paulrommer - Fotolia

UKISUG 2016: 5% of SAP customers are using S/4 Hana

On the opening day of Connect, the 2016 SAP UK & Ireland User Group conference in Birmingham, it was revealed that 5% of customers are using S/4 Hana, and 12% have not heard of the ERP system

A surprisingly large minority of SAP customers have not heard of the supplier’s much-vaunted S/4 Hana enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.

A survey of 296 SAP user organisations in the UK and Ireland has revealed that 12% are unaware of the system, which was upgraded last month.

S/4 Hana release 1610, unveiled at the end of October, has new supply chain capabilities, including specific functions for the retail and oil and gas industries, and was rendered through the supplier’s Fiori user-friendly 2.0 applications suite.

That might impress the 5% of UK and Ireland SAP users who are using S/4. At the SAP UK & Ireland user group annual conference, Connect, which opened today in Birmingham, chairman Phil Adams said that although small, that 5% figure was a “great statement”. He added that 34% were planning to use the new product.

“Most of us are on the path [to S/4 Hana], but migration is not easy,” said Adams. “If we are running ECC6, we have support until 2025, but we do need to understand what the steps are [for S/4 Hana migration], and we need help from SAP and the partner community. Migration can be scary and disruptive.”

Adams said he was pleased that the user group, working through SUGEN [the SAP user groups executive network], had been getting clarity on what S/4 Hana, as a new product, would mean for existing licensing agreements with the supplier.

“I am pleased to say that dialogue was healthy and constructive, and SAP clarified in January what it meant – that though it was branded as a new product, it did not mean, for us, a new purchase,” he said.

According to Adams, 70% of organisations in the user group said SAP has been unclear in communicating the value of Hana, the in-memory columnar database platform that lies at the heart of S/4.

Hala Zeine, senior vice-president of SAP portfolio and commercialisation strategy at the supplier, shared the stage with Adams for the opening keynote. She said, in a talk that reprised some of her address to the recent Australian SAP user group conference, that with 4,100 customers for S/4 Hana, it was showing a faster adoption rate than SAP’s earlier ERP generations R3 and ECC 6.

Read more about the SAP UK & Ireland User Group

Zeine said that just as SAP was on a “journey” with its customers, so IT and other executives had to be on a journey with their business colleagues, demonstrating the value of the new tools.

Cormac Watters, UK and Ireland managing director at SAP, said that S/4 Hana, at “less than two years old”, was a young technology, and that he had noticed “digital transformation has become a real thing for the C-suite [board members] in past 12 months”.

Watters said that, although surprising, the 12% figure for users that had not heard of S/4 was a fact that the supplier had to deal with. “We need to continue to listen, and be stable and clearer,” he said.

Moving from “empathy to action” would be a new theme from SAP locally over the next year, said Watters, echoing the “customer empathy” message that was prominent at this year’s Sapphire, the supplier’s annual customer event in Orlando, Florida.

Watters said customers could expect more account management simplification, with account owners now capped at four customers.

In his last two years as managing director, Watters said he had, as a former customer of SAP, tried to “deliver something that was more consistent”, adding: “We have listened, seriously and deliberately. And we have simplified the ways that we connect with the customers.”

Read more on Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software