This ASUG member blog post was written by Dr. Steele Arbeeny, CTO of SNP Group. 

Digital transformation takes many forms. There are as many different transformation projects as there are businesses looking to reap new value in some way: migrating to SAP S/4HANA; migrating to the cloud; merging multiple systems into one; performing across-the-board technical upgrades versus fresh implementations; merging, acquiring, or divesting from other businesses; and preserving and carrying forward historical data—or not. But the common thread running throughout all these projects and different ways of digitalizing is one key “must-have” for businesses: a range of options to explore.

Successful digitalization is all about options—being able to pick and choose where you want to innovate and transform, and where you don’t (or can’t). There isn’t one single approach that applies to everyone. Brownfield, bluefield, and greenfield each come with their own pros and cons, and each may be ideal for one company’s situation but not another’s. Enterprises must do their due diligence in determining which approach will enable them to reap tangible, positive business and technology value for their organizations. That level of flexibility is what allows innovation to thrive and empowers companies to land on the digital transformation that produces the most ROI.

There are multiple approaches to driving innovation and building value out of digital transformation projects like an SAP S/4HANA migration. Here are a few examples of why it’s crucial to keep your options open as you pursue your SAP S/4HANA migration.

Flexibility in Options Preserves Legacy and Business-Critical Functions

Let’s look at the finance world, as one example. Many businesses in the financial sector may say they want to adopt an ERP platform that standardizes their systems across the board, just for simplicity’s sake. But that’s the view from the top. If you drill down into specific teams or segments within the business, it might be a completely different story. The billing department, for instance, might have a specific, customized process for billing customers that isn’t shared across the wider company. A standardized, across-the-board system would disrupt a critical business function in this case. But you also don’t want to reject innovative upgrades across the rest of the organization that both need it and won’t suffer for it in the way a legacy department or process might.

The flexibility to pick and choose which systems or functions—and which to leave alone—is key to ROI. Preserving the business processes that can’t change, while upgrading the areas that need it and won’t be disrupted, allows everyone to benefit.

Rethinking Historical Data Left over from a Divestiture

Another use case that bears out the importance of selective innovation is in managing divestures. One curious trend we’ve seen over the past year with COVID-19 has been a surge in divestiture activity, as many enterprises divest themselves from units or companies that may be underperforming, or simply to fortify their core business against the larger economic downturn. But while organizations may divest from parts of their business, they often end up holding onto historical data left over from those divested units, accumulating potentially years’ worth of unnecessary data.

That data doesn’t just exist in a vacuum; it consumes time, money, and storage space to preserve and maintain. It also inhibits an across-the-board approach to SAP S/4HANA implementation. If you were to take a brownfield approach to SAP S/4HANA, performing a blanket technical upgrade on all systems and data sets, then that would entail carrying forward all of that historical data, too.

But why would you want that? If you’ve divested from the original company, then its data is of no real value anymore. If anything, it ends up undermining the efficacy of SAP S/4HANA. One of the most (deservedly) hyped capabilities of SAP S/4HANA is its advanced analytics. But the power of those analytics is undermined if clogged up by years of historical data in a system that no longer has any value to your company. That kind of historical data migration doesn’t just hurt the ROI you get on SAP S/4HANA; more data to preserve means more time, money, hardware, memory, and overall technical footprint to devote to data preservation—all data that you don’t need. This is why selectivity in innovation and SAP S/4HANA migration is so important: the ability to choose what to innovate, what data to migrate, and what to leave behind doesn’t just ensure you’re getting the most out of SAP S/4HANA, but that you’re also minimizing the level of associated costs and technical debt.

Keeping your options open means X, Y, Z don’t all need to follow the same directives. Instead, you can choose to eliminate X, standardize Y, and merge Z where it makes sense. Innovate the business processes that need it, preserve the legacy systems that need to be left alone, and ditch the historical data that is clogging up the works.

Take the Long View

Most SAP S/4HANA migration projects are multi-phase efforts. Any one project may involve multiple steps like business partner integration, data reduction, OS/DB migration, business process innovations, cloud endpoint implementation. These steps can all be either put on separate timelines, or consolidated into a single go-live project, depending on your preferences. But that’s the key: your preferences.

When you take the long view of not just SAP S/4HANA migration, but any digital transformation effort, you can more easily break down what to upgrade, what to migrate, what to leave alone, and then keep separate or consolidate their timelines accordingly. Each process or system has its own value add, and that value will either be enhanced or take a hit depending on what kind of migration approach you choose. A selective approach to digitalization, along with the core value of keeping your options open and building your timelines around that flexibility, are essential for getting the most value out of SAP S/4HANA and digital transformation overall.

Need more on SAP S/4HANA migration? Check out more insights from ASUG.

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