Paving the Way: Partners and Power Systems Servers Ease the SAP S/4HANA Migration Process

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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.

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Why it Makes Business Sense to Start Planning Your SAP S/4HANA Migration Now

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By now, you’ve probably heard the news: In February, SAP announced that it was extending support on Business Suite 7 enterprise resource planning (ERP) and related software through 2027. SAP also made a commitment to offer maintenance on SAP S/4HANA, its flagship ERP, through 2040. Organizations struggling with migrations let out a collective exhale with that news—but experts caution that the extended deadline is no reason to automatically delay the move.

Harrison McCoy, IBM Cognitive Systems HANA on Power sales leader, says that while many organizations have reprioritized due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to view the migration not as simply moving to a new platform, but instead as a path to digital transformation. “SAP S/4HANA is critical for driving the advancement of systems to support everything from business speed of operations to leveraging artificial intelligence,” says McCoy.

A successful migration to SAP S/4HANA begins by developing a solid strategic plan both for the migration and how it fits into the organization’s larger digital transformation. Paul Manuel, solutions architect at Evolving Solutions, recommends working with a partner to create a roadmap that starts by assessing the organization’s current status and then creating goals and timelines.

Before the announcement, a 2020 survey by Americas’ SAP Users Group (ASUG), reported that 16% of surveyed members were already live with SAP S/4HANA, 21% had begun the migration process and 63% had plans to migrate in the future. With the majority of organizations still needing to migrate, the supply of support and partner resources may become increasingly short as the deadline nears.

Making Fact-Based Decisions About SAP S/4HANA Migration

Organizations have delayed their migration for many reasons, including having existing leased infrastructure, waiting to see if SAP would change its plan and the financial cost of migrating. Some organizations have not moved because other projects are viewed as higher priority or are viewed as less time consuming compared to the commitment involved with the business and process planning for their SAP S/4HANA migration.

A common concern revolves around poor performance after migration. Nate Austin, practice director, Enterprise Monitoring & Analytics at Evolving Solutions, says organizations reduce their risk and issues by measuring performance both before and after migration. With the correct data, they can identify problems and reach resolutions more quickly. Additionally, he says that with fact-based measurements, organizations can determine if the system is actually faster or slower instead of using anecdotal information from users reporting poor performance.

Organizations considering delaying should carefully evaluate their decision. Those that wait until the last minute and run into issues will find themselves behind the eight ball, Austin cautions. Fixing issues with migrations often take months, which creates increased pressure for the business.

Alfred Freudenberger, SAP HANA infrastructure and hybrid cloud consultant at ASI Consulting, says organizations that have focused on the COVID-19 crisis and do not have the time and resources for the migration immediately might have a valid reason for waiting. Organizations with other valid reasons to hold off include those that have not been able to justify the business value of SAP S/4HANA, those with a high level of customization in their ERP systems or those that lack the financial resources right now.

“However, some clients are worried about a migration because of retraining, modification of their business processes, moving to new business models,” says Freudenberger. “This brings fear to many clients, which can cloud their ability to make rational business decisions.”

Freudenberger recommends organizations concerned about the migration start by learning their current readiness. This enables them to make a fact-based decision instead of a fear-based decision. By participating in an SAP HANA Readiness and Roadmap assessment, an organization can determine their infrastructure’s readiness for moving to SAP HANA. The assessment creates a plan for moving to SAP HANA based on the database requirements and interdependencies on current systems. Additionally, clients get a view of what business processes must change with the migration.

Waiting to Migrate to SAP S/4HANA May Complicate the Process

Organizations that wait will likely encounter more challenges during the migration because more organizations may be making the transition at the same time, cautions McCoy. “Moving to either SAP HANA or SAP S/4HANA is not a simple transition, but a very deep technical migration,” he says. “When you are under a time crunch even tasks like remediation and testing become a pressure point.”

Because clients must convert at some point in the future, Freudenberger recommends organizations consider the financial cost of waiting, especially in terms of customizations. Organizations that wait to convert will continue to develop their existing systems. Because everything customized in your current SAP ERP Central Component system does not move to SAP S/4HANA, you must modify almost all customizations before migrating. The longer an organization waits, the more expensive a migration becomes.

Gradual Migration Is the Best Path for Many Organizations

SAP’s extension gives clients a collective breather in the migration process, says McCoy. However, he does not recommend letting the extension change the overall plans of organizations already in process with or planning their migration. Because digital transformation brings transformation of all business models, including HR, finance, supply chain and logistics, he recommends organizations use the extension to make a more gradual transition.

Freudenberger says the combination of IBM Power Systems and IBM Storage infrastructure provides the flexibility to change, increase and decrease allocations over time. This allows organizations to start with a relatively small footprint and grow it dynamically while migrating different processes, such as finance, supply chain and logistics.

“The goal with the migration is not to force people into migrating in a way that disrupts their business,” he concludes. “Instead we want to build relationships with clients and help them migrate in a way that provides the most business benefits in both the short-term and the long-term.”

Learn how Evolving Solutions can help your organization migrate to SAP S/4HANA.