Freedom of Speech or the Facts of an Announcement

Hasso Plattner

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A few days ago SAP announced S/4HANA, the next generation business suite, in New York. Since I worked once for IBM I take announcements very seriously. SAP asked me to do the first presentation of the new product while the head of SAP’s development Bernd Leukert demoed parts of it. It is unusual for a chairman to be part of a product announcement but SAP wanted to give me the opportunity to be part of it, because eight years ago I started to research a new architecture for cloud based enterprise systems at the HPI in Potsdam, Germany and this architecture became now the foundation of S/4HANA. This system is primarily designed for the cloud, but any good cloud software can run on premise as well. Therefore it was no surprise that I mentioned three different deployment options: S/4HANA as SaaS in the public cloud, S/4HANA in the managed cloud and on premise. Each deployment has different flavors, is geared to serve different customer segments and has different availability dates. As a non executive chairman of a German company i shouldn’t talk about delivery dates and pricing¬†and so I didn’t. That’s were probably the confusion started. SAP later clarified dates and pricing: the SaaS version starts for certain industries soon, the version for the managed cloud includes more functionality/industries and starts in may and the on premise version starts in october. I don’t want to go into the details here, that’s SAP’s job, but these dates are pretty important and of legal significance. SAP took several extra steps to support the notion of a non disruptive transition from the latest release of it’s current product ECC 6.0 like maintaining the old user interface in parallel to the new FIORI based one, carrying forward all existing data and customization and enabling the customer add ons to run on the new data model. Nobody should get confused by this.

What does this have to with the freedom of speech? SAP was not free to pick dates and functionalities randomly without risking major legal action against her. Researchers, bloggers and other industry experts don’t have this obligation, they can predict whatever they feel is right. So what is the truth? Some features of ECC6.0 will never make it to S/4HANA, they got quarantined and are only available on special request. Some industries are not allowed to run in a public cloud like hospitals in Germany or institutions of national interest. Some industries will come only in the future if there is demand. This is most likely what people meant when they talked about S/4HANA will be complete in 3-5 or 4-6 years. Or did they mean this is the time SAP will continue to enhance S/4HANA before the next version (T/5 ?) will be announced ? I sincerely hope S/4HANA will live much longer and enable companies to run simpler and ¬†more successful as a real time enterprise in the meantime.

Having worked on the architecture of this new enterprise software for now more than eight years I am extremely proud that SAP was a able to rewrite the ‘R/3’ family of systems on the HANA platform and can’t wait to visit the first productive customers soon.

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