SAP S/4HANA Cloud is a SaaS version of SAP S/4HANA ERP, a suite of integrated business applications.
SAP S/4HANA Cloud was launched in February 2017. According to SAP, the intent was to provide a "next-generation intelligent ERP" system that enables companies to achieve digital transformation. SAP S/4HANA Cloud is built on SAP HANA and takes advantage of HANA's in-memory processing and real-time data accessibility, but makes this available in a SaaS model.
SaaS deployment means users can access all of S/4HANA's functionality without committing resources to hardware, databases or IT staff. S/4HANA Cloud includes technologies that can help bring "intelligence" into ERP applications, including machine learning, virtual and augmented reality, blockchain and voice-enabled technology. Main S/4HANA Cloud functions include finance, sourcing and procurement, sales, professional services, and manufacturing.
Three pillars of SAP S/4HANA Cloud's intelligent ERP
SAP S/4HANA Cloud includes three technologies that form the foundation of intelligent ERP, according to SAP:
- Digital assistant. SAP S/4HANA Cloud uses SAP CoPilot, a conversational digital assistant (or virtual assistant) for the enterprise that lets users interact with ERP applications and functions. SAP CoPilot uses contextual data about the user and the task they are performing to provide information relevant to the task.
- Machine learning. SAP S/4HANA Cloud includes machine learning technology that automates repeated actions or tasks, which can be repetitive and error prone when done manually, and learns how to perform them more efficiently.
- Predictive analytics. SAP S/4HANA Cloud has embedded analytics that can help predict the outcomes of actions. The analytics tools are configurable to the user's needs and can be developed into apps, such as an inventory management app that can predict when stock will arrive or a sales quotation app that enables sales managers to determine the probability of converting sales quotations.
Implementing, configuring and running SAP S/4HANA Cloud
SAP S/4HANA Cloud is available as SaaS with various subscription options from SAP, which owns and operates the platform. It comes configured with best practices and includes a built-in model that allows companies to standardize business processes. All of this is intended to reduce implementation time, cost and risk. SAP handles all of the back-end management, including upgrades, security and governance. All users generally need to do is integrate their data, then turn on the processes they need and turn off the ones they don't.
However, because SAP controls the basic infrastructure, it does not allow extensive customizations. This may not make S/4HANA Cloud suitable for larger enterprises that typically require ERP systems to be highly customized to meet their needs.
SAP S/4HANA Cloud versions are scheduled to update every quarter, according to SAP.
Users access SAP S/4HANA Cloud from a web browser, and all business apps are launched from the SAP Fiori launchpad. To access it, users only need an internet connection, the URL and access rights.
Benefits of SAP S/4HANA Cloud
SAP identifies five ways that companies can benefit from implementing S/4HANA Cloud, including faster ROI, increased business agility, lower total cost of ownership, improved governance and compliance, and more intelligent ERP that improves efficiency.
As an intelligent, next-generation cloud ERP business suite, S/4HANA Cloud prepares businesses for the digital future, SAP claims. It integrates business processes, can turn real-time data into actions and can increase employee productivity, thus enabling companies to transform existing business processes and develop new ones, according to the vendor.