This blog post was written by Arndt Hoffmann, executive vice president and general manager of Global SAP Practice at smartShift Technologies. 

I have been working with Fortune 500 enterprises (and their SAP systems) for more than 25 years. SAP customers had to adapt to many changes in this time—from SAP R/2 to SAP R/3, SAP ECC, SAP HANA, SAP S/4HANA, lately SAP S/4HANA cloud in different flavors. Their SAP systems have always continued to grow in complexity and size. Regional expansion, mergers and acquisitions, new business requirements, or technical limitations led to an ever-growing number of SAP landscapes—sometimes 100 or more. Over time, more and more custom extensions have been added to these systems, some to implement strategic processes, some for ad-hoc reporting, some for technical migrations, and multiple other reasons.

According to our benchmark database, an average SAP ECC system holds more than 30,000 custom extensions to enhance SAP standard functionality. Some customers have a custom code footprint of 100 million lines of code or more, and 40% to 60% of the code are not used anymore and could be decommissioned from the systems without functionality loss. Code has been developed by many different people, internal and external, using different programming paradigms and styles, leading to monolithic, hard-to-maintain systems and extremely slow release cycles. The hundreds of interfaces that have to be maintained and tested add to complexity.

The need for change and transformation has been inherent throughout all these years. The answer has been people-intense waterfall initiatives, keeping organizations and consultants busy. The COVID-19 crisis has taught us that this approach is too slow, especially for large enterprises with large SAP landscapes. Accelerated innovation cycles, new technologies, and mega trends like cloud, Internet of Things (IoT), and AI require new answers! But how do we achieve agility if the SAP landscape is large and customizations are all over the place?

Automation is the only answer and should be an integral part of all your SAP transformation programs. Automation does the heavy lifting so that your teams and partners can focus on functional decisions. Automation accelerates your SAP transformation programs, realizing a faster time to market and success. Automation delivers the quality to shorten test cycles and make your business happy. Automation provides you the optionality required to steer through complex transformation programs. Automation streamlines the required dual maintenance to keep your project landscapes synchronized and freeze periods short. Finally, automation is the only option to address the immense technical debt in your SAP systems. With automation, you have the option to reach modern, encapsulated, secure, and maintainable custom applications, enabling agility and real DevOps.

Many of our large enterprise customers have embedded automation in all their SAP transformation activities. The impact of what intelligent automation for custom code transformation and modernization can achieve is immense. For example, a Fortune 500 enterprise has embedded custom code automation into its SAP transformation program for 69 SAP landscapes running until 2025. In just the last 2.5 years, 59 projects in 33 SAP landscapes have been completed successfully, addressing over 5 million code issues, saving the organization 27,000 days of manual labor. In addition, 50,000 custom objects and 8.5 million lines of code have been decommissioned, reducing yearly maintenance cost by $2 million. Thousands of security issues have been fixed, and overall IT risk of those SAP systems reduced by $50 million.

This is not a one-time tool play! Organizations should integrate automation into overall plans with proper governance based on defined standards and backed by pre-defined, agreed-upon service-level agreements (SLAs). Only then will you achieve the full benefits, as well as a boost in quality, speed, and a real opportunity to get rid of the technical debt in your SAP landscapes.

It’s that time of year again! ASUGFORWARD is right around the corner. ASUG members can join us online for executive programming on June 15‒17. Later, on June 21‒24, be sure to tune in for sessions from SAP customers and experts. Register now for the virtual event.

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