What to consider for your journey to SAP S/4HANA
S/4HANA isn’t the new kid on the block anymore. For some years the customers I work with have been challenged with the prospect of how and when to make the move, but for many of them it has been something to worry about ‘later'.
Well, it seems that ‘later’ has arrived. More and more companies are at least designing their transition program, and a surprising number of them will be going live before the end of 2018.
The benefits of S/4HANA have started to become much clearer, but such a major transition project creates a long list of tough questions that need consideration before any kind of practical work can begin. Will you go with the on-premise option, make the move to the cloud, or do both via a hybrid model? Should you opt for a brownfield system conversion from ECC to S/4, a landscape transition involving system consolidation, or go for a completely new greenfield implementation?
And what about other hybrid applications like SuccessFactors, Ariba, Concur, Hybris, Fieldglass, etc. that can operate alongside S/4HANA? How do these change the shape of your landscape? What challenges will that create? Do you need support from external partners and if so how do you find the right ones?
No doubt there are many more.
The one thing that seems to throw a lot of people when I bring it up is this: When you’ve made these strategic choices, how are you going to run things day-to-day as you transition the business from where you are today to where you need to be?
From where you are, to where you need to be
It’s clear that for most companies the move to SAP S/4HANA is a major undertaking that will likely take many years to achieve. This is in part due to the fact that not all of the functionality needed is ready in S/4 - as it’s still under development. S/4HANA 1709 brought more essential updates but there’s still a long way to go.
Most of the companies I’ve been meeting with are looking towards cloud re-platforming and moving to SAP Business Suite on HANA DB first. Often, they’ll dip their toes in the water with S/4 Finance or BW on HANA before embarking on the remainder of their transition with Enterprise Management.
One of our major customers has elected to go greenfield with S/4HANA due to the complexities of their landscape and processes. This will be a multi-year programme to get to where they want and need to be to consider this a success. During the transition, they’ll be running all their financial reporting from S/4, even though their logistics and supply chain will still be in ERP for some time to come.
What they’ve realized is that although the endgame is important (in their case, running the whole business via S/4 and switching off their existing systems), they need to be mindful of the journey. Just because you’re undergoing a transition, it doesn't mean your business can stop. A lot can and will change during the process. Your business will still need enhancements and new features. Bugs still need to be fixed. It is still critical that your business can operate and run effectively and without disruption.
Here are some of the top considerations that I would recommend:
Manage and align business changes during the transition
Those SAP enhancements, changes, and bug fixes that still need to be made in current ERP systems to keep your business running will need to be properly managed alongside your S/4 programme. Therefore, it’s imperative that you have robust controls in place to safely deploy these changes into production while you develop and test your new S/4 solution. Doing this in parallel is no small task, but it’s critical in order to prevent disruption to the business during your transition.
Synchronize current ERP with new S/4HANA systems
Parallel development is not new in SAP, but S/4 takes it to a new level. Any changes in your existing ERP systems need to make their way, where relevant, to the new S/4 systems. The challenge is that it’s typically a manual process to determine what is relevant and what needs to stay behind. First, you should look to lock down certain changes in ERP so that you don’t unintentionally change things that shouldn’t be touched. Next, you’ll need to automate the selection and synchronization of the relevant changes across systems to provide essential governance and protection.
Consolidate ERP systems to prepare for a single S/4HANA system
Prior to the move to a HANA database or to fully fledged S/4HANA, it’s important to trim down and consolidate systems to reduce database footprints and optimize landscapes. Many companies have multiple SAP ERP systems which add cost and complexity, so these should be merged to enable business processes to be run centrally and with greater efficiency. A landscape transition should include archiving and consolidation solutions as important prerequisite steps on the route to S/4HANA.
Automate testing to validate the end-state
In order to avoid system downtime and business interruption, it’s essential to validate that applications work as required by the business on any new platforms. Testing must be done early, often, and with automation to ensure high coverage of day-to-day business activities and system processes. Automation should cover the testing of new functionality added as part of the S/4 transition programme as well as regression testing of existing processes – this is the only way to ensure that nothing has been inadvertently broken. It also needs to keep pace with a constant rate of change so it’s continuously updated and ready for the next release as functionality evolves over time.
Getting there: solutions to support the journey
Of all these questions, perhaps the biggest is how to manage, align and synchronize changes between ERP and S/4 so that the business can still run without interruption while implementing S/4HANA.
Basis Technologies’ DevOps solutions deliver the controls needed to make these transition projects safe and robust with the ability to automatically select and synchronize the relevant changes across systems. Template management and protection controls change to global and regional systems, providing an essential level of governance in complex SAP landscapes.
And if you’re opting for a landscape transition then the Consolidator solution can support the technical – and often complex - merge of SAP ECC systems which is an important prerequisite step on the route to S/4HANA.
Many of the world’s largest global organizations are adopting Basis Technologies' automation to support all types of digital transformation and the business benefits are remarkable:
- Cut the cost of SAP change by more than half
- Automate 95% of manual tasks
- Deliver innovation up to 50x faster
Where are you in your journey?
To find out more about how Basis Technologies is supporting S/4HANA transitions for some of SAP’s largest global companies, book a free demo and let’s discuss how we can help.