Basis Technologies + smartShift: Automating Your Move to S/4HANA

If you’re ready to move to S/4HANA but are worried about the time it will take and the potential risks, read on to discover a better way forward.

Moving to S/4HANA enables your company to capitalize on all the advantages of the latest SAP technology, allowing you to keep up with your competitors and providing an opportunity to embrace newer, more efficient approaches to development and delivery.

However, it can be complicated, confusing and time-consuming process. There are many paths to choose from, from “Brownfield” (typically more technical and focused on getting today’s businesses processes running on S/4HANA in a faster way) to full “Greenfield” (a completely novel implementation that looks to address technical debt and involves business process redesign to maximize the value of what S/4HANA has to offer). And of course, there are hybrid approaches that are somewhere in between the two.

Whichever path you choose, automation can help your organization to get there more quickly and safely. We recently hosted a joint webinar with smartShift Technologies on this very topic so in this blog I’ll take a look at some of the key points we covered but if you’d like to know more you can watch a recording of the full webinar here.

The technical challenges of S/4HANA transformation

When migrating from SAP ECC to S/4HANA it’s important that you take the appropriate steps to minimize the cost and the risk, and that means considering how to approach the many technical challenges involved. Things you may need to consider include:

  • Minimizing downtime
  • Business process transformation
  • Architecting for the cloud
  • Data migration
  • Use of Fiori UI
  • Testing
  • Custom code remediation
  • Dual maintenance

These are all important areas that need to be addressed but in this article I’m going to look more closely at custom code remediation and dual maintenance, since they’re both areas where software automation can deliver significant benefits.

Custom code remediation

One of the benefits of SAP is how easy it is to tailor it to your own needs with custom code via the ABAP programming language. When moving to S/4HANA all of your custom code needs to be reviewed and assessed to see if it is still needed – one of many tasks which may inform your choice of overall migration approach.

For example, smartShift found that an average ECC system has 22,000 custom objects and over 2.7 million lines of code, up to 60% of which may be redundant after the move to S/4HANA. Obviously in systems of that scale the effort required just to analyze the state of play and determine what you want to keep can be enormous.

However, it’s not just about redundant code. You also need to look at where the custom code you do want to keep may need to be adapted to ensure it operates correctly in S/4HANA. That might be because you’re moving to a HANA database for the first time, or simply because some objects, data structures and so on no longer exist in S/4, or no longer work in the same way.

When you’ve identified your incompatible custom code – no simple feat in and of itself – the real work begins: executing the code remediation. Traditionally you’d need a team of people, and hence plenty of time and budget, to do that work, and the complexity of the task means there’s lots of scope for things to go wrong. That’s where automation comes in.

smartShift has developed a custom code transformation engine that automates almost the entire process of SAP custom code analysis and remediation. The company recently worked with a large German retailer where they automatically updated 150,000 custom objects and corrected 500,000 issues in the system, resulting in just five errors that needed to be fixed. Better yet, the whole project was completed in just four and a half weeks, demonstrating the speed and accuracy that automation can bring to an area representing a significant amount of work during your S/4HANA transition.

Dual maintenance

The challenge of dual maintenance can often be underestimated when moving to S/4HANA, perhaps in part because some level of change and release management is a constant part of managing SAP systems. But whether you have chosen a brownfield, greenfield or hybrid migration you will be running multiple systems in parallel for some time, at least, during which the change control challenge becomes significantly more onerous and complex.

The same smartShift research I mentioned above found that movement of 2,000 dual maintenance transports per month, across two different technology platforms, containing an average of 10,000 objects, would be typical during an S/4HANA transformation project. That’s a lot of change, and a lot of complexity.

At a minimum, this dual maintenance requirement will exist while you are building out new S/4HANA systems alongside your existing estate (ECC, and so on) – a phase likely to take months, at the very least, and maybe even years. Creating an organizational change freeze for this length of time simply doesn’t make business sense, so you’ll have to find a way to update and align both systems without introducing divergence, errors and regression.

That’s not an easy problem to solve, even when you have enough resources to tackle it but once again, automation can help. DevOps automation, like ActiveControl from Basis Technologies, allows the business to keep running effectively by automatically identifying the changes that need to happen on both the ECC side and in S/4HANA (and those that don’t), and applying them across systems as appropriate, in the manner you choose.

Automation also gives you more control over what happens where, for example by providing the ability to lock down templates in either ECC or S/4HANA. Changes can only be made in the ‘master’ version, after which they are applied to the other as required, minimizing the possibility for errors caused by conflicting changes to the same configuration. And of course, during this process you’ll also benefit from all the other powerful features of DevOps automation like advanced analysis, complete visibility, and tool chain integration.

But even if it takes years to build your S/4HANA landscapes, the burden of dual maintenance might not end at cutover. Many organizations will take a phased approach, perhaps migrating selected business units to S/4 while continuing to operate others on ECC. That could mean years of ongoing parallel development. And even when you’re fully up and running, there’s the S/4HANA upgrade cycle to think about. Safe application of upgrades also usually means the kind of parallel development that can be accelerated by automation, albeit all on S/4HANA. ActiveControl helps here, too. It not only enables you to get to S/4HANA faster, but it also makes it easier to maximize your investment in the future by accelerating upgrades and functional changes that the business needs.

How Basis Technologies and SmartShift can de-risk your move to S/4HANA

To amplify the value of automation across custom code remediation and dual maintenance, we’ve partnered with smartShift to ensure that our tools work together.

As I’ve mentioned, ActiveControl automates almost all aspects of the SAP change and release process; it can eliminate up to 95% of manual effort while safely deploying every relevant ECC change to S/4HANA systems. And now smartRetrofit from smartShift Technologies – providing the ability to automate over 90% of custom code remediation – can be fully integrated into the process, helping to make your move to S/4HANA even faster, safer and less dependent on expensive human effort.

As I mentioned at the start of this piece, we dug into these topics in more detail in a recent webinar, so if you’d like to learn more about how SAP-specific automation can speed up S/4HANA migration, and how a DevOps approach can help you get more from S/4HANA after go-live, take a look at the recording or download our ebook.

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