One of the biggest decisions every SAP customer must make in the next few years is around their implementation of SAP S/4HANA. While SAP customers have until 2027 to complete their migration before SAP ceases its support of SAP Business Suite 7, that date is rapidly approaching. Implementing SAP S/4HANA is no easy feat, as ASUG has documented with many customer stories. Not only is it an expensive undertaking, but an incredibly complicated one that demands the attention of both the IT and business sides of an enterprise to be successful.

ASUG looked to help its members with this undertaking during its latest in-person conference, ASUG Best Practices: SAP S/4HANA – Chicago. Featuring SAP experts and employees, partners, and SAP customers, the event was the second in-person ASUG conference to take place since the COVID-19 outbreak began in 2020. Attendees not only heard about how SAP and partners can help with migrations projects, but they also heard directly from their peers who have completed their SAP S/4HANA migration. Here are some highlights from the event for those who missed it.

Customer Story – Abiomed

The conference opened up with a keynote from Jamie Burgin, Director of Enterprise Applications at Abiomed. ASUG sat down with Bergin before the conference to discuss the basics of the medical technology company’s implementation of SAP S/4HANA. During her keynote address, Burgin expanded on that conversation, covering the hurdles she and her team had to overcome, some of the lessons learned, and advice she had for other organizations about to embark on their own implementation project.

One of the first points Burgin made was the importance of Abiomed’s long preparation period, which began in April 2018, about a year before the implementation started.

“I can’t stress this enough,” she said. “The long prep project really helped us create buy-in and overcome obstacles.”

This also allowed the organization to identify business leaders and employees in every department who would be involved with the implementation project, which helped Abiomed mitigate problems further down the road. One area this preparation helped with was how the organization responded to COVID-19, which began amid the implementation.

“Our early investment in team-building relationships really paid off here,” Burgin told attendees.

She also spent time in her keynote address discussing other major challenges Abiomed had to overcome during this implementation project. The organization dealt with scope creeping when the scope of the project kept growing. Burgin said that input and assistance from SAP helped Abiomed curb this issue.

Burgin also went over some lessons Abiomed learned during this project. She encouraged attendees to have a dedicated project manager overseeing the entire implementation, which will help make the project flow better. Burgin also discussed the “day in the life” approach Abiomed used with its end users where they were able to work in both systems and identify issues they might encounter when leveraging the solutions in the course of their normal work day.

Demystifying the SAP Business Technology Platform (BTP)

One of the conference’s sessions also focused on the SAP BTP and the value it can bring to SAP S/4HANA customers. Before the conference, ASUG sat down with one of the presenters, Vikas Lodha, Chief Expert Business Architect for SAP, earlier this year to discuss the ins and outs of the SAP BTP and how it can actually help customers. During the presentation, Lodha was joined by Stefan Kneis, Chief Customer Officer for the SAP BTP and the SAP Cloud Platform; and Matt Goldsby, Director of IT Applications for Swift Prepared Foods. While Lodha and Kneis broke down the SAP BTP, Goldsby was able to speak to the experience of being a user actively leveraging the SAP BTP.

During the presentation, Lodha and Kneis emphasized the role the SAP BTP plays in the aspirational notion of an "intelligent enterprise.” At its core, the solution is the “foundation” of the intelligent enterprise, allowing users to develop applications and integrate with non-SAP solutions they might be leveraging. Additionally, the SAP BTP gives purpose to data by providing advanced insights and giving users access to AI capabilities. In the end, Lodha and Kneis underlined the three key business outcomes that users of the SAP BTP will receive: integration, data-to-value, and extensibility.

The Importance of Upskilling and Reskilling

One of the most pressing challenges ASUG members are facing is surrounding maintaining knowledgeable staff and dealing with turnover. The so-called “Great Recession” has affected virtually every organization, with employees looking for fresh starts after two years of working during the pandemic. In the 2022 ASUG Pulse of the SAP Customer survey, ASUG members indicated that this issue is top-of-mind, with 14% of respondents ranking this as their primary challenge. Meanwhile, 38% of respondents selected maintaining knowledgeable staff as their most prevalent challenge. During ASUG Best Practices: SAP S/4HANA, Damien Johnson, Chief Architect for Global RISE with SAP, gave a presentation focused on how organizations can tackle this staffing problem by upskilling and reskilling current employees.

“This isn’t a problem that is coming up,” he said. “It is here.”

As organizations deal with employees leaving and retiring at increased rates, Johnson encouraged attendees to upskill (provide training that will help employees improve their performance in current roles) and reskill (train employees to take on completely new roles) as a way to combat this issue. Johnson said this process starts with taking stock of your employees and assessing their needs while considering the skills and knowledge current employees have. He also said that HR departments can help with this process by supporting a “continuous learning process.”

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