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S/4HANA Migration: Three Key Approaches and Considerations

Mike Puterbaugh - July 28, 2022

What Is S4 HANA Migration?

SAP S/4HANA is an enterprise resource planning (ERP) business suite based on SAP HANA, an in-memory database that enables real-time transactions and data analysis. You can host this business suite on-premise, in the cloud, or using a hybrid architecture. An SAP S/4HANA migration involves migrating from an on-premises SAP ERP system, like SAP ECC, to SAP S/4HANA. SAP ends support for ECC customers with standard support in 2027, and in 2030 support ends for customers with extended support contracts. Some users migrate to S/4HANA from other SAP ERP offerings or from ERP software by other vendors.

What Are the Benefits of an S4 HANA Migration?

Migrating to SAP S/4HANA offers many benefits to organizations, mostly due to adopting SAP HANA. This in-memory database accelerates queries and enables powerful analytics using massive external and internal data pools. The common thread through many of these advantages is the increased speed compared to traditional ERP systems based on conventional databases.

Another set of benefits derives from the multi-tenancy of SAP S/4HANA Cloud. It has a software-as-a-service (SaaS), enabling deep integration with various cloud-based technologies like SAP Business Network. Other S/4HANA cloud deployments can also access these services.

S/4HANA supports faster financial closings and real-time data analytics. It provides access to new technologies such as IoT, AI, and chatbots. It allows organizations to automate business processes, facilitating the creation of flexible business models, which are easier to update, and offers automatic quarterly updates. Finally, S/4HANA has a simpler user interface than previous SAP ERP systems.

Related content: Read our guide to ECC vs S4/HANA

When Should I Start the Migration Process?

SAP suggests that the migration process from a traditional SAP environment to an S/4HANA system generally takes between a year and a year and a half. However, many organizations take much longer to transition to SAP S/4HANA fully. In some cases, certain major migration steps can take as long as the expected timeframe for the whole migration project.

With the unpredictability of the migration journey in mind, it is advisable to begin migrating to the appropriate ERP solution as soon as possible. Starting the migration process early helps ensure the organization has more time to implement the transition and save money. Some observers believe that SAP will increase S/4HANA implementation costs by the 2027 deadline, so completing the process earlier may allow businesses to avoid higher fees.

Three S4 HANA Migration Approaches

Here are three approaches for SAP ECC migrations to S/4HANA:

Brownfield Approach

The brownfield approach, or upgrade approach, is a database migration and application conversion. It is ideal for:

  • Organizations using legacy systems, such as SAP R/3 or ECC
  • Organizations satisfied with existing data management and business processes but require quicker adoption and innovation.

This approach enables migration from SAP ECC to S/4HANA by converting an existing SAP environment without reimplementing or disrupting current business processes.

Greenfield Approach

The greenfield approach, or reimplementation approach, enables organizations to redesign undesirable processes according to the latest S/4HANA innovations. It is ideal for organizations that need a new implementation of SAP S/4HANA and can use their existing ECC system as a legacy.

Selective Data Transition

Selective data transition is a technical migration performed at the table level. It involves using preconfigured transformation rules to extract certain master and transactional datasets.

This approach enables organizations to define new configuration settings to improve business processes. For example, applying selective data migration to S/4HANA by setting various organizational elements, such as legal entities. It also enables keeping historical data so organizations can convert and transform it as needed to fit a new S/4HANA configuration.

S/4HANA Migration Considerations

Here are some things to consider when migrating to SAP S/4HANA:

Everyone Must Be on Board with the Migration Project

Employees and stakeholders are often reluctant to undertake a complex project like S/4HANA migration. IT leaders, CIOs, and CFOs might be wary of the costs, efforts, and risks. However, migration initiatives are sometimes necessary to meet changing business requirements.

Organizations should treat migration as a company-wide strategy rather than a tactical project. Everyone in the organization must understand the strategy to ensure adequate planning and implementation. Management should establish a roadmap that IT and business teams can understand and support.

Leverage Outsourced Expertise

Many challenges are involved in migrating to S/4HANA, with many organizations lacking the required in-house expertise to migrate. Many businesses choose to part with external migration experts to support various aspects of the migration process, including workload assessments, planning, process mapping, implementation, and management.

Internal IT support is important, but consulting with external specialists often provides more business value. However, it is also important to ensure the external and internal teams collaborate effectively.

Determine the Right Migration Strategy

Before initiating the SAP S/4HANA migration, the organization must make several key decisions about the overall migration strategy. Different approaches may better suit different S/4HANA systems (for example, on-premise vs cloud).

It is also useful to consider simply converting the data and settings from the existing ECC system. However, sometimes it makes more sense to establish an entirely new SAP ERP system to avoid future problems. A successful migration requires proper planning based on a clear strategy.

The greenfield approach is suitable for cloud systems and simplifies innovation integration and business processes but requires significant effort. The brownfield approach is useful for converting an existing ECC system and enables faster migration. A hybrid approach is useful for migrating large, complex systems. It combines ERP systems from multiple vendors, cleaning up and consolidating different databases.

SAP Security with PathLock

Securing S4 HANA with Pathlock

S4 HANA migration can be a massive undertaking that requires careful planning and preparation. Far too often, companies forget to think about how their access control and security strategies will change until they are getting close to going live on a new platform. S4 HANA will often require a new approach to access control that can adapt to the new landscape and challenges.

With Pathlock, organizations using SAP S4 HANA can automate many of their SAP security processes to provide 360-degree protection across the SAP system landscape. The Pathlock platform can provide complete capabilities, including:

Financial Impact Prioritization

Pathlock automatically prioritizes your most critical violations by quantifying access risk by tying violations to real dollar amounts of the out-of-policy transactions.

Comprehensive Rulebook

With Pathlock’s catalog of over 500+ rules, Pathlock can provide out-of-the-box coverage for controls related to SOX, GDPR, CCPA, HIPAA, NIST, and other leading compliance frameworks.

Real-time Access Mitigation

Pathlock allows users to quickly investigate and respond to potential risky transactions by reviewing access, de-provisioning users, forcing 2FA, or even allowing Pathlock to respond intelligently in real-time, terminating suspicious sessions and blocking transactions in real-time.

Out-of-the-Box Integrations

Pathlock’s out-of-the-box integrations extend workflows to the provisioning and service desk tools you already have in place, such as ServiceNow, SailPoint, Okta, Azure AD, SAP GRC, and more.

Lateral SOD Correlation

All entitlements and roles are correlated across a user’s behavior, consolidating activities and translating cross-application SODs between financially relevant applications.

Continuous Control Monitoring

Pathlock identifies the largest risks by monitoring 100% of financial transactions from applications like SAP in real-time, surfacing violations for remediation and investigation.

Interested to find out how Pathlock can help to automate your SAP Security program while keeping your landscape secure and compliant? Request a demo of Pathlock today!

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