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I’m here at SAPPHIRE NOW in Orlando this week and while I love a good high-level strategy as much as the next guy or gal, I’m also interested in uncovering the hard facts that turn strategy into reality. Take SAP’s “database for the 21st century”, S/4 HANA as an example. To say it’s got a lot of hype to live up to is the IT understatement of the century. Judging from the unfiltered assessments gathered from two overcrowded customer sessions I attended with Lockheed Martin and Topco, S/4 HANA (while not perfect) has a very bright future indeed.

With 125,000 employees and revenues of $46 billion, Lockheed Martin is in the midst of restructuring five business areas and their respective info systems. Lockheed Martin uses SAP to run the core parts of its business, HR being the one exception (are you reading this SuccessFactors?). The company’s SAP HANA journey began in 2011 when they prototyped SAP HANA Sidecar and became “very excited” as “it worked great”, according to Jeff Morin of Lockheed Martin. Jeff then decided it was high time to kick the tires on S/4 HANA Simple Finance. The goals of this pilot include:

Functional Processing

  • Reduced complexity of day-to-day tasks for FICO analysts
  • Reduced processing times or key batch processing
  • Central Finance opportunities
  • Fiori UX value proposition

Technical Changes

  • Impact to ABAP due to database views replacing physical tables
  • Reduced database physical size

Upgrade Effort

  • Overall environment component prerequisites
  • Elapsed time required for production downtime

The Simple Finance results? According to Morin, the migration from an Oracle database to SAP HANA went very smoothly, partly due to prior experience with other business areas. Their database footprint also decreased over 60%. Runtime reduced by about 45% despite no effort to remediate or tune software.

“Fiori apps are also good and will be a nice experience for the end user,” according to Morin.

The migration to Simple Finance from ECC HANA, however was a bit more challenging for a variety of reasons. But most issues were resolved by working with SAP, said Morin who also recommended getting involved in the SAP Market Introduction Programs.

Topco standardizes on SAP HANA

During its IT transformation, Topco, a privately held company that provides innovative business solutions for its food industry member-owners and customers, considered solutions from NetSuite and Oracle but ultimately decided on Business Suite 4 SAP HANA.

“We’re not just focusing on technology, but organization itself,” said Johnathan Morse, VP Technology and continuous improvement. “We had siloed some of our businesses in the past and we used this transformation to break down the silos. Where possible we wanted to standardize.”

Part of that standardization involves a “crawl, walk, run approach,” according to Morse. “If you charge out of the gates with all the bells and whistles it will be extremely challenging.”

Morse said the company set up an “Office of No” in an effort to balance what business users want versus what they really need.

“We challenged proposed customizations,” said Morse. “We couldn’t take an IT person’s word for it or even a consultant – requests had to come from the business. It was very effective and I recommend to anyone going through a large scale implementation.”

By stressing the adoption of standard SAP and not recreating legacy, Morse asked business users the following questions:

  • What is SAP leading practice?
  • How often does this issue occur?
  • Is there a manual workaround?
  • Is this a must-have or nice-to-have?

Out of the 609 customization requests, Morse and his team approved 35% and cancelled or deferred 65%. By keeping unnecessary customizations to a minimum during the implementation process, Topco was able to glean the following business benefits:

Based on the aforementioned, is the S/4 HANA hype starting to become more of a reality?