Let me start this missive with a history lesson. Once-upon-a-time there was just Shank’s Pony for moving stuff around. Some clever person then invented the cart and this was easier. Then the industrial revolution began and we needed to move lots of heavy stuff so canals were dug and barges used them. Then from the north-east of England came coal and the need to move it so steam-powered railways replaced canals. The internal combustion engine enabled those carts to become local and personal transport and now we’re in the middle of the next move to replace internal combustion with electric power. All great changes in transport over a few centuries.
If we look at SAP in the same light then R/1 was a bespoke solution written for I.C.I., at that time one of the biggest companies in the UK. This was then ‘productised’ into the first mainframe ERP solution and, having used up all their creativity, called R/2. The next major shift was to utilise the new client-server technology and this became R/3, which was pulled, stretched and twisted to adapt to the Internet (remember mySAP.com?) and more recently cloud technology.
Now you would assume that R/4 would come along as the next big thing, but unfortunately R4 is trademarked by Renault for their 4 car that was their competitor to the 2CV. Nobody, except Renault, now cares as the cars all rotted away long ago.
So SAP, continuing the creative naming policy, used the next letter on from R in the alphabet, and called the product for the cloud paradigm S/4.
As with all paradigm shifts there is some concern as to when to jump to the next level. The risks and rewards need to be weighed – steam trains are great to be nostalgic about but in reality, they are dirty, inefficient, smelly, polluting monsters.
The UK was late to move away from steam power and is still suffering from that delay. In the SAP world, we in Supply Chain, were probably right to worry about the capability of S/4 in its early iterations. In my opinion S/4 is now capable for Supply Chain and we need to worry about how far we will be left behind by failing to take advantage of its capability.
We need to move to S/4 as soon as we can. S/4 provides tools to assist in the conversion from R/3, but to take advantage of the full capability of S/4 may require some re-engineering. After all we don’t want to be charging our electric cars in petrol stations, do we?
If you need help with your S/4 Supply chain, or want to talk about steam trains, then get in touch here.
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