Now that we are in 2021, SAP customers have about six years to migrate from SAP ECC 6.0 to SAP S/4HANA before the software company ends support of its legacy ERP software. While many companies are already live on SAP S/4HANA—or well into their transformation journeys—there are still a lot of customers who have not begun this transition. In 2020, ASUG partnered with DSAG to survey SAP customers in North America, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. About 18% of ASUG members and 12% of DSAG members indicated they are still deciding on whether they will adopt SAP S/4HANA, while 33% of ASUG members and 47% of DSAG members noted that they are planning to migrate, but haven’t started the process.

Implementing SAP S/4HANA can have significant business impacts, but it requires a lot of effort, time, and planning. Last year, ASUG hosted an ASUG Express webcast series: Achieving Success with SAP S/4HANA Virtual Boot Camp. Spread across six episodes, the boot camp covered strategy and vision, building a business case, planning and preparation, delivering value, change management and adoption, and remote execution. The episodes featured SAP professionals, SAP S/4HANA experts, and partners walking attendees through best practices, offering advice, and sharing helpful tools and resources.

“The boot camp provided attendees with key things to know and do no matter where they are on their SAP S/4HANA journey,” said Paul Kurchina, the webcasts’ host and ASUG evangelist. “During this six-episode series attendees took away the most current insights, tools, and resources.”

Understand the SAP S/4HANA Strategy

The boot camp kicked off with a presentation from Matthew Donovan, director of SAP S/4HANA business market development, who walked attendees through the current strategy SAP has for SAP S/4HANA. He pointed out that today’s business climate is incredibly complicated and volatile. Not only are employees searching for a “purposeful workplace,” but customers are also demanding unique experiences, while society is expecting more from companies.

Because of all these factors, Donovan said that SAP customers are turning to SAP S/4HANA for a few reasons. First, they are looking for a single point of truth, where all data is connected across the entire organization. Customers are also looking to increase productivity while also reducing risk. Finally, businesses want to make their operations more flexible and responsive. COVID-19 has certainly proved that these are necessary traits for businesses to stay healthy and effectively serve customers. Donovan said that SAP S/4HANA is suited to help SAP customers achieve these operational goals, while also tackling future problems. “Companies are getting tripped up because they are trying to solve the challenges of today and tomorrow with a toolset that’s been in place for 5 to 10 years,” he said.

According to Donovan, SAP is doing a litany of things to ensure that SAP S/4HANA continues to meet the expectations—and needs—of customers. The software company continues embedding the ERP solution with intelligence across an entire business ecosystem. Machine learning and artificial intelligence capabilities are “deeply embedded into the core process” of SAP S/4HANA, which helps customers to automate and free up vital user time.

Additionally, Donovan discussed the integrated end-to-end modular processes in SAP S/4HANA. “The days of monolithic ERP are over,” he said. He emphasized how many processes touch a variety of “sources and systems,” necessitating a modular approach to an ERP platform. SAP S/4HANA is an integrated solution that has clear start and endpoints. Yet, Donovan also underlined the solution’s “seamless” user experience. Functionalities like this are made possible by the SAP S/4HANA aligned domain model, which allows data to freely flow from solution to solution.

Keys to Building a Business Case

One of the most important phases of integrating SAP S/4HANA happens well before the actual project is even greenlit: building a business case. Not only does a business case help a company’s leadership approve the project, but it also assists companies as they assess what sort of impact a new ERP system will have, and which business processes can be improved. In the second episode of the boot camp, Scott Koren, associate partner of IBM Next Gen Enterprise Applications; and William Bowers, GVP of SAP S/4HANA GTM & Solution Management at SAP, focused on how companies should approach building their business cases for SAP S/4HANA.

Bowers laid out some keys to success attendees should keep in mind as they approach their business cases. First, he encouraged customers to put a lot of thought and research into how SAP S/4HANA is going to help a company’s core business along with how it is relevant to a company’s overall business strategy. He also listed a few key aspects of a business case that will help leadership understand the implementation’s impact better. For example, on the financial side of the business case, attendees were encouraged to include annual reoccurring benefits, the payback period, and the internal rate of return.

“A lot of these calculations are done top-down, but the thought process of these calculations can be hard to articulate,” he said. “If you can’t articulate those core nuggets of gold or incremental areas of value, then it’s not something you’ve internalized.”

Preparing and Planning for an SAP S/4HANA Project

The third episode featured Jose Marquez, SAP S/4HANA Regional Implementation Group lead for Americas at SAP; Sheldon Edelstein, SAP S/4HANA Regional Implementation Group product expert; and Van Vi, head of SAP HANA practice unit and a member of the SAP S/4HANA Regional Implementation Group team member.

This session detailed actions attendees should take during the planning and preparation phases of an SAP S/4HANA project. Most importantly, the three experts also discussed several different planning and preparation resources available to attendees when they reach this particular phase. Vi discussed important tools like the SAP Readiness Check 2.0 for SAP S/4HANA, which can yield crucial insights including how add-ons are working, the sizing of the database, and information on custom code.

