S/4HANA - Two Shades of Blue
Written by
Dr. Christian Lechner

When thinking about S/4HANA one usually has some expectations about the software that is labeled that way and its architecture. The following keywords come to my mind:

·         Cloud first - the solution are designed to run in the cloud)

·         Principle of One - no redundancies in the solutions e. g. in the datamodel or in the frameworks that are used

·         Simplified processes

·         Guided configurations

·         Fiori UI

·         New programming paradigm - CDS, BOPF, SAP Gateway and OData

·         Key User Extensibility

·         ...

This is also the story that was told at different conferences by the responsible architects and developers of SAP. But as usual when you build software at some point in the process dark forces enter the scene namely marketing and sales. And their goals are usually not 100% compliant with the ones of the architects.

The detailed solutions shown in the image are not of relevance. Instead it is about the coloring: You can see that there are three colors. Two shades of blue and a grey one. Let us take a look at the color code:

·         The dark blue area represents the so called digital core of the S/4HANA solution, the S/4HANA Enterprise Management. This one adhere to the S/4 architecture guidelines and contains e. g. the simple finance solution.

·         In the grey areas we have mostly cloud based supplementary solutions for the processes running in the digital core e. g. success factor for the HR core solution. These are cloud based solution that are losely coupled to S/4. S/4 provides adapters to connect to them and to simplify the integration

OK so far my naive picture of S/4 is matched. The digital core is the central piece and represents the characteristics mentioned above. The supplementary solutions are optional and usually non-ABAP and, hence, not of relevance for the guideline.

But what the heck do these light blue areas stand for? Following their color code they are neither cloud nor S/4 digital core, but what can they be then? Some twilight zone solutions. Very very close ... they are so called S/4HANA products namely solutions that are not part of the S/4HANA core but belong to the S/4HANA solution. These solution are deployed onto the S/4HANA stack (only on the on premise version of S/4) and do not follow the architecture guidelines of the S/4HANA solution (in some cases in absolutely no sense). They are just kind of relabeled business suite solutions that also run on the S/4HANA stack.

Depending on the solution this state is temporary and the solutions are adopted to the S/4 architecture (and will become part of the digital core at some point in time), in some cases the solution will stay in their "business suite shape" and will not be adopted at all (except for some cosmetic changes). In any case they are part of the S/4HANA solution which for me is confusing and resembles to selling old wine in new bottles.

So whenever talking about S/4HANA be aware of these subtitle differences of the S/4 solution (or S/4 suite as it is sometimes called). The S/4HANA (especially in the eyes of our beloved sales persons from SAP ... I know we all like them) consists of three parts:

·         S/4HANA digital core

·         S/4HANA Products

·         supplementary solutions like SF or Ariba   

Each part has different architectural charateristics (that then also have an influence the way the can be enhanced directly or via an add-on). While the supplementary solutions are stand-alone solutions (mostly non-ABAP) the digital core and the products are both based on ABAP, but only the solutions that are part of the digital core follow the S/4HANA architecture guidelines in a strict sense whereas the products do not (and perhaps never will).

And here comes the cliffhanger: where will the SAP Insurance solutions be located in that picture? That will be answered (at least for FS-CM and FS-CD) in a separate blog.

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