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I just returned from the SAPPHIRE conference last week, and I have to say… it was surprisingly, the least inspiring conference I have attended.  Normally, I would return all revved up after drinking the “Kool Aid” and learning how SAP’s latest toys are changing the world.  Sure, S/4 HANA and hybris (along with all the other usual suspects) were plastered all over posters, presentations, and booths – Everyone was talking about these topics, but I really didn’t hear anything that I hadn’t heard before.  I suppose that my disappointment is due in part to my “implementer’s view of world,” but I wanted to hear real stories from the field, as well as tips and tricks and lessons learned from deploying these new technologies.  Instead, I got more of a marketing and project management view.  Here are a few things that became clearer for me while I was there:

S/4 HANA will eventually be completely rebuilt from the ground up, but for now it’s actually a mix of new, rewritten components, sitting on top of existing ECC components.  Think of S/4 HANA as a 100 year old house that is being rebuilt one room at a time.  The new rebuilt rooms are thoroughly modern and all use the latest technologies, however, they must connect and function together with the rest of the house.  As each room is replaced, there is significant work required to interface between the old and the new.  Eventually every room will be replaced and the house will be entirely of 21st century vintage.  Like the house analogy, every new component of S/4 will provide dramatic improvements in usability, performance, and convenience (i.e. simplicity).

I saw a presentation that explained the process to upgrade an existing on premise ECC installation to S/4 HANA;  some conference attendees were a little surprised to hear that S/4 HANA isn’t yet the entirely new solution they had believed it was.  They likened it to doing an enhancement pack upgrade on ECC, and for the most part the process is very similar.  Simple Finance was the first new S/4 HANA module.  Simple Logistics was mentioned as the next candidate.  eLogic’s core competence in Variant Configuration will also someday become an S/4 HANA module, but for now, it is only in the research phase.  Realistically I expect it to take several years to completely rebuild the ECC stack in S/4 HANA.

Like past conferences, there was also a lot of talk about hybris.  There are some interesting new features being rolled out, but my overall impression is that hybris still runs a lot more like a separate company than an integral part of SAP.  This shouldn’t be too surprising since most new acquisitions for any software vendor do take a while to integrate both the people and technology into their organization and offerings.  From what I have heard, nearly all hybris implementations are still using custom integration to connect with SAP backend systems.

That is why I was especially interested to see what has happened with hybris CPQ since its introduction in September.  For those not familiar, CPQ is the standard integration between hybris and the Business Suites (i.e. ECC and CRM).  I heard that there have been many challenges deploying the CPQ integration, so I wasn’t too surprised to hear that only two customers have started to deploy it and neither are in production yet.  hybris CPQ continues to sound very promising, but there are still some early release issues being addressed.  I look forward to being proven wrong on this.

Lastly, it appears that HANA itself has definitely arrived.  There were examples everywhere of companies that are using it to do all sorts of cool things, things that were not really feasible before HANA.  There is a lot of creative energy around the various solutions that are being developed – perhaps I will do a future blog to dig deeper into this topic.

In my next blog, I will give my perspectives on what I think all of this means and what you should be doing based on what kind of product configuration implementation you have.  It is time to start thinking about your future roadmap (if you haven’t done so already).  Thanks for reading.


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