Migration can be painful—it’s just a fact of life. And SAP S/4 HANA is powerfully complex technology. This combination of realities determines how easy it is for customers to plan and execute the migration initiatives they’ve decided to pursue.

SAP knows that these kinds of transitions can be difficult for customers, so it extends a helping hand (either free or for a fee). The official line from SAP is, “SAP offers a wide range of database migration services to help optimize your use of SAP technology. Our portfolio of tools, resources, and fast-track programs supports your ability to move your legacy or non-SAP technologies to an SAP software landscape.”

The Reality Is Complex, Clunky, and Convoluted

While SAP’s migration services appear polished and comprehensive, real-world use cases sometimes don’t turn out as planned.

That’s not necessarily a criticism of SAP. Customers often operate complex business frameworks with entangled streams of data and application dependencies across dozens of disparate systems. When these siloed systems have been in place for decades, they’re naturally clunky to start moving around, and sometimes downright impossible to fix. In those cases, your company may need to make the call to start from scratch.

The challenges of migration are compounded when the people who engineered and deployed these systems have moved on and taken their knowledge with them, typically without leaving an appropriate level of documentation. In cases where those systems have been engineered and deployed by systems integrators, this disconnect can be equally painful, especially if the integrator did not put an effective change management program in place. All of these factors can add up to a convoluted path through a migration.

Ain’t No Greenfield

What we’re talking about here are not shiny new greenfield deployments, where the core elements of SAP S/4 HANA can be brought online within a timeline measured in months. This is the opposite. These are migrations.

Migration situations also become tougher in areas where SAP skills are in short supply. Technology analysts and journalists agree that the key SAP skills needed to perform migrations are those focused on cataloging and documenting the data flows that SAP S/4 HANA exists to manage.

Three Major SAP S/4HANA Migration Speed Bumps

Recent research from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and LeanIX on the state of SAP S/4HANA transformation suggests that any migration (SAP or otherwise) is often slowed down by three major speed bumps:

  • Complex legacy landscapes (60 percent of users surveyed indicated this)
  • The need for a high degree of customization (59 percent of users surveyed indicated this)
  • Unclear master data (51 percent of users surveyed indicated this)

Broadly speaking, technology industry commentators appear to agree on how important it is to gain full (or as full as possible) visibility into the state of an installed IT stack—well before developing a migration plan.

Planning to Prevent Poor Performance

Above all, it’s critical to carry out return on investment (ROI) and total cost of ownership (TCO) analyses to build a business case for migration before you start. “SAP S/4HANA is widely perceived as a critical driver of the digital business of the future, and yet many IT organizations are still falling short in the planning phase,” said André Christ, co-CEO and co-founder of LeanIX, the Germany-based enterprise services firm that partnered with PwC on its survey.

“Without the proper visibility into as-is landscape, the complexities of the SAP environment such as instances, clients, add-ons, and enhancement packs will get the best of IT, delaying delivery times and affecting the business’ ability to seize the digital opportunity.”

What’s the State of Your Data?

This need for visibility within a company’s “state of the data” is essential before attempting any migration. That’s because the inherent complexities of any SAP S/4HANA landscape require that companies have their house in order at the start. If we consider the breadth of application instances, cloud services, add-ons, customizations, and enhancements that any typical enterprise project requires, it’s imperative to get an understanding of the company’s long-term goals at the start.

SAP Migration Tools as a Tour Guide

It’s worth taking a tour of SAP’s migration services, as well as those offered by third-party specialists and consultants. SAP says that the SAP Database Migration Factory program brings migration automation tools, accelerators, and industry best practices from SAP and its partners to simplify migrations from third-party databases for all applications to SAP databases. A good systems integrator or consultant that suits your company’s culture and way of working can be what you need to keep you honest and keep your project on track.

More SAP Migration Gain with Less Pain

Migration will always be difficult for many firms. That reality is not likely to change within this decade and maybe not even in the next one. But the tide is turning as more customers live through the migration process and share their experiences with others. As it helps support these customers in their journeys, SAP is also becoming well-versed in the kinds of migration automation tools that can truly speed up the migration process.

Customers can use automation tools, along with infrastructure testing and tuning tools to keep performance optimization a top priority through a migration. Migration can certainly be painful, but these constantly evolving tools are making it the type of pain companies can live with and that ultimately, leads to major organizational gains.

Learn from other customers who have gone through their own HANA and SAP S/4HANA migrations like Melia Hotels International, Hunter Douglas, and this smorgasbord of use cases.

Get a start on what you need to know for your SAP S/4HANA migration by attending an ASUG Express event in your area. Or join an ASUG Pre-Conference Session at SAP TechEd in Las Vegas for a deeper-dive, how-to seminar.