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The Unforeseen Challenges of SAP S/4HANA Implementation

SAP customers are moving to implement SAP S/4HANA, SAP’s latest technological advancement, to take advantage of improved user experience, streamlined transactions, real-time data, table simplification, flexible APIs, and new functionality. As a suite of cloud-based applications, it’s the next step in Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), which make migration an attractive option.

SAP S/4 HANA has continued to evolve over the last few years since it first launched, which has inspired some business to take a wait-and-see approach. The hesitancy of businesses to jump in with the latest technology is also linked to the reported challenges that business face when implementing SAP S/4HANA. Despite the challenges, more businesses are moving forward with implementation, due in large part to SAP’s end-of-support deadline in 2025 on legacy software like ECC.

What Are the Challenges & How Can You Overcome Them?

Every transition in technology can present risks and challenges to the IT department and to the company as a whole, as it adversely affects normal operations. Any technical error or IT downtime can significantly increase productivity and profits, which can quickly mean a crisis of monumental proportions. Already IT downtime costs an estimated $1.55 million every year. But the migration to SAP ERP Cloud solutions presents other challenges.

Data Issues

Corruption and other validation issues related to data are not uncommon in most legacy systems. A related issue occurs when your data format differs between the old system and the new one. There are several ways to mitigate data integrity issues. You can validate the dataset with a sampling, subset or complete record-by-record comparison. A more drastic methodology involves starting over with your data, with very limited data migration. This last solution is usually not a viable solution for many large businesses with vast repositories of records, but it can be the easiest path forward for relatively new or small businesses.

Stakeholder Buy-in

Given the risks associated with migration and implementation, it’s not surprising that stakeholders are hesitant to move forward, particularly if the company is one of the estimated 60% of companies that have been using legacy systems for more than 10 years. The argument is that if it’s not broken, why to fix it or change it. The hesitancy also relates more to the migration costs paired with possible downtime and the high chance of other risks and company loss. Ultimately, the overpowering mountain of reasons to upgrade will likely overcome stakeholder objections, but you may need to highlight some key arguments for migration to the latest SAP ERP Cloud solutions.

Customization

A key migration challenge is that your legacy system is already customized to meet your company’s specific needs. Customizations may be so extensive that it would be difficult or even impossible to implement those features in the new framework. While they may have appeared to be indispensable, moving forward with a fresh, new SAP S/4HANA Cloud approach can also be a positive change that can make you rethink your overall strategic direction and outlook.

Knowledge

SAP S/4HANA migration and implementation is not something that can be undertaken on-the-fly, without careful planning and roll-out. That’s part of why 51% of IT managers say they don’t have the knowledge to successfully complete such a task. Where your company lacks the knowledge to implement a migration, you can find an IT partner with the SAP BPC Services to help.

What to Look for in an IT Partner for Migration?

It’s true that the prospect of moving to the SAP S/4HANA Cloud solution can appear daunting. It’s a risk, and there are costs involved, but some costs (like hiring SAP BPC Services to help) are an investment. So, here are a few top factors you should consider when selecting a partner.

Experience

Lots of companies can claim to have IT experience, and they’ll likely have the skills to help you with most standard IT tasks. What you really need is a partner who has experience with SAP migrations. Your partner needs to conduct an impact assessment to determine which migration is the best option:

  • Greenfield: New install, either in a new office or network.
  • Brownfield: Upgrade solution or an add-on to a network.

The best IT partner for your company will have the years of experience you can rely on while being able to establish trust with your company. You need to be able to rely on their consulting expertise. Will they tell it to you straight, letting you know all the risks and drawbacks as well as the benefits?

Appreciation

Your partner must also understand and appreciate your company’s unique qualities, both from an IT and business-environment perspective. Part of that appreciation is the ability to accept policy-mandated restrictions and timeline requirements. But, your partner should also be a leader and a professional, intent on preventing any and all negative outcomes (no matter how seemingly minor or insignificant). They’ve got your back.

Appropriate Tools

An experienced migration partner will also make use of appropriate tools and strategies to make sure that the project stays on budget and on schedule. Ask about their toolset, but also find out about policies and procedures that directly relate to your migration and implementation.

References & Testimonials

The best consulting partner will be able to give you references and testimonials for satisfied clients over a period of years. Don’t just ask for references. Follow up and ask questions. Find out more about the experiences and outcomes of those references or testimonials. Also, don’t be afraid to dig deeper to find out any negative reports. It can be helpful to know what has gone wrong for a company in the past, so you can also determine how they handle a crisis. It’s important to know that the IT partner of choice knows how to mitigate and successfully address negative situations.

Services & Support

Are they a one-trick pony, or do they offer services and support that will meet every need that you might have for a consulting partner? Can they help with the initial assessment of your business, handle the entire Cloud ERP implementation, and then offer solutions post-migration to ensure that future challenges are resolved by a migration expert? What is the extent of the professional services that you can rely on?

Data migration to SAP S/4HANA is a challenge, but it can also be a worthwhile and productive endeavor. It must be undertaken with careful planning to avoid disruption to your company. When you select the right IT partner to work with, though, the whole process should come off without a hitch. The data migration may just turn out to be much easier and more cost-effective than you ever imagined (or dared hope for).

Are SAP ERP Cloud Solutions Worth The Risk?

Given the challenges involved in migrating to SAP S/4HANA, it is a decision that you’ve likely considered at length, and it may be the topic of future discussions as well. The best way to overcome the challenges you’re facing is through careful planning and implementation. You’ve likely already found that the benefits do outweigh any drawbacks.

So, the real question is:

What roadmap will you follow to successfully implement SAP S/4HANA?

Then, the next question is:

When will you move forward with the plan?

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