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Author's profile photo James Roberts

Don’t forget this important consideration on your journey to SAP S/4HANA

For some years the customers I work with have been challenged with the prospect of how and when to make the move to S/4HANA, but for many of them it has been something to worry about ‘later’.  Well, it seems that ‘later’ has arrived. More and more people that I speak to are well underway with a transition programme, and a surprising number of them will be going live before the end of 2017.

The benefits of S/4HANA have started to become much clearer but such a major transition project throws up a whole list of tough questions that need to be considered before any kind of practical work can even begin.  Will you go with the on-premise option, make the move to the cloud, or do both via a hybrid model?  Will you go for a brownfield system conversion from ECC to S/4, a landscape transition involving system consolidation, or go for a completely new greenfield implementation?

And what about other hybrid applications like SuccessFactors, Ariba, Concur, Hybris, Fieldglass, etc. that can operate alongside S/4HANA?  Do these change the shape of your landscape?

Do you need support from external partner(s) and if so how do you find the right one(s)?

No doubt there are many more.

The one thing that seems to throw a lot of people when I bring it up is this: When you’ve made these strategic choices, how are you going to run things day-to-day as you transition the business from where you are today to where you need to be?

From where you are, to where you need to be

It’s clear that for most companies the move to S/4HANA is a major undertaking that may take many years to achieve.  This is in part due to the fact that not all of the functionality needed is ready in S/4 as it’s still under development (let’s see what S/4HANA 1709 brings in September).

Most of the companies I’m personally involved with are looking towards cloud re-platforming and moving to Business Suite on HANA DB first.  And often they’ll dip their toes in the water with S/4 Finance or BW on HANA before embarking on the remainder of their transition with Enterprise Management.

One of our major customers has elected to go greenfield with S/4HANA due to the complexities of their landscape and processes.  This will be a multi-year programme to get to where they want and need to be.  During the transition they’ll be running all their financial reporting from S/4, even though their logistics and supply chain will still be in ERP for some time to come.

What they’ve realized is that although the endgame is important (in their case meaning running the whole business via S/4 and switching off their existing systems) they need to be mindful of the journey.  Just because you’re undergoing a transition it doesn’t mean your business can stop.  A lot can change during the process.  Your business will still need enhancements and new features.  Bugs still need to be fixed.  You still need to be able to operate and run.

So consider how you will…

  • Manage and align business changes during the transition
  • Synchronize current ERP with new S/4HANA systems
  • Consolidate ERP systems to prepare for a single S/4HANA system
  • Automate testing to validate the end-state

Solutions to support the journey

Of all these questions, perhaps the biggest is how to manage, align and synchronize changes between ERP and S/4 so that the business can still run without interruption whilst your S/4HANA implementation stays on track.

Basis Technologies’ DevOps Toolset delivers the controls needed to make these transition projects safe and robust by automatically selecting and synchronizing the relevant changes across systems.  Features such as template management and protection control changes to global and regional systems, providing an essential level of governance in complex SAP landscapes.

And if you’re opting for a landscape transition then the Consolidator solution can support the the technical merge of SAP ECC systems which is an important prerequisite step on the route to S/4HANA.

What are your plans and experiences?

I’d love to hear back from more customers who are either planning or already running their S/4HANA transition programmes to understand what your plans and challenges are and what approach you’re taking.

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      Author's profile photo Alejandro Jacard Plubins
      Alejandro Jacard Plubins

      I need to ask a couple of difficult questions, and not sure you can disclose the answer as it might be part of your customer’s specific situation. But here i go nonetheless:

      1. How did they justify the cost, in budget, training and time, to do a gradual process of change?
      2. If we take the fact that S/4 stands for simple, how did they justify NOT doing a remake and go for a "simpler" model....maybe use the SAP Best practices content packages to revisit their current business processes. I know from experience some SAP systems tend to show their age when patching them to include a new business model means doing hundreds of reverse test cases to ensure nothing was negatively affected.
      3. And finally, if aiming for a hybrid model, or a pure cloud-model, means placing your business platform at the mercy of the application lifecycle of the providers. You need to accept Ariba, Success Factors and Fieldglass impose specific dates and times to "upgrade" to the latest version...and I’ve seen firsthand cases where such situations created a disruption in the customers can someone justify such scenarios?.

      I ask this, because every time the talk about upgrading or moving to S/4 comes up, people take it as if it was some technical upgrade, once heard a person referring to it as "child's play" since SAP provides all the necessary tools......had a very hard time proving it otherwise.......

      Maybe I’m wrong, but i see customers moving to S/4 Hana as both a quantitative AND qualitative improvement over their existing software/business platforms…..and very much the exact opportunity managers dream of when thinking about modernizing their operational processes…not just the tools….actual process innovation, agility, people interaction.

      It would be foolish to think of it as a simple task…..but it is also true manager is not my job description. What is your take on such topics?.

      Author's profile photo James Roberts
      James Roberts
      Blog Post Author

      Hi Alejandro,

      Thanks for your questions.

      I can't tell you too much about this specific customer but I can say that they are very large and the process to migrate all of their ERP systems to S/4HANA will simply take sverval years as they are re-desinging and re-building from the beginning.  It won't be a big-bang approach and they will go-live in phases over time as the parts of their S/4 system become ready for productive use and during this time they will be running elements of both ERP and S/4HANA which is where some challenges exist.

      Your point about hybrid applications is an interesting one.  When using SaaS applications, customers are at the mercy of the provider enforcing upgrades but this can also be an advantage as they will always be on the latest release, in most, cases, with little or no impact.  Of couse, some updates and upgrades can cause disruption if action is not taken and I'd be interested to hear of cases where this is the case and whether, in reality, this outweighs the other benefits of simplicity and cost savings.

      And on your last point, a transition to S/4HANA is certainly not a technical upgrade like an enhancement pack upgrade.  This is a major undertaking and an opportinity to revist and reinvent processes and tools to create more effecient and agile business.  Most of the customers I deal with understand this and do understand the greater implications of such a programme of work.

      I hope this helps.