SAP S/4HANA Versions – Overview of the SAP Release Strategy
Learn more about the SAP S/4HANA roadmap and get insights into the different releases of SAP’s most innovative ERP platform.
Learn more about the SAP S/4HANA roadmap and get insights into the different releases of SAP’s most innovative ERP platform.
“Rome was not built in a day” is a common figure of speech that can also be used in order to describe the evolution of SAP S/4HANA. In analogy to every technological solution, SAP’s prime ERP suite has been continuously improved – from the first launch in February 2015 to the latest SAP S/4HANA version that became publicly available in October 2021.
To provide you with an understanding of the different SAP S/4HANA versions, we share an overview in which we list all the core releases of the ERP suite and point out the characteristics of each edition.
So, in case you are interested in acquiring SAP’s most powerful ERP for your business, you should definitely keep on reading: since every SAP S/4HANA release comes up with new functionalities, knowledge about the specific editions is crucial in order to decide which SAP S/4HANA version contains the product features that are relevant for your company.
Since its first introduction in February 2015, all the SAP S/4HANA versions have received fundamental upgrades and have been enriched with multiple functionalities for various areas of application, such as finance, sourcing and procurement, manufacturing, supply chain management, sales, and many other business-relevant processes.
In the course of the development process, all SAP S/4HANA versions have been named with four-digit numbers. The first 5 annual updates, which were released between 2015 and 2019, contained the number of the year and the month, in which the update became available. For instance, SAP S/4HANA 1511 became available in November of 2015.
Since 2020, SAP labels the SAP S/4HANA versions only with an annotation of the year of release, hence, the editions are called SAP S/4HANA 2020 and SAP S/4HANA 2021.
The changes and improvements of each SAP S/4HANA version are documented in so-called SAP simplification lists. In this section, we sum up some major characteristics of the former SAP S/4HANA on-premise releases. For an in-depth overview of each release, we also add links to the SAP simplification list of each version at the end of the corresponding paragraph.
After the first on-premise SAP S/4HANA version made its debut in February of 2015, the first upgrade followed nine months later in November of the same year.
The platform made a big leap forward by introducing SAP S/4HANA Enterprise Management which makes it possible for businesses to fully digitize all end-to-end operations in every key area of businesses.
The biggest improvement of the SAP S/4HANA 1511 was arguably the integration of SAP S/4HANA Finance. The innovative solution provides companies with detailed insights into corporate-wide financial data and gives businesses a transparent overview of their cash flow. Hence, finance-based tasks such as accounting, financial close or profitability and cost management run more efficiently.
Apart from the addition of SAP S/4HANA Finance, the 1511 upgrade contained profound simplifications for all kinds of business processes, namely materials resource planning (MRP), inventory management, production planning or optimizations regarding the supply chains of companies across all industries.
For a detailed view on all the improvements of SAP S/4HANA 1511, you can study the full SAP simplification list 1511.
The successor version SAP S/4HANA 1610, which was released in October of 2016, laid its focus particularly on enhancements of SAP S/4HANA Finance, improvements of the user experience with the introduction of SAP Fiori 2.0, and the integration of SAP Extended Warehouse Management (SAP EWM).
The scope of the functions of SAP S/4HANA Finance was extended with the solutions SAP RealSpend and SAP Financial Statement Insights. These innovative technologies help to streamline financial processes across all the departments into one system and, therefore, simplify tasks in accounting, profit analysis or compliance.
With SAP Fiori 2, the usability of SAP S/4HANA 1610 received a major upgrade in terms of a well-structured tile design, improved search capabilities, and an overall more intuitive handling. All the departments of companies benefit from customizable task overviews, work lists and reporting features.
With SAP Extended Warehouse Management, the overall system landscape of companies becomes considerably simpler. Among other benefits, SAP EWM supports the direct usage of master data, provides companies with flexible deployment options, and lowers the corporate-wide data footprint by avoiding data redundancies and duplications.
Gain extensive insights by looking into the complete SAP simplification list 1610.
The next stage in the SAP S/4HANA roadmap was SAP S/4HANA 1709, which was released in September 2017. The most prominent improvements were the introduction of the SAP HANA 2.0 database, the implementation of the UX plugin SAP Co-Pilot, and the core integration of transport management capabilities.
SAP HANA 2.0 itself comes along with a lot of productive features, first and foremost, with the new Persistent Memory technology, which allows your IT infrastructure to use RAM as storage and therefore provides businesses with a faster data access in nanoseconds. Better data security as well as new data recovery functions are also attributes of the new database.
With SAP CoPilot, SAP continued the optimization of the SAP Fiori user interface by adding new a plugin for digital assistance. SAP Co-Pilot allows users to communicate with colleagues and share information across the entire platform via In-Context Chat. Moreover, the creation of new business objects got simplified thanks to the Quick Actions feature.
The transport management application, which was a standalone solution in previous SAP S/4HANA releases, got integrated into the system core. This way, businesses can manage transportation more effectively, optimize their planning, organize subcontracts as well as the transfer of materials or returns.
Learn more about the changes and innovations in the SAP simplification list 1709.
With the SAP S/4HANA 1809 version, the SAP release strategy focused on the “intelligent ERP” approach of the company, which puts a particular emphasis on further improving process management, automation as well as machine learning.
Process automation was driven forward especially by integrating the digital innovation system SAP Leonardo, which provides businesses with progressive machine learning functionalities. In the field of procurement, for instance, invoices can be automized and monitored, which makes businesses more efficient by saving capacities at the same time.
In sales, Quotation Conversion Rates, which is also referred to as Order Probability, is a solution in SAP S/4HANA 1809 that allows sales representatives to make predictions based on percentages on how likely an offered item is sold.
