The newest generation of SAP S/4HANA, introduces major changes to the ERP system’s technology, architecture, and approach.
Those who have worked with SAP solutions for some years will be reminded of another significant technology and platform shift, SAP’s evolution from R2 to R3. When R3 was introduced, all customers had to implement it as a new ERP system. There were no efficient tools to facilitate partial or gradual conversions, and to do so required the creation of complex interfaces to enable communication between the two platforms.
Just one year ago, customers looking to change from SAP ECC to SAP S/4HANA faced more or less the same situation. Anyone who wanted to upgrade to the S/4HANA system had to start all over again using the greenfield approach, which often leads to a cumbersome business process re-engineering (BPR) project to establish new processes. Anyone who has participated in such processes knows just how time-consuming they can be – and also knows that BPR results are by no means guaranteed to leave the company better off than where it started.
Brownfield just got easier
Within the last 12 months, however, SAP has introduced an efficient conversion tool to upgrade SAP ECC systems to SAP S/4HANA. Unlike 25 years ago, customers can now choose which SAP S/4HANA elements they would like to start using when. In fact, it is perfectly possible to convert to S/4HANA and continue to use SAP ECC as previously.
This brownfield approach for converting to S/4HANA has several advantages. Specifically, such partial conversions can run on the new HANA database, with all the benefits that delivers, especially those related to improved reporting. More generally, brownfield conversions provide a great range of flexibility, so that different customer types can choose the migration path to S/4HANA that is right for them.
Migration to S/4HANA
As we can see in the figure below, customers facing the prospect of migrating to SAP S/4HANA fall into four broad categories.
At one end of the spectrum, we find the ‘S/4 now’ customers, who can’t wait to get started using SAP S/4HANA’s many new features. These customers will require a more complex migration plan in order to determine which parts of the system they will want to utilize, and how best to implement the migrations within their organization.
At the other end of the spectrum, we have the ‘No plan’ customers, who require more of a high-level roadmap than a detailed plan. These customers are not prepared to migrate at all, nor are they ready to explore S/4HANA’s new features.
Importantly, the brownfield conversion tools recently introduced enable customers within all four categories to migrate to SAP S/4HANA, no matter what their level of ambition, and to begin to benefit from its powerful new features sooner rather than later.
All customers with a long-term SAP strategy will be confronted with the decision about when and how to migrate to S/4HANA. We hope the recently improved possibilities of the brownfield approach will serve to demystify the complexity of this decision, and we encourage more companies to begin to take advantage of SAP S/4HANA’ powerful potential.