Using SAP S/4 HANA Cloud edition – Trial Version
I was very fortunate to receive an invite from the SAP Australia and New Zealand Event Team recently to attend a meeting with Uwe Grigoleit, Global Head of S/4HANA Business Development. Uwe shared his insights on SAP S/4HANA and the latest innovations available in the new release (1511 if you must know) and to understand the latest innovations to start the digital transformation journey.
Whilst SAP is making a huge effort in placing all things HANA on centre stage, I was rather curious about SAP’s cloud offering. We were offered a go at a trial version of either on-premise or cloud and I jumped at the latter. Admittedly it is my second time, the previous being a 1503 release.
Below is my experience from a, dare I say, not-so-average-user perspective and granted it was only a trial version, thus limited functionality.
Once I got my User ID and password, I was given a web link and good to go. You get the usual logon and change password options, so no issues there. I did once get a “Logon cookie check failed; repeat logon”, but just tried again and it was all good.
Layout & Navigation
If you not heard of Fiori UX, it is a role based access format of how SAP would like you to interact with the system. Just think of it as the Windows Tiles version of classic SAP GUI in a way. Everything was neatly categorised in areas typically a user would be working in. In this case, Project Management, Marketing, Accounts Payables, Accounts Receivables (not sure why the s on both ends, but I digress), General Ledger, Procurement, Sales.
Now, I was using both a laptop and Windows Surface Pro and the touch screen side of things worked pretty well on both devices. Whether the heavy users will opt for this option is questionable as I find my mouse/keybord combo the interaction method of choice. However, the large layout and sizing of everything will require mouse travel all over the screen to the edges and beyond. SAP Fiori UX motto being that it should be usable on any device, even a smart watch. Whilst you can change your browser settings (Chrome in my case) to decrease size and increase screen real estate, I did find it annoying when returning from my normal browsing and next logon.
The top right hand corner has your username with logout & user preferences options, although the trial version does not allow me to make use of user preferences. Top left corner had option of selecting/deselecting from the tiles library and placing of the available tiles in the predefined categories in any way you choose.
Navigating within the modules I found myself a little underwhelmed. For example:
When displaying line items I had a look at the selection & display options. Whilst all the information is there, I discovered some niggles. E.g. I wanted to find a document created by me. Not so easy straight off the bat.
Going to line items one can add additional fields for display (remember Universal Journal has it all), but once selected, there is no scroll bar at the bottom to navigate left or right. This is a common issue I found throughout.
Also copy & paste functionality is extremely frustrating almost everywhere you go. I know I am showing my SAP age (control + Y, control + C, control + V in SAP GUI) or even new age right click + copy is leaving me completely cold in this environment.
When completing information anywhere required, just hitting the ‘enter’ key, which comes naturally, does not produce anything. You have to press the “go” button, but that is just a consequence of the online world. Tabbing through input fields does work well, but due to my fat fingers and typolexia I hit the backspace key in an input field which results in the whole screen returning to previous screen. Very frustrating
Trial version also did not allow for creating and displaying user defined layouts for the available reports.
The trial version came with some interactive tutorials. Whilst I did not anticipate using it, I did resort to it eventually for understanding the marketing portion of this trial. This also leads me to believe that some degree of learning/training would be required for the uninitiated to all things SAP and it is not as intuitive as other cloud solutions I worked with.
It offers the basics for wat a small business would need doing projects in the cloud, i.e. this is not a replica of historic SAP PS, but an all new SAP Cloud Project Services edition.
Project setup goes through stages of General Information, Work Packages (assigning Work Items to Work Packages, can assign meals, accommodation, travel etc on top of hours), Team (only assign once project status changed to contract preparation), Billing and a section for Attachments. Projects have statuses of – In Planning, Contract Preparation, In Execution and Completed.
Projects can be linked to customer for billing and you can choose for it to be visible to public (not available in the trial version). You can also share results as a tile or via SAP Jam site. There is a heap of views on analysing your projects margins, costs, progress and plan/actual as well as variances by work package, work item, period or role.
It also has the ability to interact with Ariba, Successfactors (Employee Central), but not available in the trial version though.
Selecting any of the tiles in this section will open a new screen as it jumps straight into the S/4 HANA Cloud Marketing Edition. (i.e. Hybris Marketing)
Unfortunately I am not a marketing expert, but all the basics are there and happy to report it would most probably satisfy the basic needs for a marketing strategy.
