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April 14, 2021 | Matt Pacheco

What Is SAP S/4HANA and How Do I Migrate?

An enterprise resource planning (ERP) system can make or break a business. The latest iteration of the SAP ERP can revolutionize business processes with intelligent automation. It’s called SAP S/4HANA, short for SAP Business Suite 4 running on the High-Performance Analytic Appliance (HANA).

This interview explores the opportunities and challenges of SAP S/4HANA migration. In partnership with NTT DATA Business Solutions, TierPoint offers Managed SAP S/4HANA Private Cloud. Together TierPoint AVP for partner strategy and enablement Alvaro Gonzales and Bill Strasser, SVP for managed services at NTT DATA Business Solutions, an SAP Platinum Partner, explain what is S/4HANA, benefits of S/4HANA, what holds business back, and how to ensure a successful migration from an existing SAP deployment. You can read this interview or watch the video podcast below.

What is SAP S/4HANA?

Alvaro: What is SAP S/4HANA and how is it different from SAP ECC and other SAP solutions?

Bill: S/4HANA is SAP’s new engine, an intelligent enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform that establishes the company’s vision of the enterprise digital core. S/4 will eventually replace SAP ECC. For years, SAP has directed all its new intelligent technologies into the S/4HANA platform, such as intelligent robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI). SAP brings it together in a cloud-based model with more embedded analytics and a better user experience to create a state-of-the-art ERP solution.

Why choose SAP S/4HANA?

Alvaro: For what reasons do businesses migrate to the SAP S/4HANA platform?

Bill: Our installed base of S/4HANA clients reveals five or six major reasons. The first is that S/4HANA has a new digital core foundation that leaves old baggage behind. The second is a performance improvement from much faster in-memory database computing.

A third reason businesses move to SAP S/4HANA is the new user interface and improved user experience. You’ll hear about Fiori, a set of SAP apps that work on any device anywhere. Fiori gives the user a single pane into S/4HANA, as well as all the solutions that go into it.

SAP’s cloud scenario is the fourth reason. S/4HANA can be hosted on-premises, in a data center, in a private cloud, or in a hyperscale cloud—wherever you want.

Simplification is the final reason. With ECC, disparate solutions plug in—supply chain management (SCM) and customer relationship management (CRM), for example—and sit outside SAP, because they can’t be absorbed into the ERP. With S/4, in contrast, SAP simplifies the underlying database, tables, and structures to create a solution that is much easier to run and manage.

On top of that, S/4 has embedded analytics. With ECC, you potentially have a separate business warehouse solution with a different front end. How do you visualize it all? S/4HANA brings it all together with Fiori and embedded real-time analytics.

Alvaro: S/4HANA sounds like a big step forward. SAP is known for providing excellent information but at the expense of much complication.

Bill: Yes, it’s a big step. There’s a whole industry grown up around analytics for business warehouse and business objects. S/4HANA provides a simplified and thinner analytics view.

What causes delays in migration to S/4HANA?

Alvaro: Many businesses haven’t shifted yet to S/4HANA. What’s holding them back?

Bill: I’ve seen three major drivers of delay. One is that SAP allows companies to stay on ECC until 2027, even 2030, by paying higher maintenance premiums. Another was early confusion about the migration path to S/4 and what are the business cases, so businesses took no action. Now there are defined migration paths and defined business cases, and it is much easier to define your path to S/4HANA.

Alvaro: You mentioned the business case. Sometimes the issue is the hours and the resources it takes to migrate. There are lots of moving parts associated with new infrastructure. If the gear that SAP ECC runs on is not on end of life, a business might wait to sync up the move to S/4HANA with the move to new infrastructure.

Bill: Agreed. As part of the move to S/4, you have to think about the underlying infrastructure. Is it on-premises today? In a private data center? Or colo?

The shift to S/4 is not short term. It requires a long-term plan for where the ERP solution resides. Will it be a cloud services provider, like TierPoint? Hyperscalers want this business, too. S/4 infrastructure is a major business decision with a long view.

What roles do experience and hosting play in a successful S/4HANA migration?

Alvaro: You mentioned well-known paths to conduct the migration to S/4HANA. We at TierPoint know that data center migrations are straightforward because we have done hundreds of them. In comparison, an IT professional might do a data center migration once in their career. Is the migration to S/4HANA like this?

Bill: Yes, migrations are daunting and risky without expertise. For us, S/4 migrations are now lower risk and lower cost with shorter timelines. We have a personalized factory model, with every customer a little bit different. We take everything off the client as much as we can, so they are not bogged down. Migration to S/4HANA is starting to hit the mainstream now, whether from on-premises to a TierPoint data center or another option.

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Your first two steps to S/4HANA

Alvaro: To wrap it up, what advice would you give our readers about where to start?

Bill: Step one is to get the facts. Work with a partner like TierPoint or NTT DATA Business Solutions to find out what it takes, what is the path, especially if you don’t have the expertise. There are several steps in the journey, including prerequisites. Together you’ll build out a plan with your partner.

Step two puts business drivers behind the change to build the business case. More IT-centric discussions have less influence and leverage with the business, so engage the business and bring the benefit of S/4HANA into the discussion about the migration path and how you get there. This step tilts the business case and drives your project forward.

Alvaro: Thank you. Working with NTT DATA Business Solutions is enormously valuable for our clients because your experience is not just technical, you also help the business to plan, justify and understand what they should get out of this, and then execute the migration plan.

Learn more about SAP S/4HANA

At TierPoint, we have the skills and infrastructure to help you implement SAP S/4HANA. We teamed up with NTT DATA Business Solutions, an SAP Global Platinum Partner, to provide an even deeper array of managed services for our enterprise customers. Learn more about the TierPoint and NTT DATA Business Solutions Managed SAP S/4HANA solution.

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