Harrison McCoy references colleague Jim Pinto’s analogy likening a move to SAP HANA as a heart transplant, while moving to SAP S/4HANA as a brain transplant. In his work as a sales leader within IBM Cognitive Systems, McCoy sees firsthand how the transition to the SAP S/4HANA enterprise resource planning system is a much more complicated operation (pun intended) than a straight SAP HANA in-memory database migration.
“The SAP S/4HANA migration involves looking at business processes, changing workflow and modifying objectives. In addition to technical expertise, partners help clients set gates and goals for the business process changes, then ensure that they stay on track for making this shift,” he says.
Before the SAP S/4HANA Migration
Moving to an in-memory database in a data-intense environment requires many decisions throughout the process and migrating to SAP HANA is a prerequisite to beginning the SAP S/4HANA migration process. By focusing on the planning phase, organizations can speed the migration and reduce business disruption. Here are four key considerations:
1. Understand the business goal. SAP S/4HANA affects all business processes and applications. Even more, it drives digital transformation throughout the organization. By starting with your business goal, both for transformation and migration, you make more effective and quicker decisions throughout the project.
2. Decide on the greenfield or brownfield approach. In a greenfield approach, organizations implement a new system and then move core data from the existing system, which means managing a completely new environment. Organizations using a brownfield approach migrate their data while adopting the business processes available in SAP S/4HANA. While a greenfield is easier to get up and running, Alfred Freudenberger, SAP HANA infrastructure and hybrid cloud consultant at ASI Consulting, says this approach requires more customization compared to a brownfield, which brings data that was not managed as well in past systems. The brownfield approach may seem easier, but it can also be more challenging to convert moving forward.
3. Create a staged approach plan. Because of the business disruption involved in a migration, many organizations want to convert the entire environment at the same time. However, Freudenberger recommends companies determine the areas with the largest benefit from the migration, and then use a stairstep approach to do so—such as converting parts of the organization to SAP S/4HANA while some portions continue to use SAP ERP Central Component (ECC) in the short term. This approach allows organizations to flexibly add more functions over time while getting the maximum business benefit with the least amount of disruption.
4. Set up baseline monitoring. Before migrating, organizations should also begin baseline monitoring to learn which systems are used consistently. “You may have 20 systems, but monitoring may show you that only 18 are actively used, which means you can have cost savings during the migration,” says Nate Austin, practice director, Enterprise Monitoring & Analytics at Evolving Solutions. “Companies may also learn that they need more systems in certain areas because they are close to reaching peak capacity. Monitoring shines a flashlight on dark spots so organizations can make informed decisions about their migrations.”
Easing SAP S/4HANA Migration Challenges with a Partner
Partners help clients through migration by creating a plan for a gradual and holistic approach that helps mitigate issues. They also consider how to position infrastructure changes to align acquisitions with existing systems. Partners provide consulting with ERP migration efforts, business processes and systems throughout the process, according to McCoy. Additionally, partners bring strong connections and a deep knowledge base that clients can leverage.
“Our partners are some of the smartest people I’ve ever worked with. Many partners have been helping our mutual clients for more than a decade, which has built up an immense amount of trust. Partners are very knowledgeable about our product offerings, such as IBM Power Systems servers, IBM Storage and IBM software,” McCoy says. “Clients find that having a champion to navigate an SAP HANA migration is invaluable.”
Paul Manuel, solutions architect at Evolving Solutions, recommends clients look for partners that start the process by listening to their client’s pain points. Partners should also have specific experience in SAP S/4HANA migration, especially in the client’s industry. Manuel says companies should ask potential partners about resources to augment their staff as well as access to experts with a history of success. Additionally, he recommends looking for partners that not only ask what’s new, but also what’s next—both in terms of technology and the migration.
Using IBM Power Systems Infrastructure for SAP S/4HANA
Clients are increasingly turning to IBM Power Systems servers to provide the highest level of flexibility and performance without increasing risk. Power Systems clients also see a much faster time to market.
Existing clients running SAP on an IBM Power Systems server can use a testing environment, which does not affect their production environment. The Power Systems platform allows these clients to place the copy of their existing environment and the target of the new SAP S/4HANA environment on the same server, and then disconnect it from the rest of the organization.
By leveraging the platform’s capabilities, clients can quickly perform trial migrations, which allows changing the size of both the source and destination. Otherwise, organizations are simultaneously using their existing systems for both business activity and migration until they go live, which can negatively impact business outcomes. Additionally, this approach requires coordination with other teams for change management. Using Power Systems servers to put both the source and destination on the same physical system can eliminate these potential issues.
McCoy says that many benefits clients see from Power Systems are now at the forefront of needs during the COVID-19 pandemic—speed of delivery, TCO, risk mitigation and faster insights. Clients also see a lot more features with a much smaller footprint.
“When clients look at the TCO and risk mitigation, most organizations we work with make the decision to move to Power Systems,” McCoy concludes.