S/4HANA: Three key questions for a smooth transformation

Dr. Steele Arbeeny
| 5 min read

While for many companies SAP S/4HANA is the key to streamlining their operations, the path to the recent environment proves to be anything but simple. In his commentary, Dr. Steele Arbeeny, CTO of the SNP Group, advises decision-makers to ask three key questions for the best possible project implementation.


When a company decides to migrate to SAP S/4HANA, it does so for strategic reasons: The existing SAP landscape is to be streamlined, business processes modernized and the entire company restructured. In most cases, the aim is also to work more efficiently with the introduction of technological innovations and thus save costs. The new ERP generation therefore serves companies as a key to simplification. However, the path to the recent S/4HANA world is anything but simple. Decision-makers should ask themselves the following three questions in order to plan the data migration seamlessly and execute it successfully.


Question 1: Keyword customizing – what customizations exist in the ERP system?

Large companies and corporations often have highly individualized process and ERP landscapes. Standard features have been extended with industry-specific functions in order to optimize processes and meet changing requirements. Before starting a migration project, you should therefore obtain an overview: What customizations have been made to existing IT systems in the past? How many of them are actively used in day-to-day business - which ones are proving to be business-critical?

An assessment of which customizations affect current business processes and which are no longer needed is essential in advance. For example, if a chemical company uses customizations to manage compliance with hazardous materials regulations, this should be part of the calculation for an SAP transformation and migration.

This is where a specialized service provider such as SNP can assist and auto-scan your systems. If the analysis is performed with the help of automated transformation software, not only existing adjustments are evaluated. All effects of the planned changes are visualized even before the actual migration and a customized roadmap for the S/4HANA conversion is created.


Question 2: Does your own data footprint fit the new S/4HANA infrastructure?

Companies are producing more and more data these days. Before implementing S/4HANA, you should ask yourself how large your current data footprint is and whether it will prove compatible with your chosen S/4HANA infrastructure. Take Microsoft Azure, for example: Azure's largest HANA system can hold up to 12 TB of data. Will your S/4HANA environment fit in there? If not, that severely limits your migration options. You should also check how it behaves if some data is eliminated through selective data migration, i.e. only the necessary is being transferred.

Another crucial aspect is to analyze the data growth rate in the current ERP environment and how related size requirements will need to change in the future.

Since there is no one-size-fits-all solution for S/4HANA migrations, knowing your own data footprint and the required size of your SAP S/4HANA environment is of particular importance.


Question 3: Which business areas are affected by the S/4HANA migration?

While the first two questions about the scope of data and customizing form a starting point for strategic decisions, it is now a matter of actual implementation. In order to plan and assess risks and costs, every management needs to know: Which part of the company will be most affected by the S/4HANA migration? Is it finance? Manufacturing? Logistics? And how will working on the ERP system, the backbone of IT, actually impact business operations?

To that end, you should be aware that during the data transfer to a recent target environment, it is technically necessary to shut down business processes. IT experts refer to this as downtime of the productive system. Depending on the migration approach, this downtime can vary greatly. An innovative migration approach, such as the one pursued by SNP, enables system changes in near-zero downtime. In this case, day-to-day business continues largely without disruption. With a standard method, the same migration project would take significantly longer and thus the IT system would also be down for a longer period of time. Those who know the advantages and disadvantages of the various migration approaches can therefore effectively reduce risks and costs.

In seeking answers to these three questions, you will already be diving deeper into your company's IT landscape. The effort will be worth it: you will be able to define individual migration requirements and optimally design the S/4HANA transformation journey.


Excerpt from the original text by Dr. Steele G Arbeeny, which first appeared on CIO.com.




About the Author:

Dr. Steele G. Arbeeny holds the position of CTO at SNP Group and is the architect of numerous mission-critical IT systems across multiple industries - including financial services, technology, pharmaceuticals, and manufacturing.


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