Before I came on board with Basis Technologies, I was one of the leaders of Procter & Gamble’s massive transformation project to migrate their supply chain systems from SAP ECC to S/4HANA. I recently participated in a webinar with some of my former P&G colleagues and our partners at smartShift to discuss the project, its challenges and successes, and lessons for other firms as they plan their own migrations.
When SAP announced end of life support for ECC in 2027, P&G embarked on a massive company-wide project to migrate their supply chain operations from ECC to S/4HANA. The primary goal of the Supply Chain Platform Transformation (SCPT) project was to avoid business disruption by avoiding loss of support for their ERP system.
P&G also used the project as an opportunity to consolidate their 10 global supply chain landscapes down to four – one for each region – EMEA, Asia, North America, and Latin America.
P&G knew with such a complex SAP landscape they would need help from external partners to ensure a successful transition. Basis Technologies is a market leader in providing automation solutions for SAP change and release management, including for S/4 transformation and upgrades, and smartShift is a pioneer in SAP-specific automated code remediation.
P&G partnered with Basis Technologies and smartShift to help them achieve four main KPIs for the project:
- Minimal risk
- Lower cost
While most large, global, complex organizations will face similar challenges when migrating to S/4HANA, P&G’s migration presented some unique obstacles.
The primary challenge for P&G was ensuring business continuity across the landscape while minimizing risk and delays – a tall order for any SAP project, particularly one expected to last 10 years.
To complicate matters, P&G had a complex, highly customized SAP landscape supporting thousands of suppliers, tens of thousands of customers, and more than 1,500 projects happening concurrently alongside the SCPT project – and that’s just in the EMEA region. With such a large presence and so much of the company at stake (EMEA alone accounts for $21 billion in sales annually), P&G could not afford any disruption to the business.
P&G chose to take a lift-and-shift or “hybrid” approach to the migration which involves transforming an empty shell of an existing ECC system to S/4HANA to preserve as many pre-existing processes and customization as possible during the move.
The first part of the challenge with such a highly customized environment was to examine every piece of code in their landscape to see what required remediation. Meanwhile, as objects are examined and remediated, changes must continually be delivered to the environment to avoid business disruption. To put the challenge into context: of the more than 77,000 objects present in P&G’s ECC system, about half of them were considered relevant for retaining and moving to S/4HANA while approximately 25,000 transports had to be simultaneously deployed to the existing ECC landscape. And even though P&G planned 10 years for the project, they would still be pushing up against the announced end of life deadline for ECC, so they had to move quickly without exposing the business to unnecessary risk.
The only way to efficiently facilitate the buildout while continuing business operations was with dual maintenance – keeping changes between multiple SAP systems in sync simultaneously across the landscape. While this is possible to do manually, P&G understood that doing so would add significant delays and risk to the project, so they turned to automation.
As mentioned earlier, P&G partnered with Basis Technologies and smartShift to bring automation to their S/4HANA transformation. Through an integrated approach, P&G was able solve their most important challenges by leveraging both companies’ best-in-breed automation solutions.
ActiveControl is Basis Technologies’ DevOps automation platform designed for the challenges of SAP, providing a fully automated, end-to-end CI/CD pipeline for SAP change management. smartShift’s Retrofit solution is integrated directly into ActiveControl, enabling seamless dual maintenance and automated code remediation in one powerful solution. As ActiveControl is automatically managing and synching transports across the systems, smartShift Retrofit is automatically identifying and remediating any necessary code.
The benefit was immediately apparent for P&G, as smartShift was able to automatically remediate their highly customized environment including their frameworks, naming conventions and standards, saving the company a significant amount of time and eliminating risk.
To support business operations during the S/4HANA project, ActiveControl automates the safe deployment of 25,000 transports a year through the ECC systems. As soon as the new S/4HANA systems are created, ActiveControl begins seamless, automatic maintenance across both landscapes. Together, ActiveControl and smartShift provide overall stewardship and governance of dual maintenance to ensure changes are correctly identified, governed, and managed, offering P&G the necessary control.
Impact of Automation
P&G knew automation was required to ensure a successful migration, otherwise the project would have simply taken too long and been too expensive.
One of the panelists and my former colleague, Senior Director Global Programs at P&G, Bruno Pont said it best: “Simply put, we would not be able to achieve this upgrade without automation. Either we would have had to do a pure greenfield implementation, which was going to be too long and unaffordable, or we would have taken a major operation risk by just trying to do it ‘manually’. Most likely, we would just not have upgraded.”
He went on to say that without automation, the significant amount of manual testing alone would have required too much time from their team, distracting them from focusing on business operations and more strategic tasks. ActiveControl’s more than 70 powerful out-of-the-box analyzers offered the ability to ensure the quality and safety of every release before being deployed to production, virtually eliminating system downtime. Combined with the ability to seamlessly integrate with best-of-breed automated testing tools, P&G gained the confidence to focus on other projects concurrently, knowing changes were being automatically deployed without errors.
In fact, P&G was able to move changes from ECC to S/4HANA in real time, resulting in a defect rate for their custom code at less than 1% – the smallest defect rate out of everything they tested during the move to S/4HANA. They were expecting the custom code to be the most vulnerable to errors, but instead it turned out to be the least risky.
To ensure business continuity throughout the project, P&G needed strong stewardship for tracking all the changes to enable greater visibility so they could find and fix errors quickly. Throughout the buildout, ActiveControl tracked every change at every step of the process to provide a granular view of changes, allowing P&G to quickly identify and track down where problems occurred. It provided an error-free, turnkey solution that required little-to-no manual involvement or oversight from P&G, freeing up resources to focus on more value-add tasks, including the 1,500 other projects delivering business innovation.
At the time of writing, smartShift has identified and alleviated 1.3 million errors that would have cost P&G more than 42,000 person-days to fix manually and ActiveControl seamlessly manages more than 6,000 transports between ECC and S/4HANA without error.
My colleagues at P&G offered some valuable advice for firms exploring their own S/4HANA migrations:
- Look for expert partners to help streamline and de-risk the project – experts such as smartShift and Basis Technologies who have decades of experience helping firms deliver business innovation in SAP quickly and safely.
- Bring automation tools in early to set the existing environment up for success. As soon as the first S/4 system is built, you’ll need to begin dual maintenance so having the infrastructure and experience in place beforehand can make the transition easier.
- Automation brings the reliability needed to ensure business continuity and a seamless migration.
- Explore offerings beyond SAP, particularly for complex environments. P&G discovered SAP’s in-house tooling did not offer all the functionality needed to ensure a safe, efficient transformation.
- Involve business users early to help provide ownership over the changes happening. This creates opportunities for modernization as business users can request features and connections while everything is built, delivering value sooner.
Every company’s journey to S/4HANA will be different and present unique challenges but looking to P&G’s story can provide a lot of insight for others.
While many enterprises don’t have the complexity that P&G does, it’s still a good idea to examine your landscape to find where you can bring in automation to reduce the cost, time and risk of the project.
Thanks to SAP-specific automation from ActiveControl and smartShift, P&G is on track with their migration project, business continues as usual without interruption, and the custom code which was anticipated to be a major vulnerability has not been a risk at all.