For 15 years, Johnsonville has been a relatively early adopter of SAP technologies. We’ve relied on SAP solutions to support and enable our growth and innovation.
In fall of 2016, Johnsonville—where I’m the VP and CIO—took the next big step: We began the journey to SAP S/4HANA. In fact, we were the first North American customer to successfully go live with a brownfield migration from SAP ECC 6.0 to SAP S/4HANA (1610). Overall, the migration efforts went very well. The technology has worked as promised, and we are happy with the results.
But the issue of partner certifications for SAP S/4HANA has been a more significant challenge than we were expecting. And it made me wonder if Johnsonville was alone in this experience.
What’s the Issue with SAP S/4HANA Certification?
SAP requires third-party certified solutions to be certified or recertified on every release of SAP S/4HANA, which to date has included releases 1610, 1709, 1809, and 1909.
This is obviously a thorny issue for SAP and its partners. From SAP’s perspective, it wants to be sure that third-party solutions are compatible with the newest release and will not cause issues for customers. Partners see certification as a value to be able to attract new customers, but the cost—both in certification fees and time to complete—make it more difficult to achieve.
Given the relatively small number of customers on the latest releases of SAP S/4HANA, partners end up having to be more strategic and selective in their certification plans and are not always ready to make the time or financial investment in certifying on the latest release in a timely manner.
Unfortunately, this puts the SAP S/4HANA customer in an unenviable position: Either force a partner’s hand to jumpstart the certification process or postpone adopting the latest SAP S/4HANA innovations and wait for certification.
Why SAP S/4HANA Certifications Matter to SAP Customers
In April 2019, Johnsonville had to abandon an upgrade from 1610 to 1809 because of the lack of certification of critical third-party solutions. Ultimately, the more than six-month delay between the 1809 general availability (GA) version and availability of certified solutions required Johnsonville to move on to other initiatives.
While at SAPPHIRE NOW and ASUG Annual Conference this year, I had conversations with several customers considering a move to SAP S/4HANA, in the planning phases, or actively engaged in a project. SAP S/4HANA certification came up as a common theme, and I soon discovered that many others have faced challenges similar to our experience at Johnsonville.
Additionally, many customers who were early in the implementation process had not even considered the topic and were unaware of the potential roadblock.
No Silver Bullet but Customer Participation
I don’t have a silver bullet to fix this issue. I do believe, however, that all parties involved should participate in a conversation. SAP needs the partners as much as the partners need SAP—and customers need both to be in lockstep with the other.
ASUG is doing its part. The organization has volunteered to help understand the industry perspective and issues related to third-party software certifications for SAP S/4HANA. An ASUG research project completed in 2019 has identified the benefits and challenges of the certification process, which will help all parties—customers, partners, and SAP—better understand how to help each other make this part of initial transitions and, ultimately, lead to smoother upgrades. ASUG will publish a summary of the findings in its SAP S/4HANA Certification study in Q1 2020, and will share them at its events and through its programming in 2020.
I strongly encourage you to share your opinion on the issue of SAP S/4HANA certification by lending your voice to the conversation. Please reach out to ASUGNews@asug.com if you are interested in sharing your experiences with this topic. Our active engagement will help promote discussions and a move toward better outcomes that all of us can be satisfied with.
Get the January 2020 update on SAP S/4HANA certification from Ron Gilson of Johnsonville. Or register for “Your Move to SAP S/4HANA: Finding a Path that Fits” Pre-Conference Seminar at ASUG Annual Conference to hear lessons learned, value scenarios, and tips for building a business case from customers who are already live.