How to minimize downtime of your ERP system during data migration

SNP Experts
| 5 min read

Whether it’s IT mergers or system consolidations preparing for the introduction of S/4HANA: When IT and business processes need to be adapted to new requirements, this is usually accompanied by a temporary unavailability of the productive systems. By choosing the right migration approach, companies can influence this downtime in order to minimize costs and risks.


ERP systems are the digital heart of almost every larger company – essential components of daily business are connected to them. This becomes apparent at the latest when the existing IT architecture needs to be upgraded in order to succeed in a fully digitalized working world. After all, during the transfer of systems, data and applications into a new target environment, it is technically necessary to shut down business processes. IT experts speak of a downtime of the productive system. Alas, global corporations or customer-oriented companies with continuous operations in particular should strive to keep this downtime as low as possible – as downtime quickly leads to high costs.


IT Transformation: Expectations regarding downtime vary widely

Companies therefore increasingly view the temporary downtime of their SAP systems as a critical factor for project success. However, their opinions on how long business operations may tolerate a standstill differ. Some business models require employees to be able to continue working after just one hour. For other companies, an interruption in production processes or the value chain can be tolerated for up to eight, 24 or 48 hours. Many companies, however, do not know how long they could do without their SAP system – without any major impact – because they do not have an overview of the costs that could arise.


Downtime costs of up to 500,000 Euro per hour

Every other company finds it difficult to estimate what opportunity costs – such as lost revenues or contractual penalties for not being able to deliver – would arise if the maximum accepted downtime were exceeded. This is the result of a survey conducted by IT Online Magazine on the conversion of existing ERP systems to SAP S/4HANA. One third of the companies surveyed calculate with costs of up to 100,000 euros per hour of delay if the systems are not available. Twelve percent of those surveyed expect costs of up to 500,000 euros per hour of delay.

The good news is that there are IT solutions available today that can greatly reduce downtime.


Minimizing downtime by choosing the right migration approach

Companies that want to carry out their migration project in a time-saving manner and with minimized costs and risks should rely on specialized transformation software. This enables system conversions in a near-zero downtime process – ongoing operations are kept largely free of disruptions. Modern IT solutions also make it possible to visualize entire SAP landscapes and simulate the effects of planned changes to the systems before the actual transformation takes place. In this way, even complex projects such as an IT merger or carve-out can be completed safely.


Identifying the right transformation scenario

Is the business able to cope with a full system downtime – and how long could this potentially last? Should an entire IT system really be moved or just one SAP client? And does the company already have a complete overview of which historical data will be needed in the future and which not? Prior to the actual project start, it is essential to determine the initial situation, as well as concrete requirements for the IT migration and downtime. Ideally, this is done in cooperation with an experienced service provider that uses its transformation software to delve deeply into the data world of a company – and develops a roadmap that is tailored to business processes.


Exchange between IT and operational business: Which data should be migrated – and when?

In order to optimally design the migration to the new system landscape, the dialogue with departments concerned should also be intensified. Which data must be transferred to the target system and which legacy data can be eliminated? Expert colleagues, but also legal requirements, provide the framework. The increased communication effort pays off: If the data history to be migrated is cleaned up, this usually has a positive effect on downtimes.

Together with the operative side, exact time windows must be defined within which systems can be taken offline. For internationally operating companies, the different time zones in which employees work worldwide must be taken into account.


Best Practice: S/4HANA Migration

A best-practice example, which could be realized in a small go-live window and with little downtime, is the S/4HANA introduction of the internationally active testing service provider TÜV Rheinland that was carried out in cooperation with the IT and consulting company SNP.  The remote migration during the current pandemic involved transferring four clients of the existing SAP system to just one client on a new SAP S/4HANA Finance system. The outdated ERP system was to be cleaned up and in-house developments needed to be harmonized. The BLUEFIELD approach was used to transfer it to S/4HANA along with all relevant data. With this migration method, transformation projects can be summarized in a project plan and implemented more quickly. In addition, corrections and post-migrations for individual objects can be carried out at short notice during the test phase.

The merger of the four SAP clients was carried out in two roll-outs: Both S/4HANA migrations were realized, in accordance with the requirements of TÜV Rheinland, within one weekend each.


Conclusion: Keeping an eye on downtimes right from the start

Companies that are pursuing a complex transformation project should take a close look when selecting the appropriate migration software. Anyone who relies on classic IT software runs the risk that in the course of the data migration, open orders could be cancelled or only executed with delays. In order to avoid costs due to long downtimes, companies need a special IT solution that enables near-zero downtime migrations.


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