Even though it’s been quite a while, I will never forget the curious situation when Professor Hasso Plattner, former SAP CEO Bill McDermott, and former SAP CTO Bernd Leukert presented ERP S/4 based on Hana at the New York Stock Exchange. Don’t get me wrong, it was a solid presentation. However, SAP didn’t want to be the only one up on stage praising itself, so it invited the former CFO of Bayer, a global enterprise with core competencies in the life science fields of healthcare and agriculture.
Even back then, Bayer had been a long-term and loyal SAP customer, so it was a smart move. The beginning of the CFO’s presentation was exactly what SAP wanted, as he started by thanking the ERP company for a good, successful partnership. However, the more he talked, the more doubts about the topic of the presentation arose.
The journalists and analysts present were expecting a presentation on the then current SAP release Business Suite 7 and excitement for S/4 Hana. However, the CFO praised R/3 to the highest heavens. He talked about how great it was that after ten years of customizing, all 100 subsidiaries of Bayer were now working with R/3; that finally, there were no Excel spreadsheets to keep tabs on anymore, ensuring consistency and true-cost pricing. He sang R/3’s praises like there was no tomorrow.
Now nothing more than a funny anecdote, this mishap could have been a warning to SAP that the release change to S/4 Hana might take much longer than originally anticipated. It tried to erase R/3 and Business Suite 7 from customers’ memory, entice them with S/4 Hana, but the German-speaking SAP user group DSAG didn’t make it easy. It proclaimed that SAP Business Suite 7 with AnyDB was perfectly capable of handling upcoming digital transformation projects. It seemed like SAP had no other choice but to extend the end of support for ERP/ECC 6.0 with AnyDB from 2025 to 2030. However, this opens up a new problem: In 2030, S/4 Hana’s technology will be antiquated.
Many SAP customers will rather continue to use their stable Suite 7 with Oracle, IBM DB2 or SQl servers than migrate to a technology that’s been around for more than a decade. Instead, they might be more open to try something completely new. SAP might not want to, but it seems that announcing a roadmap for an S/4 predecessor for 2040 could be the better option for everyone involved.