Transitioning to S/4 HANA, Part 1: Dodging Disruption

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It’s possible to proceed into S/4 HANA while avoiding disruption.

This post contains some of the material we are presenting at our ASUG Chapter Group appearances this year on S/4 HANA. If you want to learn more, be sure to read our ASUG schedule here and follow us on Twitter for further information.

Everyone wants to stay ahead of the game, but doing so is often far from easy. For many organizations, S/4 HANA represents a major leap that carries risk and uncertainty with it. SAP itself is aware of this and has made attempts to help companies plan their migration. According to a recent DSAG Survey, fewer SAP users are investing in the legacy Business Suite than were doing so just a few months previously. Many companies are investing more in technology as they proceed towards digital transformation.

Still, the need to develop can seem abstract: after all, SAP is supporting Business Suite until 2025 and the benefits to the newer platform can sound vague. Despite all of the discussion surrounding S/4 HANA that’s emerged over the years, decisionmakers may need to start with the basics to figure out why this is important to them.

What Does S/4 HANA Really Mean?

You’ve probably already heard a lot about what S/4 HANA is supposed to do, but how will it actually affect your business? The stated goal is to create a faster, more powerful core to simplify data selection and enable your enterprise to respond in real time. In fact, as this SAP post from a few years ago points out, your company may have original transitioned to ECC 6.0 as part of a plan to continue on to the newer version, putting the eventual full conversion into motion far in advance.

That doesn’t mean you won’t meet challenges along the way, though. Over the course of this blog series, we’ll be examining some of the most common obstacles for those debating whether or not to upgrade.

Challenge #1: Disruption

S/4 HANA may offer faster processes in the future, but it’s natural for businesses to be more concerned about the here and now. This is likely part of the reason Gartner forecast 5 out of 7 giant digital services “self-disrupting” by 2020.

Changes like S/4 HANA are about more than simply updating a current operating system or software. An increasing reliance on subscription-based business models and rapidly updating data will require shifts in structure, tech use and perhaps even culture. At a glance, this can represent a training/trial period that many businesses don’t have time for.

Solution: Adaptability

Fortunately, that’s not the only way to think about it. First of all, many of the most disruptive factors or technology are likely to be widespread, meaning your company will be far from alone. Many SAP developments play into this by encouraging collaboration. Networking, breaking down siloes, and engaging with the S/4 HANA community may lessen some of the risk: in September 2017, SAP announced that it had more than 1,000 customers live in this system. A greater number of users will almost certainly expand possibilities, and your company can be an active part of that change.

More important, though, is SAP’s capacity for adaptability. It’s true that some of your previous custom solutions might not carry over. The tradeoff is the simplicity and flexibility of S/4 HANA, which can allow for enterprise-specific applications and database integration to match your business needs. There are ways to plan out digitization so as to keep daily functions intact and minimize any losses. Keep that in mind instead of avoiding the new platform for fear of disruption alone.

Look for Part 2 of this blog series, where we’ll examine ways to improve ROI, coming soon.