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5 lessons time travel taught me about S/4HANA

I had one of those vivid dreams recently, you know the ones that after you have woken up you have to double check it was a dream.

In the dream I wanted to experience the new S/4HANA world in 2025, the year SAP stops supporting all other database technologies, to see how the new strategy impacted customers.

With that insight, I could take some competitive advantage back to feed into our strategic road-map.

So I asked my development team to create a time machine to transport me there for a day. They’re great at solving the impossible and boy, did they deliver.

The only snag was we were refused a patent by the UK Patent office due to the lack of novelty and prior art dating back to the 1950s under a BBC application.

My dream day was full of surprises. The landscape and buildings were much the same, though it did feel a tad warmer for the time of year.

Only a handful of recognizable brands still existed and many bellwether companies had gone or been consumed into new entities. To be honest I wasn’t so surprised by that. What was surprising is what I learned from the business leaders I met.

The question I had for the CIO’s and CEO’s (in many cases they were one and the same person) was this; “Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently if you could go back to 2015 to the launch of S/4HANA?”.

The supplementary question being: if you are designing and building a digital business capability either with or integrated with your SAP systems, how will you keep pace with the new generation of DevOps savvy digital business newcomers that have catapulted to fame in the past few years?

These newcomers don’t suffer the lengthy release cycles that most SAP clients go through. So change for them is an everyday must-have. Instant business innovation is the order of the day.

The responses can be best summarized with these 5 experiences:

Lesson 1

We were a 100% SAP shop and we jumped on the bandwagon too soon. We got our IT strategy completely out of sync with our long term business vision. So what really happened here was that our 5 year business vision and purpose, which constantly needed adaptation, was derailed as it took 10 years to roll out a complete transition from our current global ECC systems to S/4HANA.

The tragedy is we ended up constraining our business vision to fit within the capabilities of our IT infrastructure. Hence why the name over the door is now different…

W.Wonka. CEO Global Confectionery Corporation

Lesson 2

Our business had taken the decision to outsource all of our IT operations to a third party in the 2000’s. We were completely in their hands when it came to our IT infrastructure and took their advice on the best way to transition to S/4HANA. Whilst we were pretty happy with the SAP R/3 system, it’s evident now that we could have been a lot savvier.

The SI had essentially bespoke written about 70% of our SAP solution. And so they simply set about rewriting all our software apps, line for line, out of their offshore facility. At that time we had no real visibility of the DevOps movement and the tools available to streamline and automate parts of the transition. In a nutshell, we spent way more than we needed to…

A.C. Deecey, CIO Global Energy Co.

Lesson 3

We panicked 10 years ago. We had a heavily modified SAP system landscape and were advised not to waste resources transitioning from our old and complex environment, but to start again from scratch, in the cloud. Whilst that had some attractions we lost just about all our real competitive advantage we had spent so much effort creating over the previous 20 years. We had a shiny new infrastructure and about 95% scope coverage from our previous systems but the all-important 5% turned out to be costly. We filed for chapter 11b in 2021.

In hindsight we should have taken more time evaluating what gave us the edge instead of focusing on the technology. It’s the non-standard stuff that differentiates you from others.

Ian Ventory, Retired CIO, National Retailer Co

Lesson 4

Our transition to S/4HANA was a real success story. I think this is down to the fact that we stepped back and took the time to fully understand our business needs and map those against what we needed from our new SAP systems.

We spent 3 years consolidating our myriad of production systems, cleaning out unnecessary data and converting our SI to a lean and agile methodology. We also re-balanced our outsourcing so that we were in control of our technology again – which was a good move. Once we were at that point, the transition to S/4HANA was relatively easy. We had a new platform, a more agile delivery capability, but more significantly, we had a flexible and responsive SAP system which enabled a true digital business.

We were able to acquire a couple of significant competitors and we’re now the global leader in our sector in value and size.

Gaz Freye. CEO electric car co.

Lesson 5

In 2015 we were the global leader in search analytics. We didn’t use SAP as a software platform because it simply couldn’t meet the demands our business placed on IT. Today it’s a different story.

In 2020 we were convinced that enough progress had been made in the SAP world that meant we could afford to make the transition. Many of our customers rely on us to run their enterprise systems and provide tremendous value. That’s why we run SAP S/4HANA today.

Al Gebra. CEO global data analytics Co.

After stirring from my vivid dream I had learned some important lessons about the transition ahead for SAP customers contemplating S/4HANA:

  1. Be patient, clean up your act before you move
  2. Don’t only listen to the obvious vendors for advice
  3. Look for automation at every opportunity, especially in the transition from ECC to S/4.
  4. Don’t throw away your competitive advantage engineered into your legacy SAP environment in an attempt to oversimplify.
  5. Above all else ensure that whatever direction you take, you get up to speed on SAP Agile DevOps because without that your ability to embrace true digital business culture will be stifled by entrenched SAP release cycles.
  6. The whole DevOps movement and specifically it’s applicability to driving more agility in the SAP world is a huge technical and cultural mindset shift. 

If you want to learn more about how SAP Automation can help companies in their S/4HANA transition, watch this webinar recording

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