Smooth SAP S/4HANA Transition requires Phase Zero™ planning

Smooth SAP S/4HANA Transition requires Phase Zero™ planning By Vaughn Booyens

The clock is ticking for businesses still making use of the SAP ERP Central Component (SAP ECC). These businesses need to make major decisions which will affect the future sustainability of their businesses. At the end of 2027, SAP will no longer maintain its legendary – and legacy – SAP ERP ECC software.

This does not mean that the nearly 15-year-old technology is in danger of collapse. On the contrary, users who are satisfied with continuing to do what they have always done, will probably be able to continue as they are by making use of customer specific maintenance. SAP has confirmed that they will offer regular maintenance for the SAP Business Suite through to 2027, followed by optional extended maintenance through 2030.However, we can assume that there will be no upgrades and nothing new that will enable users to benefit from the latest technology developments such as cloud, artificial intelligence, robotic process automation – or possibly even something that has not yet entered the realm of everyday business computing.

After all, when SAP ERP was first introduced to revolutionise business processes with its ability to integrate digital information from across the enterprise back in the late 1970s, the very concept of the internet, cloud computing and AI would have existed only in the realm of science fiction.

Now, the latest iteration of SAP ECC, SAP R/3, which was released in 1992 as SAP’s first client-server package with its notoriously cumbersome user interface, is being replaced by SAP S/4HANA. Short for SAP Business Suite 4 HANA, it runs only on SAP HANA, a high-performance analytic application that uses in-memory database technology that can process huge amounts of real-time data stored in RAM – such as data from customer transactions and data analyses . This means the data can be processed extremely quickly. In addition, unlike its predecessors, SAP S/4HANA can run on-premise, in the cloud, or in a hybrid environment.

In a nutshell, SAP S/4HANA, with its user-friendly interface, is the closest to real-time, intelligent ERP we have yet achieved. This makes intelligent automation a real possibility for any organisation. In addition, with its embedded analytics, digital assistants and easy-to-use interface, users will be able to make better, more informed business decisions faster.

So, migrating to SAP S/4HANA appears to be a no-brainer. But as many organisations have learned over the years, any SAP migration is a complex operation. In addition, the decisions that organisations need to make around their deployment options and migration approach are potentially even more complex and risky, potentially involving far more than a technical upgrade.

Britehouse and Dimension Data have therefore developed a protocol that we believe is critical to any successful SAP S/4HANA migration. We have named it Phase Zero™.

Phase Zero™ is the pre-planning stage of the SAP S/4HANA transformation process. It is during this stage where the shape and future of the entire organisation will be determined. Call it an evaluation phase, an audit, or a due diligence – this is when executives have to think about and articulate their business strategy for the long-term future of the organisation, where they hope to take it and what they believe it will look like in five to ten years or more.

Once they have decided where they want to go, they will then have to make critical decisions about which of three SAP S/4HANA migration paths to follow to get there:

  • Greenfield: scrap the entire existing ERP system (if one exists) and install a new SAP S/4HANA system with new processes. In other words, prepare to remake/reshape the organisation from the ground up.
  • Brownfield: an upgrade that is focused purely on the adoption of the new technology with minimal involvement of the business. There is no disruption of or change to existing systems, however this is seen as an IT Upgrade only with limited benefits to Business. Everything will continue as before – only faster.
  • SNP’s BLUEFIELD™ software-enabled approach a revolutionary alternative that takes the middle path by enabling the adoption of the new technology and combines this with selective existing data and processes. It allows for the scrapping of data and processes that no longer work, the retention or streamlining of those that do, and the introduction of new processes that will better support the organisation’s future strategy. In other words, a Bluefield™ approach provides an unprecedented opportunity to improve the whole business operation quickly and effectively.

We have tried and tested the Phase Zero™ approach within Dimension Data, and multiple existing Customers thus we can confidently say this approach works. It helps to mitigate the risk associated with major software migrations by looking at the underlying architecture, data, processes and the myriad other things that can derail the process.

Mor​e importantly, it will ensure organisations get the most from their SAP S/4HANA investment while preparing for a very different tomorrow.