Why SAP Automation Is Crucial When Adopting SAP S/4HANA

If you’re not one of the 2,000-plus customers already live on SAP S/4HANA, it’s likely that you’ve started thinking about the best way to transition to S/4 from ECC. There are two basic ways to approach S/4HANA adoption:  a brownfield implementation that ‘lifts and shifts’ ECC systems to S/4HANA, or a greenfield implementation that starts entirely from scratch. Both have their pros and cons, and in practice there are likely to be a variety of hybrid options that fall somewhere in between, but these are the main starting points.

Then there are the architectural considerations.  Are your new systems going to be on premise? Or in a private cloud, perhaps hosted through SAP’s own offering?  Or maybe even in a public cloud via a third-party vendor (though the public cloud option seems unlikely for most large enterprises at this point)?

There’s a lot to consider, but once you’ve made those decisions there are two execution options: a ‘big bang’ cutover from ECC to S/4HANA, or a gradual transition from one platform to another. The big bang go-live might get you to your goal faster – though there’s no guarantee – but the associated risk is significant. That’s why many of the organizations we work with are choosing a phased approach which lets them keep running their business without interruption as they build and bring on-line new S/4 systems. Automation is a critical part of this more gradual strategy, enabling you to avoid disruption by managing the highly complex task of keep two systems updated and in sync during the transition period.

Automating the Dual Maintenance challenge

There are three key considerations – beyond the change and release challenges – that need to be addressed in this kind of ‘dual maintenance’ scenario.

First, how do you identify which changes that have been made on the ECC side, understand their importance and determine whether they need to be replicated in S/4 (and vice versa)? A spreadsheet is the obvious traditional answer, but we’re all aware of the many downsides to that approach when you have only one system to deal with.

Next, when you know what change needs to go where, how do you synchronize movement of that change through the two parallel systems to avoid errors caused by unexpected discrepancies? Sure, you could do it manually but once again, that’s an approach with many problems, even when you’re only considering ECC. Adding another platform to the mix simply makes it unfeasible.

Finally, how can you protect and maintain templates that might be used by both ECC and S/4HANA systems? This is a critical issue that is sometimes neglected, but must be addressed to eliminate the possibility issues caused by different changes being made in both systems to the same critical configuration.

Use of the right automation can provide the answer to all of these questions.

Beyond the transition

Automation software will continue to deliver value after your S/4HANA transition is complete, making the business case for its adoption even more straightforward.

Regular S/4 updates are expected from SAP for some time to come, likely arriving at least once per year. Implementing those upgrades requires significant effort, probably involving at least one additional project track in addition to your normal ‘business as usual’ development path.  Automation resolves the complexity of managing change in this multi-track scenario, accelerating and reducing the risk of the upgrade.

What’s more, many organizations are using adoption of S/4HANA as a catalyst to re-evaluate IT processes and tooling, and adopt new best practices. Approaches like CI/CD and DevOps for SAP rely on a rapid, high frequency of change, which can only be delivered with confidence through automation that removes manual effort and risk from the process.

S/4HANA transition at a global FMCG vendor

Moving from ECC to S/4HANA is difficult for any organization, but for a consumer packaged goods company with 95,000 employees all around the world, engaging in an S/4HANA upgrade project was a significant challenge. To further complicate matters, the project involves not only the initial transition transition but an ongoing maintenance issue with two S/4HANA systems that will require synchronization. The company also wanted to use the upgrade project to modernize their development and delivery processes, introducing continuous delivery into the S/4HANA landscapes.

Change in the company’s ECC landscape was initiated in a single development system but could then be selectively moved to any of twelve different global production instances, resulting in a very complex scenario that became even harder to manage with the addition of a parallel S/4 finance system.

ActiveControl, from Basis Technologies, was the solution chosen to help the company manage the transition safely and efficiently by addressed the questions I posed above.

Given the size of the organization concerned and the complexity of the landscape it will be some years before the project is complete but ActiveControl is already delivering the goods, providing complete visibility of change and the ability to automatically synchronize across systems as S/4HANA development moves forward. In fact, the software has been so effective that it has been selected as the change management solution for the company’s entire SAP landscape, throughout and beyond the S/4HANA transition project.

To learn more this particular story, the importance of SAP automation when adopting S/4HANA and how you can transition without business disruption, watch our webinar. Alternatively, click here to request a free demo of ActiveControl – or any of our other tools – and find out what it can do for you.

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