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SAP S/4HANA: What you need to know

SAP ECC users will need to move to S/4HANA by 2030. Here’s what you need to know about S/4HANA, and how to accelerate your transition.

As an SAP expert, you’ve had years to master the previous generation of SAP applications. But as SAP intends to cancel mainstream ECC support from 2027, you may be wondering what comes next.

SAP’s new ERP flagship, S/4HANA, has had all sorts of buzz around it since it launched in 2015. With all the hype, it can be hard to separate the fact from fiction.

In this blog, I’ll run through what you need to know about SAP S/4HANA, the main benefits you’ll get from upgrading, and how you can make the processes far smoother with automation.

What is SAP S/4HANA?

The S/4 in S/4HANA stands for SAP Business Suite 4 – in other words, it’s the direct successor to SAP’s Business Suite ERP platform. Where S/4HANA differs from its predecessors is that it’s been built from the ground up to run on HANA – SAP’s in-memory database.

Because it runs on HANA, the new ERP platform can help enterprises process larger data volumes much faster. S/4HANA also promises a significant performance and efficiency improvement over ECC. It’s such a big leap, in fact, that former SAP CEO Bill McDermott called it the company’s “biggest launch in 23 years, if not in the entire history of the company”.

However, while SAP calls the move to S/4HANA an ‘upgrade’, that somewhat understates the scope of the challenge. At a recent UK and Ireland SAP User Group conference, many organizations said they aren’t planning to migrate any time soon. Over two-fifths (42%) said cost was the primary reasons for sticking with legacy SAP systems, while 34% said an upgrade would require significant change management.

SAP has heard the concerns around upgrading to S/4HANA, and pushed back its upgrade deadline. Previously, customers were told they had to upgrade by 2025. Now,  SAP users have until 2027 – or 2030 if they’re prepared to pay a bit extra – to get their organization onto the new platform.

Why move to S/4HANA?

If the move to S/4HANA is so challenging, why should enterprises choose to do it?

One of the big benefits of using S/4HANA over legacy ECC modules is that it runs in-memory. This means you get a centralized platform powered by near real-time data – essential functionality for those looking to make the most of big data streams.

This ‘Digital Core’, as SAP calls it, helps power a range of machine learning scenarios that SAP offers for S/4HANA. These pre-built scenarios help customers optimize processes and hit the ground running with AI features. So far, SAP has supplied powerful industry-focused scenarios for the likes of manufacturing plants and financial services providers, as well as more generalist scenarios. 

S/4HANA also offers embedded analytics that can extract insights from live transactional data in real time. 

What should I know before I consider moving?

While the many benefits of S/4HANA make upgrading seem a logical choice, there’s a lot to consider before starting your move.

SAP estimates that 75% of customers make their first migration step to S/4HANA in just six months. However, depending on the maturity of your existing SAP systems, the full process could take much longer – and require more in-depth support and change management.

The software vendor does offer some assistance for those making the move to S/4HANA. SAP’s Transformation Navigator tool assesses your SAP landscape, value drivers and priorities to create a custom upgrade path for your business.

However, while tools like Transformation Navigator can help tell you what to move, you still have to deal with how you migrate to S/4HANA. Making wholesale change to a core system like ERP is never easy, and shifting to an entirely new architecture adds a new order of complex which can result in months – or even years – of manual effort.

Automating migration processes is key to reducing this effort – and delivering an S/4HANA upgrade that runs to agreed timescales and budget.

Learn more about SAP S/4HANA migration automation

Your move to SAP S/4HANA is a chance to adopt a new way of managing change – both for your migration, and for updating SAP systems in general. By adopting a DevOps automation approach, you can make changes faster, easier and with less risk than conventional methods.

We explore the key stages of moving to S/4HANA, and how DevOps automation can help you accelerate the journey in our ebook. Download it to learn more about how you can get the benefits of S/4HANA, while reducing migration timelines, costs and risks.

Get the ebook: Accelerate Your SAP S/4HANA Journey with Automation

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