5 Steps to a Clear S/4HANA Migration Strategy
These tips will help you strategize to ease your organization's ECC to S/4HANA migration and support the business as it occurs.
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If you're not thinking about S/4HANA already, you definitely should be. It’s fair to say that SAP’s latest platform has taken some time to gain traction amongst the global SAP user base, but the wheels are slowly starting to turn, with adoption rates increasing sharply over the past nine to twelve months.
Uncertainty about the journey to SAP S/4HANA leads many customers to fear a lengthy, expensive project that will disrupt operations, a fear that is clearly evident amongst many SAP users I speak to. It’s true that for any organization with a relatively complex SAP landscape today (i.e. most large organizations that run SAP), the ECC to S/4HANA migration is going to take time and will likely not come cheap. However, with sufficient preparation, appropriate change management, and the right tools and resources, real benefits can be unlocked through a smoother, lower-risk transition.
But why should you care about S/4HANA?
It’s a fair question. If you’ve got a functioning SAP system that meets the needs of your business - and into which a significant amount of capital has no doubt been invested - why would you want to take the effort, not to mention risk, of moving to a new platform?
Well, SAP is still (publicly at least) planning for all ECC customers to switch to S/4HANA by 2025. So in just six short years, your critical business systems may be regarded as ‘legacy’ applications that are no longer officially supported.
Perhaps more importantly, there’s the competition to consider. Although firms who make the leap sooner rather than later may have to deal with some teething troubles, they will have had much longer to optimize the new platform, and their associated business processes, to deliver competitive advantage.
Given that CIO’s are under increasing pressure to improve time to market and lower the cost of ownership of enterprise application infrastructure, can you afford to simply hand this potential head start to your competitors?
So what do you need to do to prepare? There is a variety of routes that can take you to the sunlit uplands of a cloud-based ERP system delivering real-time insights from an in-memory database.
Unfortunately, few of those roads are going to run in a straight line without any roadblocks on the horizon.
However, there are some fundamental principles that will accelerate the journey. Following these S/4HANA migration steps will help the transition from ECC to be as fast, cost-effective and productive as possible.
1. Start Planning Your Implementation Approach Today
Will you "lift and shift" your current systems and processes, and simply recreate them in S/4HANA (the so-called "brownfield" approach)? Or will you start again and use the opportunity of re-platforming to re-design your systems and processes to take full advantage of the new technology (the ‘greenfield’ option)? Perhaps a mix of the two will be more appropriate, e.g. with stable systems that rarely change moving as-is and more dynamic applications being approached afresh.
There are pros and cons to each approach so make sure to carry out sufficient analysis to determine to most appropriate option for your business — this is a critical decision, after all — but get started as soon as you can. Nothing can happen until you’ve made this choice.
2. Plan Your Roadmap for a Phased S/4HANA Transition
A "big bang" cutover to S/4HANA is technically an option, but I meet few businesses for whom the risk would be worth the reward, given the criticality of the systems concerned. What’s more, a significant amount of functionality is as yet unavailable in S/4HANA, so you’re probably not going to be able to fully discard your current systems for a while.
Constructing a roadmap to S/4HANA is essential so that your enterprise will understand how S/4HANA will meet their business needs. This should include the plan for what system components will be migrated and when, along with considerations on upgrades to current systems, and what will happen to custom code and existing application interfaces.
3. Get Your Systems Ready
Unlike in days gone by, licensing costs for S/4HANA systems are directly related to memory requirements. That means the size of your landscape becomes an issue. The more systems you have, the bigger your overall database size and the more you will have to pay to enjoy the benefits of S/4HANA. Think of it this way: you wouldn’t want to pay excess baggage fees for moving all your old, unneeded, worn out clothes for your expensive trip to the other side of the world, would you?
System consolidation helps to reduce your SAP footprint before migrating to the new platform. Fewer systems mean a faster, less complex, less risky migration process. That keeps down both the cost of the transition project and future licensing costs.
Archiving and removing unwanted data from your HANA or cloud scope means you’ll need less storage and lower data transfer rates, making your migration simpler and more affordable without carrying through any unneeded baggage to your new platform.
4. Revolutionize Your Testing
Many organizations are using the migration from ECC to S/4HANA to re-assess their processes and tooling, taking the opportunity of a relatively fresh start to adopt new, best practice solutions.
Regression testing is an ongoing challenge for many SAP users and that’s not likely to change once you’ve made the leap to S/4HANA. What’s more, it will be a crucial risk-reduction element of the actual migration process, during which you can expect multiple test cycles.
Consider a completely new approach to regression testing as part of a best-practice approach, eliminating the need to create or maintain test scripts and ensuring that you can confidently deliver each phase of your S/4HANA journey without business risk.
5. Support the Business With Continuous Delivery
S/4HANA is designed to work at higher speed and provide greater business insight so that businesses can be more flexible and agile.
That being the case, why accept change control processes that don’t allow your SAP systems to respond to those insights at a similar speed? Adopt DevOps automation software to give you complete control of SAP change and the ability to deliver at high speed. Integration into existing cross-application continuous integration and delivery processes will allow your SAP systems to respond to business needs faster than ever before.
What’s more, those same automation tools will prove invaluable during the migration process by providing far greater safety, visibility and control than manual methods. That means a faster, cheaper transition, and earlier access to the benefits that S/4HANA can bring.
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