HANA Cloud, private edition, if implemented in a greenfield, can also follow same principle of implementation using cloud mindset, refer to this blog Recommendations for greenfield implementations of Rise with SAP S/4HANA Cloud, private edition follo... for more info.
    • Cloud Mindset is one of the most important guiding principles to keep in mind when implementing and operating SAP S/4HANA Cloud, public edition. I have seen significant delays, unnecessary escalations, and failed implementations when customers don’t commit to a Cloud Mindset. SAP S/4HANA Cloud, public edition, will help you to transform your business. Therefore, it is imperative to think differently and not to try to replicate things as they were done in the past. It is key, that all stakeholders, from the C-levels and main sponsors for the project to all the team members, actively live the Cloud Mindset. The Cloud Mindset is one of the most critical success factors when implementing and operating SAP S/4HANA Cloud, public edition. In practical terms, the Cloud Mindset in my view includes:

        • Adhering to the Fit-to-Standard and Agile deployment, as detailed in SAP Activate.

        • Use of modern, cloud-like integration technologies, enabled by the SAP Business Technology Platform (BTP) and cloud APIs included in the SAP Business Accelerator Hub.

        • Drive business differentiation using cloud configuration capabilities and cloud extensibility (in-app extensibility, developer extensibility and side-by-side extensibility using BTP)


In the SAP S/4HANA Cloud, public edition, customer community there are good blogs about this or you can refer to SAP Activate that outlines the implementation roadmap and provides more detailed information on how to execute a Cloud Mindset Assessment.


  • Execute a Digital Discovery Assessment – It is highly recommended that you work with SAP and/or your system integrator to execute an SAP Digital Discovery Assessment. The assessment will help you to get introduced to SAP Best Practices and scope item elements that are the essential keys of a fit-to-standard approach. The assessment will also help to collect the scope of your implementation, including, and among others but not limited, to integration, localization complexity, special requirements per scope item and other criteria.

SAP Digital Discovery Assessment


  • Selection of the System Integrator – It is important to select the right system integrator. Outside of having deep solution knowledge, it is even more important that the system integrator has a Cloud Mindset and fully understands, and embraces, SAP Activate for S/4HANA Cloud, public edition. Please see this link for additional guidance on how to select the right system integrator for your implementation.


  • Include SAP Preferred Success in your subscription - SAP Preferred Success helps to fast track the value of your cloud investment by providing a personalized, proactive partnership for the lifetime of your cloud solution. It is highly recommended to include it in your cloud subscription as the content and advise you will get from it, will be crucial to address some of the challenges during the implementation proactively and continues its value realization throughout the cloud journey. More information can be found here.

During the implementation project:

    • Understand your system provisioning with SAP for Me: Your systems will get provisioned using SAP for Me.  It is important that you familiarize yourself with this activity to accelerate system access for the project team. We recommend that you look at this activity in detail so that you can embark quickly into your transformation journey. More information on SAP for Me can be found here.
    • Use of SAP Activate and SAP Cloud ALMSAP Activate is intended to guide the implementation team through the SAP S/4HANA Cloud implementation. SAP Activate is the main guide that outlines all the details on what to do during the implementation and ongoing operations. Following SAP Activate ensures that you are following the advice that we have curated from many customer implementations. Please also keep in mind that SAP Activate is updated frequently based on the learnings from projects, as well as product improvements. SAP Activate is a methodology for every person in the implementation team and not only for the project manager. Activate is the roadmap to your final destination, and not using it will only hinder you in this journey.  SAP Cloud ALM safeguards your implementation of SAP S/4HANA Cloud, public edition, with best practices support and methodology from SAP and allows you to manage users, business processes, and integration with efficiency from the initial implementation, through go-live, to monitoring integrations, and running and continuously optimizing your instance. It is also a must-use to ensure overall success.

SAP Activate Roadmap Explorer


    • Cloud Mindset – Keeping a Cloud mindset is required to set yourself up for success during the implementation journey. Everyone in the project team should get familiar with the principles, and they should apply them when doing implementation tasks and taking the main project decisions.


    • Fit-to-Standard – Fit-to-Standard is the only way to disposition business requirements in SAP S/4HANA Cloud, public edition. I have seen customers and partners looking at blueprint business processes and trying to apply a fit-gap analysis while looking to create an “as-is” and a “to-be” situation to only quickly find out that the system is designed differently and was made to provide the highest degree of standardization. Now, does that mean that the system doesn’t allow differentiation on standard best practices? No, SAP S/4HANA Cloud, public edition, provides the ability to differentiate using configuration tools included in “Manage your Solution” or “Central Business ­Configuration”, depending on your system set-up to help, differentiate and address special and unique business requirements. If the configuration tools don’t provide what you need, then, you can use cloud extensibility. Cloud extensibility is a standard methodology available to SAP S/4HANA Cloud, public edition, and it was designed to provide differentiation using lifecycle compliant methods that avoid disruption during innovation cycles (upgrades) and avoiding technical debt (e.g. modifications, etc.).


