It’s been a little more than four years since we first began to hear about SAP S/4HANA and how it’s the pathway to the intelligent enterprise. For some, it was another new solution from SAP that sounded great but needed to be put on the back burner. For others, it was the right solution at the right time. But the message from SAP has been clear: Maintenance support for SAP ECC will no longer be available after 2025.

We’re just about five years out from the deadline and, to date, 10,900 customers have purchased the ERP system across the globe while 3,000 are live. According to ASUG’s 2019 State of the Community Study, more than half of ASUG members have plans to implement SAP S/4HANA in the future, but have held back because of prioritization, lack of resources, waiting for the product to mature, or needing to justify the move. According to SAP, they need to get moving.

“When it comes to North America, there is a little bit of a lag making the move,” said Sven Denecken, senior vice president and head of product management for SAP S/4HANA. Denecken stressed the importance of the need to build a level of trust with customers. And that’s exactly what SAP aims to do with its newly launched SAP S/4HANA Movement (S/4HANA Move).

Getting the S/4 Show on the Road

The movement began late last year and was launched by the German-speaking SAP User Group (DSAG). The initiative included a portfolio of tools, programs, content, and services that help prepare customers to move to SAP S/4HANA with minimum disruption and risk.

“We’re basically trying to encourage our user base to start the journey toward SAP S/4HANA,” said Bjoern Braemer, global head of S/4HANA Movement program. “We dug deep to understand why our existing user base wasn’t as quick to start the journey as our new customers were, and we discovered that we needed to better explain the why, what, and how. We needed to improve the tools and the engagement models that help customers understand why SAP S/4HANA would be the right move.”

In the eight months since this initiative launched in Germany, Braemer said the Move program can now help customers define a strategy, understand ROI in both the short- and long-term, build a business case, and make the right decision for deployment options.

Tools for the Trade

S/4HANA Move has four different programs in place to help customers as they evaluate making the move or the migration process. The first one, SAP Transformation Navigator, is more of a self-planning tool for customers who do not want to interact with SAP right away. It helps them understand the road map for each industry and application.

The second program, SAP Adoption Starter, is a virtual classroom that helps customers understand the why, what, and how. “We guide them through what is the key innovation that comes with SAP S/4HANA,” Braemer said. “We talk with them about what is the proposed architecture, and what they need to consider when they move from their existing legacy system and how to do it. We talk about deployment strategies, and the support tools offered by SAP.”

Finding Your Individualized ERP Path

The third program, Value Discovery Workshop, has been on the market for quite a while. According to Braemer, it now aligns with all the topics mentioned above, but in a format that’s more individualized. “We dig into the details,” he said. “We look at specific problems for that particular customer in that particular industry, and then try to provide the answer with SAP S/4HANA.”

Lastly, the fourth program, Move in Motion, is an invitation-based program of up to nine customers and regional system integrators to participate in a design thinking workshop. “It’s where customers approach us with their specific questions, and we try to provide the answer and help them to do the move.”

SAP customers will be happy to hear that all these programs are free of charge.

Help Building Your Business Case

Building the business case is one of the biggest barriers for customers looking to make the move. Sometimes it can even be a barrier to getting the conversation started. “Knowing what to focus on isn’t a black and white issue,” Braemer pointed out. “It really does depend on the industry and the customer. But one of the things I always put first is to think about the future of the company.”

When building a business case, customers need to think about where they want the business to be in five to ten years. It’s also important not to think about quick wins—things like process automation, optimization of cost structure, and ways to reduce TCO—although it’s easy to get caught up in those. “Instead,” Braemer suggested, “think about really leveraging the S/4HANA Movement as kind of a fit-to-standard approach changing your business model.”

It requires a change of mindset, and it’s not easy to do. “But it’s necessary,” Braemer said. “Things like change management become very important and essential factors in these projects, and that’s where you should focus.”

Support on the Field: Green or Brown

Taking a greenfield approach means you get to start on a new playing field. “It’s where a customer can—I don’t want to say—forget about the parts, but they can really look at what SAP recommends,” Braemer said. S/4HANA Move can help those customers configure the system using standard best practice processes. And if customers agree to a fit-to-standard, then according to Braemer, it’s an easy path forward. If a customer has need for modifications, then there is an easy path for that as well on any major cloud platform because the API management allows for connecting everything.

“System conversion is a bit different,” Braemer said. If customers don’t have a lot of customization and a system conversion makes sense, then it’s usually a faster and cheaper way to get to SAP S/4HANA. “We have the tools that support the move whether it’s on-prem, on the cloud, or even to a hyperscaler.”

Start Moving...Really

The 2025 date is fast approaching and most of you know that you need to get going on your move to SAP S/4HANA. But what’s the optimal time to begin? And what’s the risk of waiting any longer?

According to Braemer, it really depends on the customer segment. For smaller companies, making a move may not be as involved so it may take anywhere from six to nine months. But when we talk about larger companies such as the Nestles or the BMWs of the world, a move can take upwards of 18 to 24 months.

“My recommendation,” Braemer said, “is there’s no need to wait. Companies need to have that internal discussion. They need alignment between business and IT. They need to adopt a change of mindset, too. It’s a business transformation and it’s hard for me to answer how long it will take for a company to overcome hurdles. But given the length of the project, I would recommend starting right now. If you’re going to wait, 2022 should be the latest.”

Are you ready to make the move to SAP S/4HANA? ASUG Members can watch a “How to Build a Business Case and Road Map to Justify Your Transformation to SAP S/4HANA” webcast, available on demand. If you’ve already started the move to SAP S/4HANA and need to help prepare your talent for the switch, register them for the ASUG University SAP S/4HANA 101 Course.