Sapphire NOW, SAP’s annual conference, featured the unveiling of SAP Leonardo and a lot for large enterprises. But SAP still had plenty of Sapphire NOW takeaways for SMBs; the trick was knowing where to look and how to view the announcements.

S/4 HANA in the cloud

Cloud computing – and in particular, the public cloud – has matured to the point where SAP comfortably is partnering with Google. The partnership, announced in March, now includes additional certification for SAP technology and applications on the Google Cloud Platform (GCP), including SAP NetWeaver. S/4 HANA can also run on GCP, which may make it an attractive proposition for SMBs that don’t have the infrastructure to conduct an on-premises installation. Several customers on a panel, including Mod Pizza and Adita Technologies, are running S/4 HANA in the cloud, with positive results.

The advantage of using a public cloud, besides the cost savings, is also the speed to deploy S/4 HANA. For SMBs looking to get online right away, it’s not unheard-of to have S/4 HANA running in 10 weeks. However, because it’s relatively new, panelists advised that customers carefully screen their implementation partners to make sure they have enough experience and knowledge to implement S/4 HANA with minimal disruption.

SMB solutions on the show floor

For those concerned that SAP is abandoning its SMB/SME offerings, including Business By Design, Business One or SAP Anywhere, that isn’t happening. Sapphire NOW takeaways for SMBs include seeing the actual show floor. Sessions featuring SMBs using these three solutions were held. Attendees could visit kiosks to learn more about the software. It seems that every few years, a new rumor pops up that SAP is abandoning a piece of software (usually surrounding the pure cloud Business By Design, used by companies such as Living Proof). This is not the case. However, compared to two years ago, the SMB campus seemed a little thin and hidden. This is likely because S/4 HANA is becoming easier to consume due to the aforementioned Google partnership, as well as support for AWS and Azure that is either in place or coming soon. Additionally, SAP HANA, express edition, is available. The trend may be to encourage SMBs to start on S/4 HANA, rather than use one of the core SMB solutions.

Two-tier ERP is still a “thing”

Some informal buzz in the media and analyst center suggested that two-tier ERP is still a viable option. For SMBs, that means considering what ERP system to use and what will integrate well should you choose to sell to a larger enterprise, or should you become a large enterprise and need a second-tier system for subsidiaries.

It’s likely that the best path for SMBs is to investigate S/4 HANA as a cloud product. It won’t have the same customization options as an on-premise version of S/4 HANA, but it will offer the flexibility to grow with the business. Most organizations choose greenfield implementations if they’re running a legacy SAP system; for SMBs, this may be the first ERP system used.

As always, examine what kind of budget you have, what kind of risk tolerance exists in your organization, and whether or not SAP S/4 HANA or another solution is right for your organization.