SAP ECC6 to S/4HANA Migration – Not Just an Upgrade

As the end of the maintenance window for existing SAP ECC6 deployments looms, and organizations start to consider their move to SAP S/4HANA, it’s become evident that many are navigating this path without a comprehensive understanding of their options and approaches. Decisions are being made on the destination of the journey from ECC6 without fully recognizing the starting point or why they are making the journey in the first place. This can lead to both selecting an end state that conflicts with your objectives for moving from ECC6, that may have longer term implications.

A move to SAP S/4HANA should be more than just ensuring your core ERP application is in support beyond that 2027 maintenance window deadline. To help you understand and navigate through the options available, we have created the following guide to ensure that you are fully armed with all the information to make an informed decision on the most effective and efficient way to migrate effectively to the most appropriate solution.

Key Benefits of Migrating From SAP ECC6 to S/4HANA

S/4HANA is SAP’s next-generation ERP system that helps organizations improve their financial performance. It is a cloud-based system that offers a wide range of features and capabilities designed to enhance financial operations. SAP S/4HANA enables real-time data processing, advanced analytics, automation of finance processes, and seamless integration with other business functions.

It is based on the SAP HANA in-memory database and is designed to simplify and streamline business processes with features such as the Universal Journal, which serves as the single source of truth, and the new HANA database. It also includes a merger of CO and FI, a new general ledger, and mandatory Business Partners.

Business benefits you will achieve by migrating from SAP ECC6 to S/4HANA

Future-Proofing: SAP is investing heavily in S/4HANA, making it the future core platform for its customers. Staying on ECC will mean missing out on future innovations and updates.
Streamlined Processes: S/4HANA simplifies and streamlines business processes, reducing complexity and increasing efficiency across departments.
Compliance and Security: S/4HANA incorporates the latest security protocols and compliance standards, helping organizations stay protected against cyber threats and regulatory requirements.
Improved User Experience: S/4HANA offers a more intuitive user interface, making it easier for employees to navigate and use the system effectively including out-of-the-box mobile device use.
Enhanced Functionality: S/4HANA includes new features and capabilities not available in ECC, such as predictive analytics, machine learning, and IoT integration.
Integration with New Technologies: S/4HANA integrates seamlessly with emerging technologies like blockchain, AI, and robotic process automation, enabling organizations to stay competitive in a rapidly evolving digital landscape.
Real-Time Insights: S/4HANA leverages in-memory computing, enabling embedded real-time analytics and reporting. This means faster decision-making based on up-to-date data.
Cloud-Ready: S/4HANA is designed to run in the cloud, offering greater scalability, flexibility, and cost-effectiveness compared to on-premise deployments.
Industry Best Practices: S/4HANA is built on modern best practices, reflecting the latest trends and standards in your industry, which can help optimize your business processes and operations.

Understanding Your S/4HANA Deployment Options

First, and the most important aspect of choosing the right deployment option, is to thoroughly understand your business requirement and then you can quickly and seamlessly go ahead choosing the appropriate deployment option that not only fits into your business requirement but also falls within the budget.

SAP offer three deployment options:

S/4HANA On-Premise

Have full control on the environment by choosing on-premise deployment option. Here, all you have to do is to buy SAP S/4HANA, install it and then run it the way you want. Customize it to use it as per your requirements. But with privileges, there comes responsibilities too. While you go for this option you have to be responsible for maintaining and taking care of any upgrades and updates.

As technology advances and the pace of innovation accelerates, on premise solutions may lag in adopting those new technologies and features, potentially putting businesses at a competitive disadvantage. On-premise systems can also lack the flexibility and accessibility offered by cloud solutions, as they are not readily available from any location, hindering remote working.  This is as applicable to SAP S/4HANA as it is to any other on-premise solution. 

S/4HANA Public Cloud

A public cloud, which is completely managed by the software provider, is the most cost-effective option for consuming software and can deliver the fastest path to innovation for your organization. Therefore, this option is the only option SAP provides for its native cloud solution, SAP S/4HANA Cloud. This solution is based on a completely preconfigured solution delivery and market best practices and next practices.