What I did find slightly annoying gain is that not only will each tile open a new tab in your browser, but when you follow a hyperlink, it will result in opening a new tab yet again. This happened in this module only and not consistent with the rest of offering’s look and feel.
Functionality wise again the basic functions are there. Displaying, changing documents, creating correspondence, block, unblock (line items or vendors) for payment in easy to follow links. I suspect incomplete configuration when I tried to display on screen a correspondence form (open item list), but the vendor items for the company code in question then produced an error that vendor is not defined for that company code. Very odd as I am looking at the open items. Dare I say welcome back nonsensical SAP error messages?
Similar to above, Customer balances did result in an on screen (printout) display of list of customer open items. Another niggling point is that when you move from single customer balance display to correspondence request, you have to re-enter the customer number as it does not intuitively follow on from where you were.
Manage customer line items pretty much has the same options as suppliers, except for added dunning functionality.
Posting incoming invoices also looks straight forward if you have been doing this in previous versions of SAP. Sadly no banking functionality in this trial version for simulating payment runs or incoming bank statements, but it is available in S/4 Hana.
Switching between GL view and Entry view, it requires you to hit the “Go” button again and does not switch immediately.
There is no dedicated tile in his trial version for journal postings. First you have to go into GL line items display to get to a screen to enable posting a GL journal. Posting journal entries gives you document type SA only and also the option of choosing the ledger you want to post it in. Again, only after completing the line item first will it open the account assignment fields for completion. Also available is the ability to create similar journal entries, i.e. create with reference in old SAP language. Also not found the ability similar to historic “Park & Post” functionality.
Purchase order creation has everything you could expect from standard SAP PO. The virtual tab screens still exist for General Data, Delivery Address, process flow (e.g. GR, non-valuated GR, IR, GR based IR, Final Delivery and Final Invoice), Delivery, Source of Supply, Account assignment and Tax. I am missing release strategy options in this trial and found inconsistent or non-functional results on the initial PO screen when you select the tile. I am wondering if this is as a result of Simple Logistics that came after the creation of the trial version?
Goods receipt as per normal and Create Supplier Invoice has the usual with reference to a PO. There were some anomalies with regards to material records, but again this is more a data issue.
Sales only had one tile for Sales Order Fulfilment giving primarily aimed at resolving issues in a clear overview of issues per customer or on the top section indicating the amount of issues in the business process i.e. Order, Supply, Delivery or Invoice Stage and the amount of days stuck in this stage. From here you can also edit payment terms or remove billing blocks, post goods issue also with options to add notes and view contact details.
What is not in the trial version?
Hybris Billing. Similar to Simple Finance, SAP made inroads into reducing the volume of historic SD tables, although not to the same compression rate & degree as Simple Finance or Simple Logistics.
Succesfactors. I am a big fan and would have like to see a few basic employees if only in Employee Central and sans payroll. On the good news front, SF Payroll now has a standard Australian version.
Banking & Cash Management. Cash management is touted as one of the major improvements as a result of HANA, yet it is absent in this trial version which I found odd.
New Asset Accounting. Although I have experience with this, I hope it makes it into a next trial version and exploit the Universal Journal capabilities.
Ariba or Fieldglass. I suspect the trial was not ready yet with a Simple Logistics example since it was released only recently. My Ariba knowledge lacking as yet, but working on it.
Concur. I suspect as a result of the missing employee central this could not be included in this trial.
Furthermore, no Plant Maintenance, Warehouse Management and various master data options such as Material masters, GL accounts, Cost objects etc. So many more questions…
The trial version was hosted I believe on an AWS in the US somewhere and also configured for US company and US taxes. And it was extremely slow. Not sure if that will win over clients in Australia?
I would love to have seen an Australian best practice of old with banking integration and Succesfactors, but that is probably a long shot and early days still. Fingers crossed.
There are too many niggly points that just do not make it feel like a polished product. Much like Windows 8 initially, it has all the functionality but lacks the final touches. Don’t get me wrong, getting the behemoth that is SAP to work on an agile platform like the cloud is no mean feat and I sincerely applaud all the hours that went into achieving this. More so that one has the ability to choose a hybrid solution on top deserves utmost respect.
The big question remains (pricing aside), who will use it and would they? My take is, if you are (and most are) big end of town companies, your on premise is probably a better bet, yet you have the ability to use portions of cloud like Concur, Ariba, Hybris etc. The full on cloud version would probably be better aimed at the mid-town new uptakes, but I fear the competition in that space is fierce and other cloud solutions are way more aggressively priced and I hate to admit that.
In the meantime, HakaHana SAP.