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10 tips for a faster SAP S/4HANA migration

For most companies, the main requirement of an SAP S/4HANA migration project is that it has as little impact on business operations as possible. In a survey by SAPInsider, 87% of respondents cited this as the most important requirement. It is not only important to minimize application downtime, but also to shorten the overall duration of the project. Migration to SAP S/4HANA is not a simple software upgrade, but a complex process that impacts business processes and workflows, application users, and the application itself. It can be done relatively quickly if the main driver is pure migration to the new software. However, if you want to capture all the benefits of the new software and the migration process itself and transform your business into a more efficient one, the list of activities can become more extensive and the project duration longer. Fortunately, and this is the crux of the matter, many things can be done before a migration project begins to minimize business disruption and shorten the duration of the implementation:

What can you start doing immediately or as part of a preliminary study?

1. Know your processes

A prerequisite for any business architecture analysis is that you, as a user of SAP applications, have a thorough understanding of your company's business processes. This includes not only the processes implemented in the SAP ERP system, but also the processes implemented in other SAP and third-party applications, as well as any manual processes. Take time to document all relevant processes before starting the migration project (even before a pre-study project).

2. Know the key migration drivers

If you want to get the most value out of your migration, it is important to identify the drivers, pain points, and goals of migration - whether the migration is business- or IT-driven. The SAP Process Discovery Report can help you with this. SAP S/4HANA is not only faster, it also brings many new features. Once the business goal is known, it is easier to determine the target architecture in terms of feature usage and decide on the best migration path based on that.

3. Choose the migration path carefully

The correct answer to the question of which migration path is the fastest or best is: it depends. In some cases, a greenfield implementation may be faster than a brownfield conversion - for example, when applying SAP Best Practices. There are many different factors that influence this decision. If you are not sure which way is best for you, a trusted partner can help you find the most appropriate approach.

4. Migrate only what is necessary

This way, migration and conversion steps can be shortened and testing can be done faster. Regardless of the migration path, it is possible to migrate only the data you need in the new system. In a new implementation (greenfield), you can migrate only master data and open items. In a system conversion (brownfield), the amount of data to be migrated can be reduced by archiving or deleting the data that is not needed. As a third option, there are tools that enable selective migration (BLUEFIELD™). This means that only certain data is migrated, e.g. time-sliced data or data from only one client.

5. Adapt used custom code only

According to statistics, an average SAP customer actively uses less than 40 % of custom code in their SAP system. Adapting custom code to SAP S/4HANA is a mandatory activity that can be time consuming in case of a large number of custom developed functionalities. This effort can be reduced by considering only the code that will be used. Usage analysis can be performed in advance so that unnecessary custom code objects are marked or removed.

What should you keep in mind during the project?

6. Use an automated deployment and transformation approach

In most cases, new S/4HANA systems need to be deployed for the migration. In certain project phases, these are either freshly installed systems, shell systems (containing only customizations), or systems loaded with all or selected data. There are automated tools, both SAP and third-party, that can speed up the process of system deployment, data transformation and loading. Their use can shorten the overall duration of the project.

7. Use a Sandbox system

The standard SAP system landscape consists of a production system and one or two systems that support it. All changes in the landscape, including upgrades, usually originate from a development system because it is secure and trustworthy. This prevents irreparable errors from occurring that could block the change process across the landscape.
 Migration to S/4HANA is a much more complex process, and starting within the existing SAP system landscape may not leave enough room to test the process and results. Therefore, it is recommended to start the entire migration process by migrating a sandbox system that is created as a copy of the production system.

8. Reuse test plans

It is well known that test automation significantly speeds up the testing process. This is also true for SAP S/4HANA migration. Again, there are various SAP (Solution Manager with Focused Build and Solution Documentation) and non-SAP testing tools. They enable the reuse of the same test plans during the migration process. The tests can also be prepared to some extent in advance, before the project starts.

9. Perform a dress rehearsal

Although this may seem like an additional redundant step that only extends the project duration, the importance of a dry-run should not be underestimated. Although it may be less important in a greenfield migration, performing a test conversion on a system identical to the production system and under conditions as similar as possible to those in real business can prevent unforeseen problems. This way, obstacles can be avoided during the real migration of the production system. This is another opportunity to test the conversion procedure (conversion runbook) both in terms of duration and steps to be performed. Since it should be executed in a time frame identical to that planned for the production system, the effort involved is justified by the associated benefits.

10. And finally: Educate your users

SAP S/4HANA is still a fairly new product and misconceptions often arise - both with the product itself and with migration execution. Since users - including process and IT experts in the company, key users and end users - are the stakeholders in the migration and have their individual interests and concerns, it is important to dispel any myths about S/4HANA in advance. This increases acceptance and speeds up the decision-making process. This, in turn, helps reduce the impact on day-to-day business activities and accelerates the overall migration process.

However, don't wait until the migration project to start user training, start now!

In the next blog article in this series, we will go into detail about the most common misconceptions in the context of an SAP S/4HANA transformation.