End of Maintenance for SAP ECC: A Q&A With SAP Experts

Cloud migration continues to be a critical factor for digital transformation and productivity maintenance among the workforce. That is why most organisations have adopted the cloud-first strategy. Unfortunately, the innovation advantages of S/4HANA cloud migration are often underplayed, particularly when it involves SAP environments.

If you are thinking of moving to S/4HANA, there are no more qualified industry experts than Brett McKee and Harinder Saluja, the Chief Digital Officer and Director of Program Delivery, respectively, of Zer01, a leading system integrator and SAP Partner for S/4HANA implementations. They have both worked with SAP and all related technologies for more than 20 years. Brett and Harinder sat down with us to share their advice and experience with these large complex S/4 migrations.

Why should organisations move to the latest SAP, S/4HANA? What are the benefits and opportunities they could get from these?

Saluja: The SAP ecosystem and functionality has matured over the last five years. S/4HANA is a completely new offering than its predecessor, ECC. It offers an in-memory database with embedded analytics, artificial intelligence, and standardised processes. These help organisations improve their operations, reduce back-office costs, and improve customer productivity with a great user experience like FIORI.

Moving your SAP to the latest S/4HANA cloud version provides a chance to reimagine and automate core business processes, gain deeper insights, and deliver better employee and customer experiences.

Migrating or upgrading to S/4HANA does not appear to be important for CIOs. Why should this be a priority now?

Saluja: The most common and most evident reason given for why companies are moving to S/4HANA is the end-of-support deadline. As is widely known, SAP set a 2027 deadline for the end of mainstream maintenance for ECC, SAP's old ERP offering, effectively forcing enterprises to jump to S/4HANA by then if they require standard ERP updates and repair.

McKee: For CIOs of large organisations upgrading their back-office systems, it may not be a top priority. But this lack of prioritisation is putting these decision-makers in danger of rushing to finish the migration by the time the deadline sneaks up like everyone else. They then run the risk of creating a demand crisis for good SAP talent.

Large SAP transformation projects are challenging due to the complexity of processes and management change issues. These programs should never be rushed. The cost to deliver projects will go higher as most companies will be competing for the same resources, each willing to pay more to ensure the deadline is met.

Are there any other reasons executives should consider this upgrade to S/4HANA?

Saluja: The main reason for any CIO or CDO to migrate to S/4HANA platform's is the technical innovations. This includes artificial intelligence to automate backend jobs like invoice matching, which are repetitive and expensive back-office tasks.

S/4HANA offers unmatched in-memory database performance, speeding up long-running processes such as payroll and delivering process efficiencies. Another good reason is the advanced, embedded analytics feature which is a game-changer for the average user. They don't have to create specific analytic reports; these can just be run directly in near real time from S/4HANA, harnessing this power makes decision-making much easier.

CFOs don't have to wait till the end of the month to figure out their financial position; they can just get that straight from the prebuilt embedded analytics.

McKee: For me, digital transformation is the biggest reason any organisation should move to S/4HANA. It's an integral part of the overall digital strategy. If S/4HANA is a prerequisite for completing your organisation's digital business transformation, then you'll get the most value for your investment.

Another reason is integration, which is crucial for any ERP ecosystem. It becomes far more streamlined between SAP SaaS products and third-party vendors. This makes a leaner implementation, easier to maintain, and less moving parts.

Saluja: S/4HANA isn't just a technical upgrade; it's a business transformation. The result changes the way teams operate and makes a real difference in their day-to-day jobs. The reasons for embarking on an S/4HANA migration isn't just the technical end-of-support deadline. It is beneficial for CIOs trying to achieve a more holistic digital transformation to their businesses. SAP's S/4HANA migration project also plays a pivotal role in merging multiple ERP systems into one SAP S/4 database. This reaps rewards by turning the focus to digitising citizen services rather than maintaining back-end office systems.

What are some of the challenges of S/4 migration, if there are any?

Saluja: One of the biggest challenges is the ability of organisations to adopt new standardised business processes and automation with AI, which help reduce manual effort and increase productivity. Often, we see S/4HANA migrations considered as technical projects. The product offers a completely new platform so management change and adoption is a big challenge.

McKee: Yes, I'd agree with that. Data archiving should also be considered carefully. A lot of organisations decide to migrate the entire historical data set for auditing or similar purposes, but storage in an in-memory database is expensive. Perhaps this upgrade offers the best opportunity to archive the data that's not used or retrieved on a day to-day basis.

The experts of Zer01 further explained various approaches to migration to S/4HANA and factors such as data size, cloud strategy, and automation. Deciding whether to move to S/4HANA, SAP's newest ERP platform, can be a monumental task fraught with complexity. However, there are ways to minimise the risk and get the best out of the platform.

This is the perfect opportunity to rework business processes and take advantage of the advanced functionalities. There can also be a sense of excitement that S/4HANA, with its bedded in-memory analytics and cutting-edge technologies, will be the vehicle for a true digital transformation for a lot of big organisations.

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