With the introduction of demand-driven replenishment, planning and management of supply chains gets optimized, which is particularly useful for the manufacturing industry. Furthermore, intelligent technologies such as machine learning and data analytics were included in the inventory management, which makes decision-making considerably easier.
All the details on the SAP S/4HANA 1809 release can be found in the SAP simplification list 1809.
The SAP S/4HANA 1909 edition continued to evolve solutions for process automation, data insights as well as analysis in order to enable companies to easily adapt best practices across all industries and lines of business.
With the implementation of SAP Fiori 3, customers are provided with an even more intuitive user interface and therefore a better user experience across-the-board. In combination with the digital assistant SAP CoPilot, users are now able to use voice commands to control all SAP products. And the embedded user guidance technology, which is powered by machine learning, improves the overall usability of SAP S/4HANA.
Thanks to SAP Analytics Cloud, which became an added solution in the SAP S/4HANA 1909 version, the financial departments of companies profit from quicker and more in-depth insights into corporate-wide financial data. On the basis of continuous data analysis, smarter predictions can be made which provides businesses with the opportunity to optimize their financial planning and spend management.
Intelligent Robotic Process Automation helps especially the manufacturing sector to improve customer centricity by simultaneously saving inventory costs. The integration of IRPA technologies allows a more precise prediction of materials needed for production processes, which enhances the entire material resource planning procedures of businesses.
All improvements and innovations are explained in the SAP simplification list 1909.
With the SAP S/4HANA version of 2020, the SAP release strategy intensified the focus on intelligent ERP features of previous SAP S/4HANA releases and extended the scope to even more industries and lines of business – from service management over R&D and engineering to the distribution of consumer products, and many other fields of application.
The Last Mile Distribution (LMD) is an extension in SAP S/4HANA 2020 that allows manufacturers and suppliers of the consumer goods industry to manage the entire distribution process of products in a single and centralized system. From taking orders over delivery to payment – all kinds of consumer goods can be transferred to their store destinations more effectively, which leads to overall better logistics processes and costs reductions.
Handling corporate-wide finances becomes considerably easier thanks to the integration of a new treasury dashboard, which provides even more detailed insights into the financial data of companies. Profitability reportings, contract and revenue accounting, bank statement automations as well as invoicing procedures can be handled more comfortably thanks to a seamless and streamlined UI integration in SAP Fiori.
SAP S/4HANA 2020 also helps businesses to conduct a better risk management and simplifies the adherence of compliance regulations with regard to all day-to-day working operations. Among other solutions, the new SAP Watch List Screening application allows companies to perform automated compliance checks in real-time, with which critical sales or delays in the supply chain can be avoided.
A substantial overview of all the enhancements can be found in the SAP simplification list 2020.
Our SAP S/4HANA roadmap concludes with the latest SAP S/4HANA version, which was released in October of 2021. If you decide for an SAP S/4HANA 2021 implementation, you will receive the most comprehensive update of the prime ERP which contains all the features that businesses need to master their daily routine business operations.
Some highlights that are included in the most recent edition:
Since the topics of sustainability and environmental protection are rightfully at the center of attention, SAP S/4HANA 2021 now shares an integrated solution with which the carbon footprint of products can be monitored and managed.
Thanks to its complex data analysis capabilities, SAP S/4HANA allows businesses to calculate the footprint of every product and predict the environmental effects of all their business activities in the first place – and this along the entire value chain. Hence, SAP Product Footprint Management in SAP S/4HANA 2021 helps to reduce negative effects on the environment in a considerable manner.
SAP Integrated Business Planning complements the solutions of Financial Planning and Analysis in SAP Analytics Cloud and thereby provides companies with the opportunity to further optimize their corporate finance procedures.
By incorporating consensus demand as well as operation planning capabilities, the profitability plans and predictions of your finance department become even more precise and accurate, which is an important step on your way of conversing data into value as well as gaining a more transparent overview of your finances.
The Zero Downtime Option in SAP S/4HANA 2021 makes it possible for companies to conduct system maintenance procedures without to be at risk of suffering productivity losses or having technical difficulties.
Furthermore, future releases of SAP S/4HANA including all the SAP S/4HANA Cloud releases can be performed with a drastically reduced downtime of your IT. This also implies upgrades of all the integrated SAP applications as well as all the feature and support package stack updates. Thus, the Zero Downtime Option offers businesses a perfect solution to keep the IT environment up-to-date by avoiding decreases in efficiency at the same time.
Learn more about the whole spectrum of features in the SAP S/4HANA 2021 simplification list – or watch the video in the following section, which highlights some productive features of the latest SAP S/4HANA version.
When it comes to the numerous SAP S/4HANA versions that have been released so far, you can actually distinguish between two separate SAP S/4HANA roadmaps: since SAP offers its ERP with the deployment options of being hosted on-premise or in a cloud environment, updates of SAP S/4HANA are distributed with a different SAP release strategy.
One the one hand, the SAP Business Suite can be hosted as an on-premise solution, which means that companies take care of the administration and maintenance locally. For companies, which follow this more traditional hosting strategy, SAP releases one new SAP S/4HANA version each year. Since the ERP suite was introduced in 2015 for the first time, there have been a total of 7 on-premise SAP S/4HANA versions so far.
On the other hand, there is the option to deploy the system into a cloud environment, which is called SAP S/4HANA Cloud. Here you choose between a private, a public or a hybrid cloud solution, but regardless of which selection you make, you will receive a new SAP S/4HANA release on a quarterly basis, hence, your system gets 4 core updates each year.
Which hosting option you choose, depends on the specific requirements of your business. In general, however, the on-premise and the cloud-based version of SAP S/4HANA share a very similar range of functionalities and features.
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