Based on our experience, these are some of the first things you should be considering.
Remediate your custom code to work with HANA
You can start to review the code in your system and understand the adaptations required for the move to HANA. See what custom code can be left behind to ease the burden on your journey to S/4HANA. Look into tools such as SAP’s Custom Code Analyser, Gekko Brainf or similar to make the investigation easier.
Upgrade to Unicode
One of the many pre-requisites of converting your system to S/4HANA is that it is Unicode compatible. Consider undertaking this somewhat technical conversion before you undertake a potential Brownfield conversion to S/4HANA.
Apply the latest support packs, Enhancement Packs and review your Add-On’s.
Upgrade to the latest support packs. This will reduce incremental upgrade’s later and allow you to upgrade to S/4HANA in one step. This review should also include any systems that ECC integrates with, as there is a minimum support pack levels required for systems that integrate with S/4HANA such as BW/PI/PO. The ST/PI & ST-A/PI together with PI_BASIS are very common examples of support packs that need to be updated prior to undertaking an SAP S/4HANA journey.
Take the opportunity to upgrade to the latest Enhancement Pack for ECC. This will give you the opportunity to start reviewing some of the features that are standard in S/4HANA. Features such as the CVI (Customer, Vendor, Integration) or some of the latest Fiori capabilities. There are more than 32 new innovations in EHP8, many being functionality that is carried forward into S/4HANA.
It is also time to review all your ABAP Add-On’s. Are they used/relevant? Is there a way forward? Do the vendors offer an S/4HANA compatible version? Do you need to consider alternative functionality when you move to S/4HANA?
Split your Stacks!
The conversion to S/4HANA process does not support Dual Stacks, so you’ll need to separate them before the conversion. Take a look at why you have a Java stack in place. Is there a need for this functionality going forward, can it be consolidated or deprecated? Undertake the analysis now and save the pain later.
Consolidate / Transform your interfaces
Based on our SAP ECC to S/4HANA experience most organisations really do not know the complexities of their interfaces. Do you upgrade your existing integration architecture or undertake a review and consider what else is possible? Consider moving to a modern microservices based platform such as SAP SCP, Dell Boomi, MuleSoft or Apigee. This will ease the burden of moving to S/4HANA as it forces the discovery and remediation of all integrations ahead of time as opposed to during the conversion.
Lift-and-Shift to public cloud
Take the opportunity to refresh your infrastructure whilst reducing your capital expenses. Investigate the option of lifting and shifting your SAP footprints to public cloud. This will prepare you for the S/4HANA journey with a platform that can scale and is future proof.
The biggest issue we’ve found is that customers have held off the investment in new hardware as they’re not sure when or if the move would be. Outdated infrastructure will hamper the ability to move to S/4HANA as the hardware will be under spec’d, unreliable, let alone being able to scale to allow for the additional environments required during an upgrade.
Another consideration in moving to the cloud, is the risk of SAP landscapes being exposed to security vulnerabilities due to the lack of investment in the latest security technologies. The approach makes sense, save money for the big move to a new platform, but make sure security is not disregarded.
The move to cloud usually takes between 3 and 6 months depending on the number of instances involved. This time helps prepare your employees for new paradigm in infrastructure. Get them trained ahead of time and get started early on the Cloud Foundations Framework that will form the basis of your future infrastructure strategy.
Archive like there’s no tomorrow!
Although the move to S/4HANA may give you the opportunity to leave behind data you no longer need, archiving ahead of the time will lessen the burden during the upgrade and also minimise the requirement for larger than necessary infrastructure.
There may be a reason why you don’t want to archive your data; cost constraints, time constraints, computer/system limitations, implications with government/legal and more. Why not consider storing it in a repository of some sort (Data Lake) and leverage off powerful reporting tools public cloud provides. There are so many options that will assist with delivering on your requirements here that there should not be an excuse for at least undertaking an investigation.
Licensing – Engage with SAP and work collaboratively to ensure your commercial licensing is aligned to your organisation future state
If you’re planning the move to S/4HANA it is critical that your software licencing is in order. Our advice is to have the licensing discussions with SAP early and not be limited to S/4HANA but your entire licensing position. For example, what to do with unused software? Out of support heritage third party solutions? Or more importantly putting in place a commercial construct that takes into consideration your organisation’s potential future state. Whilst it is hard to predict where an organisation will be in the future, there are many options available with SAP to protect you and your potential usage of SAP.
Undertake a review of your data. See what you really have in your database.
Start as early as possible to review what you have stored in your SAP system. We usually undertake an analysis of the data which gives us not only details of functionality that has been enabled but where the biggest culprits in data consumption lie. This gives you the opportunity to have the discussions with the business and understand what data is important to bring forward and what can be left behind. This is the ideal first step to understand what archiving can be undertaken. More importantly getting insights into how successful your Data Governance strategy has been in ensuring the quality of data in your SAP system.
You may find that the SAP system contains data related to old companies, or other organizational structures that have since been made redundant. This can feed into an data carve out which will clean your system of data that is irrelevant to your S/4HANA roadmap.
Start reviewing your UX strategy now!
Fiori is the linchpin of SAP’s future UX (User Interface) for all SAP Applications. It is not just another SAPGUI, it is way more important than that. An example of this is the unified presentation of multiple systems, SAP ECC, Ariba, SuccessFactors, in the one location with the same look and feel. Fiori brings all these systems together in a seamless experience. It would be wise to start exposing your organization to this new UI so as to minimise the change management & Training required later on when S/4HANA is introduced. Organizations can start with a proof of concept which would then feed into a UX design, valuable input when embarking on an S/4HANA journey.
Do as many checks as you can
SAP has come a long way with all its readiness checks that can be performed. Take the time to run these tools throughout your landscape and assess the findings. They will form the base of your preparation. As a minimum consider undertaking a Simplification Item Check and S/4HANA Readiness Check.
What do your Business Processes really look like?
Do you really understand your Business Processes? Are they documented and up to date? What happens when staff leave? The S/4HANA roadmap will need you to review all your processes and see how well they align with the SAP S/4HANA Best Practices. Why not start the investigation earlier and prepare well ahead of time? There are many tools that will help you discover the business processes with minimal manual intervention.
Clean-up your TMS back yard!
Start reviewing your Transport Management System. Are there transports that have not made it to Production, should they be deleted? Review incomplete developments, should they be shelved? Review Add-ons that are no longer supported, what’s the plan going forward? Our experience here is that organisations leave this as they fear breaking anything. Attacking this cleanup ahead of schedule will be less painful than doing it during the S/4HANA jouney.
You may want to consider implementing a toolset to manage SAP projects. Tools such as SAP’s Charm, Revelation Software’s Rev-Trac or BASIS Technologies’ Active control may assist with the management of developments in an SAP landscape during BAU cycles as well as projects. They add a level of governance that is hard to achieve using manual processes.
Whether you plan to move to S/4HANA before 2025, by 2027, or even move to another ERP vendor system, take the time to clean-up your SAP back yard well before then. Not only will it yield short term wins, but it will prepare your organization for the journey ahead whether that be with SAP’s S/4HANA or NOT!
Get your SAP back yard in order!