Edelstein laid out a few “accelerators” available to customers, including SAP Model Company—“a prepackaged, ready-to-use, end-to-end reference solution for SAP S/4HANA”—and the SAP Business Scenario Recommendation, which is a report that helps users “make sense of innovation concepts and maintenance services.”

Executing an SAP S/4HANA Project and Delivering Value

The fourth session of the series focused on how customers can go about doing an SAP S/4HANA project and obtaining value from the implementation. Jim O’Donnell, SAP alliance solution architect at Red Hat walked through how the company can provide infrastructure solutions expertise during the execution phase. Alexander Ertl, senior product manager for SAP at Tricentis, gave a presentation detailing the value of the company’s testing services.

This episode also featured several SAP tools available to attendees that can help during the execution part of their SAP S/4HANA journey. Ranjeet Panicker, VP of SAP Services at SAP, touched on several of these resources. Examples include SAP Advanced Deployment, a defined framework for SAP-led projects that support an implementation all the way to deployment. Additionally, he discussed SAP Value Assurance, an approach that can be used to speed up transformation while reducing risk. This tool gives customers access to service packages and solutions for each phase of deployment.

Managing the Change of an SAP S/4HANA Implementation

The fifth episode focused on ways customers can make the process of leveraging a brand-new solution easier. Kerry Brown, VP of workforce adoption at SAP, gave a presentation on change management adoption. “The focus on people has really changed,” she said.

According to Brown a significant aspect of this change arises from the shifting dynamics in the workforce, where baby boomers are retiring while millennials are becoming the dominant force. Technology—and the way we use it—is also shifting. “We are all changing our expectation of what [technology] can do for us and with us,” Brown said.

Brown then hosted a question-and-answer session with Dan Brake, SAP North America business transformation services lead manager, about how he is seeing SAP customers shift their approaches to change. “It’s less about implementing change standards and more about flipping things on their axis and make sure your change standards are about reaching out to people,” he said. “In this world, we find ourselves now it’s easy to feel isolated and not feel you have the support you need.”

One of the main things Brown is seeing is client interactions focused on working sessions, where customers learn how to use and leverage a solution. He noted that customers can “drive” a solution themselves, while receiving support and giving feedback.

Executing SAP S/4HANA Projects Remotely

The sixth and final episode of the boot camp was a reflection on the current moment. Because of COVID-19, companies have been forced to implement SAP S/4HANA completely remotely, something that rarely happened before this year. This type of execution certainly complicates matters. Alan Newton, VP of delivery retail and fashion industry COE at SAP; Alex Nearey, project manager of retail and fashion Industry COE at SAP; and Cathy Cockrell senior project manager of retail and fashion industry COE at SAP gave presentations focused on how customers can complete a remote project in the given climate. “This is a new reality,” Newton said.

He detailed some key elements of a successful offsite SAP S/4HANA delivery, including creating a whole remote working playbook based on the SAP Activate methodology and emphasizing personal connection. Newton recommended customers institute daily standup meetings during these projects, along with regularly sharing of progress against scheduled deliverables and installing a virtual project room for vital discussions.

Nearey walked attendees through a case study of a large athletic fashion and footwear company that went through a recent remote transformation. The project included three go-lives planned for February, March, and May 2021. This is a partner-led project that began ramping up in May 2018. Some of the struggles the team encountered included conferencing for large meetings, onboarding new team members in a fully remote environment, and getting the required tools and technology for such a large remote team. Nearey suggested that customers working on similar projects set up regular one-on-one sessions with customer counterparts, update email signatures to include phone numbers, inform leads and customer counterparts of any double-booking of meetings, and—most importantly—muting microphones during large video meetings. He attributed a lot of this project’s success to a well-defined communications strategy, clear process of ownership, flexible governance, and successfully leveraging video.

Next Steps

While SAP customers have more than six years to migrate to SAP S/4HANA, now is the perfect time to start that process. This boot camp was the perfect crash course for SAP customers thinking of kicking off their SAP S/4HANA journey.

“Still there are tens of thousands of SAP customers that have not yet started their SAP S/4HANA implementation,” Kurchina said. “Now has never been a better time to jump into a six-episode SAP S/4HANA boot camp to better help ensure greater success and deliver more value while conducting these exhaustive projects.”

Although the boot camp series stops after implementation, the conversation continues with the latest ASUG Express webcasts, which featured two episodes on Living the SAP S/4HANA Life – Thrive After Go-Live. Both are available on-demand.

Want to continue the SAP S/4HANA conversation? Make sure to attend the ASUG Best Practices: SAP S/4HANA Virtual Experience. Across four weeks in March, these sessions will help attendees be successful in every part of their SAP S/4HANA journey, with each week focusing on a different phase of the implementation process.