The switch to SAP S/4HANA is likely to remain one of the dominant topics for SAP user companies in the coming years. SAP Business Suite will finally come to an end in 2027 at the latest, with the exception of the option of extended maintenance until 2030 in return for higher fees.
The introduction of SAP S/4HANA is a complex project because it has an impact on almost all of a company’s business processes. Only with optimized processes can the possibilities of SAP S/4HANA be fully exploited. Therefore, the migration is ideally accompanied by a digital business transformation, in which processes are adapted to current requirements. In this way, companies benefit on the one hand from all the functionalities and technologies that SAP S/4HANA offers, and on the other hand position themselves for the future and secure their competitiveness.
Deployment: on-premise or from the cloud?
On the road to SAP S/4HANA, there are various challenges and tasks to overcome, as well as fundamental decisions to be made. One of these relates to the type of deployment: does a company want to use SAP S/4HANA with its own infrastructure (i.e. on-premise) or as software-as-a-service from the cloud? Each company must answer this question individually. The on-premise variant or the private cloud approach tends to be more suitable if a company has used many customer-specific enhancements in its previous ERP system and has implemented numerous process adjustments that it would also like to use in the SAP S/4HANA environment in the future. These can be, for example, industry-specific or extensive individual developments.
If, on the other hand, it is close to the SAP standard, the shorter project runtimes, the elimination of software and hardware maintenance due to outsourced operation, and the shorter innovation cycles definitely speak in favor of a cloud deployment (public cloud approach). In certain cases, a hybrid approach may also be the preferred option.
SAP S/4HANA offers various options for integrating innovative technologies into business processes. They are provided on SAP Business Technology Platform and help SAP S/4HANA reach its full potential. Therefore, companies should consider how to use, for example, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, machine learning or blockchain to optimize internal processes, establish new business models, offer additional services, generate higher revenues and increase customer satisfaction.
Greenfield or brownfield?
Essentially, two paths lead to SAP S/4HANA: the greenfield and the brownfield approach. The greenfield approach involves a new implementation of the ERP landscape. It offers the opportunity to completely rebuild the system on a greenfield site, so to speak, and to break up old structures by questioning and redesigning all processes and customer-specific developments. Companies that have modified their ERP system over the years with a large number of customer-specific developments, have rarely cleaned up their data and have not used harmonized processes, often choose the greenfield approach to free themselves from old ballast and only map in SAP S/4HANA what they really still need.
The brownfield approach is a system conversion that completely transfers the data, customizing, and customer-specific developments from SAP ERP to SAP S/4HANA. The first step is the technical migration, followed by the adaptation of processes and in-house developments to new requirements and innovative business ideas. The reduced complexity of the migration project and the significantly shorter project duration are key arguments in favor of the brownfield approach, which is always ideal if a customer has already standardized and harmonized the processes in its SAP ECC or non-SAP ERP and has a consistent master data concept.
Important preparations for the switch to SAP S/4HANA
Once decisions have been made on the migration path and the future deployment method, a number of preparatory tasks subsequently need to be completed. For this purpose, SAP provides various tools such as the SAP Readiness Check for SAP S/4HANA, which checks the existing ERP system with regard to the S/4HANA compatibility of the existing data, processes and functions, as well as providing technical advice on the activities to be performed. An important aspect of migration is whether the functionalities used in SAP ERP are available in SAP S/4HANA. In addition, data cleansing is recommended so that no old or no longer required data is transferred – with positive effects on data quality.
Furthermore, companies must decide to what extent they want to use Fiori apps in SAP S/4HANA. SAP Fiori creates a contemporary user interface and provides role- and user-specific tiles for accessing the respective transactions. However, working with Fiori apps requires changes to roles and the associated authorization objects. Companies should pay sufficient attention to this issue so that users in the business departments are not slowed down by access problems immediately after the SAP S/4HANA migration and go-live.