Although recent reports cite an uptick in SAP S/4HANA adoption, by my estimate, nearly 85% of existing SAP ECC customers have yet to complete the full migration. As you can imagine, this means there is still a significant amount of work to be done to get customers to S/4HANA before the 2027 end of life date for ECC.
The challenge now is minimizing the time and resources needed for the transition with the right combination of partners and tools. The pressure is mounting for companies not only to embark on the move soon, but to find a way to get to S/4 quickly and safely.
Key considerations for migrating to S/4HANA
The path to S/4HANA will be different for every organization, but there are three main approaches and the best one for your organization will largely depend on the size and complexity of your landscape and your available resources.
Greenfield – this approach involves building the entire S/4HANA system from scratch without bringing over anything from ECC. Greenfield is best suited for net new SAP ERP customers or firms with smaller, less complex landscapes that want to move entirely to the cloud.
Brownfield – this is a pure system conversion where the entire ECC system is transformed as-is to run on S/4HANA. Companies who choose this approach often have substantial amounts of customization and don’t want to rebuild their processes.
Hybrid (Bluefield) – this seems to be the approach most of our customers are taking. A hybrid approach is best for companies who want to use the migration as an opportunity to transform their landscape. It gives firms the flexibility to choose what customizations they want to keep and how to bring them over.
For a deeper dive into the considerations of migrating to S/4HANA, check out my blog series.
Top four S/4HANA migration challenges
There are a number of key areas that present significant challenges to companies looking to move to S/4HANA and are likely contributing to the hesitancy to migrate.
Challenge 1: Landscape buildout and cutover maintenance
One major challenge facing companies is the need to manage change created as part of the migration project. Most S/4 systems will be built in stages, so the full landscape won’t be available when development begins, and the landscape buildout will inevitably change over the course of the project. Manually managing changes during this part of the S/4 journey is time consuming and error-prone which will delay the project and add significant risks to a smooth and successful cutover.
Companies will need a way to automatically sequence changes to eliminate overwrites, overtakes and dependency issues to enable fast and effective delivery. Teams also need visibility into where each change is in the process to efficiently deploy to multiple systems, or even redeploy them multiple times.
As organizations plan for the cutover, it’s important to have a flexible and repeatable process in place to ensure deployments are orchestrated properly – this helps account for cross-system dependencies. The cutover, and the way each change is managed, must be carefully mapped out to ensure there’s no negative impact on business operations.
SAP change automation can help ensure a seamless and successful cutover. Automated change management software can offer comprehensive visibility into every change and automatic sequencing and dependency checks so users can be made aware of any conflicts long before they cause a problem.
With greater visibility, flexibility, and speed, companies can plan more effectively and ensure a smooth cutover.
Challenge 2: Manual dual maintenance
Dual maintenance is a term commonly used to describe managing change across multiple landscapes simultaneously, in this case between ECC and S/4HANA. Dual maintenance in SAP is vital for organizations who can’t afford to pause critical business innovation during the transition to S/4HANA – a project that will take months or more likely years.
Delivering change to multiple landscapes simultaneously is challenging enough under normal circumstances, but you’ll also need to ensure S/4HANA landscapes are kept up to date with any changes made in ECC. No matter which S/4 approach you take, dual maintenance is a must, and many organizations will need to continue maintaining both platforms simultaneously for years.
There are four key areas of dual maintenance:
- Identifying what changes in ECC matter for S/4 – not all ECC changes will be needed or compatible with S/4. Teams need a way to identify and parse out which changes can be deployed to S/4 automatically and which ones need to be executed manually due to the differences between ECC and S/4.
- Code remediation – Teams also need a way to continually remediate code between the systems. As changes are made in ECC, they need to be remediated again before moving to S/4.
- Synchronized deployments – Thirdly, companies need to synchronize deployments across both landscapes to avoid any technical errors and inconsistencies that could lead to business-disrupting downtime.
- Maintain & protect S/4 templates – Once teams start mastering changes in S/4, there must be a way to protect them, so they aren’t impacted by changes made in ECC.
With ActiveControl from Basis Technologies, companies can keep the business running smoothly during migration by automatically aligning new systems with legacy landscapes. Automated dual maintenance removes the burden of transport management from the shoulders of SAP teams, 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.
Code remediation is another crucial piece of the change automation puzzle when it comes to S/4. Teams will need automated code remediation, like that offered by one of our partners, smartShift Technologies. smartShift Retrofit has been proven to identify and remediate up to 90% of custom code. ActiveControl integrates with smartShift Retrofit so that companies have an all-in-one solution to manage SAP change and code remediation.
There are a lot of technical differences between ECC and S/4HANA, and some of the new technologies, like SAP Fiori, rely on changes being deployed synchronously. Automation can synchronize the movement of transports across landscapes or even for the different technical components within a landscape, ensuring everything is deployed to the right place at the right time.
Challenge 3: Managing multiple technologies
There are many different technologies involved now in the SAP S/4 stack. Alongside the traditional ABAP development and customizing changes, you need to consider changes to HANA, Fiori and BW. Typically changes will span these different technologies and it becomes critical to understand the dependencies between them, and deploy them in sync. Without successful orchestration, the business runs the risk of parts of the application not working, leading to production outages and rework.
And with so many other enterprise applications being used in the modern business environment, companies should look at integrating SAP change management with non-SAP systems to create an automated, end-to-end process.
All of this is possible with the help of SAP change automation technology like ActiveControl. Changes can be quickly and efficiently managed across multiple technologies and multiple landscapes – all while eliminating dependency issues and avoiding business disruption. And integrating SAP into the wider IT tool chain, with apps like Jira, ServiceNow, Azure DevOps and more, enables companies to save time and money, and better align SAP with overall business strategies.
Challenge 4: S/4HANA upgrades
Another challenge is that most companies using SAP are not running the most recent version of ECC, but SAP recommends upgrading to the latest version (at least ECC 6.0) before migrating to S/4HANA. That means applying several years’ worth of updates – a complex project in itself – and depending on how long the migration takes, several updates may need to be applied across the landscape during the migration.
And after the migration, SAP has committed to yearly updates for S/4HANA, so you’ll need to be able to apply updates regularly without business disruption, not to mention the likely possibility of needing to maintain legacy ECC systems alongside the new S/4HANA landscape for years to come.
Automation is the only way upgrades can be planned, managed, tested and deployed right alongside business-as-usual (BAU) changes. ActiveControl’s suite of 70+ analyzers ensure code quality and reduce risk with rigorous checks and balances. This means less rework, shorter cycle times, and fast, safe, automatic deployment of upgrades across every SAP system, including N+n environments.
For companies looking to move to S/4HANA in the near future there’s no shortage of considerations and challenges. The simple truth is that organizations will need to adopt advanced automation to accelerate S/4 projects and avoid lengthy delays.