    • Differentiation – As indicated above, cloud extensibility provides a standard methodology in SAP S/4HANA Cloud, public edition, to differentiate and extend your solution. There are three extensibility scenarios that we can cover in SAP S/4HANA Cloud, public edition. Two of them come out of the box like in-app extensibility and developer extensibility (developer extensibility is only available if you are running a 3-system landscape also known as “SAP S/4HANA Cloud, ABAP environment" and the last one is side-by-side extensibility, and this last scenario is enabled by a subscription to the SAP Business Technology Platform (SAP BTP). While the Public APIs provided by S/4HANA Cloud do not restrict your side-by-side extensibility to SAP BTP, SAP BTP is the preferred and encouraged platform and will provide better extensibility options as SAP continues to delivery new services to help extend your SAP Systems. SAP BTP provides the ability to create decoupled extensions (side-by-side) of the core system using lifecycle compliant methods (using only allowed APIs which ensure an upgrade safe method). My recommendation is that you make yourself familiar with SAP BTP and the main services that are included, as the possibility that you have to differentiate and extend the system highly increases the ability to cover  the last mile requirements that provide the key differentiation.  If you want to get a quick overview on this concept, please click here for the SAP Activate Minute video on this topic.

SAP Extensibility Explorer

To get a complete overview on differentiation including some examples, I invite you also to look at my last blog Drive competitive advantage through differentiation in SAP S/4HANA Cloud, public edition.

    • Analyze settings for initial system activation – This task is key as I see many projects getting delayed and reworked because they didn’t perform the correct system settings for activation according to customer business requirements. It is in this task where you need to make critical decisions about financial settings that can’t be changed after they are confirmed, like Fiscal Year Variant, Group Currency (if needed, Additional Currency Type), financial ledgers activation and selection of local/global requirements, assignment of accounting principle to financial ledgers, organizational structure, and additional organizational settings. Please review this task in detail to avoid rework and delays and always try to follow Best Practices settings unless you know exactly the business impact of the changes you will make (e.g. making sure that you always leave one of the ledgers as local ledger by leaving the Corporate Accounting Principle empty).


    • Always plan your go-live or specific functional releases with SAP's planned maintenance schedule in mind to avoid any overlap. Ensure that you consider all main lifecycle activities when setting your go-live dates, which include, but are not limited to, upgrades and hotfixes. Be aware that certain activities may impose restrictions on uptime (such as data migration, ATO transports, etc.) and downtime. Therefore, plan ahead to accommodate these considerations and avoid unexpected issues during the go-live weekend.

After Go-Live and ongoing operations:

    • Cloud Mindset – After go-live, Cloud Mindset continues to be of utmost importance. As our customers’ business system adoption matures, the system, the team supporting it and the business requirements will continue to evolve and change over time. One topic that I have observed frequently is when the project team supporting SAP S/4HANA Cloud evolves, e.g. new team members are added, people that sponsored the initial implementation are moving to new roles, new super users, etc. It is all natural that customer support teams and roles will change over time, however, if the newcomers are not exposed to the principles of Cloud Mindset, then they will face difficulties with SAP S/4HANA Cloud, public edition, as the system will drive them towards a fit-to-standard approach. Do not underestimate this point, especially when the new team members come from a traditional on-premise background experience, as they will try to apply traditional concepts (modifications, any APIs, access to backend transactions, etc.) in Public Cloud. I have been seeing plenty of struggles in this area, so you want to really make sure to train new team members on the topic of Cloud Mindset.


    • Review new innovations – It is highly recommended, that with every new release (and please remember we have 2 main releases per year and frequent smaller deliveries included in continuous delivery for SAP S/4HANA Cloud), you prepare yourself by looking for new innovations as your business strategy evolves. We know that you might be looking to either expand new business, open new operations in new countries or increase productivity, etc. so reviewing the new innovations is key to continue to increase business value. As a bare minimum, make sure to follow the highlights our team prepares for the every new main release. If you have more time, make sure to review the what’s new document and run the SAP release assessment and scope dependency for SAP S/4HANA Cloud, public edition (RASD) for main releases and continuous delivery. The SAP release assessment and scope dependency tool allows you to see the new innovations according to your personalized system usage, which can provide the best advice to plan to activate and adopt new functionality (new business processes, new apps, automation, embedded analytics, machine learnings, expand operations to new countries, etc.). Remember adopting new innovations can be done at your own pace, however you need to keep up to date on what SAP keeps delivering.

Release Assessment and Scope Dependency for SAP S/4HANA Cloud, public edition


    • Fine tune your system and understand its usage – While the system receives automatic innovations with zero day 1 impacts, it is recommended for you to fine tune your system. What I mean with this is that there are some activities you need to do and review in every innovation cycle. For example, after upgrades you might need to update business roles as SAP enhances them, SAP might enhance, as well, some Fiori Apps or CDS views that you might need to update in due time. SAP will continue to enhance functionality to improve the system and it is important that you continue to look at these areas to fine tune your operations. Normally, all these required activities are identified in the RASD Tool or in the What’s New area. You can also look at the new dashboard in SAP for Me to understand your system usage, to make the necessary decisions to drive adoption.


In closing, I hope these topics are helpful and I look forward to hearing from you about your learnings and experiences on your current or future SAP S/4HANA, public edition, implementation and ongoing operations.

I want to thank the following colleagues for reviewing the blog and providing feedback based on their own experiences and knowledge: Esther Vrieze, Barbara Bitterle, Sonia Gomes, Sally Redmond, Jan Musil, Dennis Leslie, Ernesto Cepeda and Jerry Lowery.


More Information on SAP S/4HANA Cloud, Public Edition:


    • SAP S/4HANA Cloud, public edition, release info here
    • Latest SAP S/4HANA Cloud, public edition, release blog posts here and previous release highlights here
    • SAP S/4HANA PSCC Digital Enablement Wheel here
    • Early Release Webinar Series here
    • Inside SAP S/4HANA Podcast here
    • openSAP Microlearnings for SAP S/4HANA here
    • Best practices for SAP S/4HANA Cloud, public edition, here
    • SAP S/4HANA Cloud, public edition, Community: here
    • Feature Scope Description here
    • Help Portal Product Page here

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