S/4HANA: destination or journey?

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S/4HANA implementation – defining the road map will be harder than defining the destination.

“A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step,” Lao Tzu 6th century BC … and more recently Mao Tse-Tung. Accurate advice, but no guidance on direction or cadence – though a leftward direction could be anticipated from Mao.

So, if you’ve got a significant S/4HANA initiative (perhaps having considered S/4HANA – why and when?), what is your journey?  All the normal rules of large-scale enterprise change apply: analyze the current and to-be application architectures and underlying data model with the objective of splitting the journey into more manageable steps.  Aim to prioritize the “burning” platforms, and “quick wins” that will deliver benefits and credibility early.  Have a pilot(s) to prove key aspects of the solution before deployment to much of the organization.

With respect to S/4HANA itself, this will often cover multiple business units or countries.  Therefore, create a “common design” that reflects this scope and identifies which business processes will be common, and agree which business process will be different (e.g., for local practice or key business reasons).  Then, consider building a release that supports several business units or countries but stagger the migration to S/4HANA of these individual business units or countries.  This approach should give efficiency in the project “design-and-build” process while reducing the risk of the multiple deployments.

Finally, analyze in detail the interim stages in the journey.  Often, there will be interim interfaces, data models, and business ways of working.  These can be partially mitigated by making some interfaces more intelligent – perhaps using middleware tools – and temporary solutions to reduce the impact on the business users.  Often, this understanding of the interim states is a good reason to challenge and revise the planned journey.  While the destination may be clear, are there better steps to make the journey?

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