By using SAP S/4HANA Cloud, you’ll experience a new way of consuming enterprise software. Lengthy implementation projects are replaced by outcome-oriented, fit-to-standard workshops in which the standard delivered processes are configured according to your requirements.

S/4HANA Private Cloud

In a private cloud, you can consume cloud services that are not shared with other organizations but are instead dedicated solely to your company. This arrangement allows more flexibility and requires less standardization than moving to a public cloud SaaS solution. In this private cloud offering, SAP will deliver the software in an SaaS-like arrangement.

Unlike a traditional hosting scenario, where product support, product operations, and infrastructure might be distributed to different parties, with SAP S/4HANA Cloud, private edition, all these elements are delivered by SAP. This approach delivers a cloud-like experience for your company, while retaining the flexibility to adjust the solution as needed or to run a vast variety of partner add-ons on top of the solution.

S/4HANA Deployment Options: Your At-a-Glance Comparison

Making Your Move to the Cloud – What Approach to Take

Depending on a few key factors, such as your company’s use of SAP, deployment choice, the size and state of your data, and your future business needs, there are three main scenarios to roll out SAP S/4HANA: the Greenfield approach, the Brownfield approach, or a hybrid of the two.

New Implementation – ‘Greenfield’ Approach

The Greenfield implementation approach means starting from a clean slate. A Greenfield approach to migrating from SAP ECC to SAP S/4HANA is a complete reengineering of an organization’s SAP processes and workflows. Additionally, any customization you’ve done on SAP ECC will be completely wiped out during a Greenfield implementation.

There are advantages and disadvantages to this approach. For a legacy enterprise that’s been using SAP for many years and has amassed many complex workflows and code that’s been heavily customized, the Greenfield approach may be the new start it needs to overhaul its use of SAP and reduce complexities.

The Greenfield approach, which can be done on-premise or in the cloud, enables users to predefine migration objects. And Greenfield implementations result in lower total-cost-of-ownership and faster time-to-value. The main advantage of a Greenfield migration is that the transformation begins with a new system, providing the flexibility to drive such topics as standardization and simplification along with the migration itself.

System Conversion – ‘Brownfield’ Approach

While a Greenfield approach represents a complete reengineering of your SAP ERP, a Brownfield approach is more like an upgrade. Using the Brownfield approach, you can get SAP S/4HANA up and running, and at the same time, migrate your existing SAP workflows and systems over to the newest version of SAP S/4HANA.

You also can keep your proven business processes as well as the customizations you’ve been using to manage your data since you don’t have to move everything over. The Brownfield approach lets you reevaluate and edit your existing processes and port over the ones that are working.

The main advantage of Brownfield is that there is usually a shorter project runtime, and therefore there’s less disruption to your business. A Brownfield approach lets you migrate to SAP S/4HANA without a new implementation and disruption of existing processes, building on existing elements of the SAP landscape, such as interfaces to suppliers and partners.

Still, Brownfield has its disadvantages. Because you’re basically porting over everything from your previous SAP ERP, it’s often seen as stifling innovation. The success of the Brownfield implementation centers around how well your existing workflows and systems are replicated.

Selective Data Transition – ‘Hybrid’ Approach

A hybrid approach lets you select the best parts of Greenfield and Brownfield implementations. This approach is best for large enterprises with a lot of data and complex systems.

A hybrid approach lets you mitigate a lot of the risks associated with migrating to SAP S/4HANA. You can select which aspects of your system you want to redesign, keeping the parts of your current system that work at the same time that you’re cleansing and moving your data into the new system.

The downside to the hybrid implementation approach is that you need a third-party tool to do the job and distill the pieces of Greenfield and Brownfield that are part of your migration plans.

Key Considerations – What Path Should You Take?

With the multitude of deployment and implementation approaches available, navigating your way around to understand what solution is the best for your organization can be extremely challenging. To help you navigate you way, we recommend considering the following factors:

The ‘why’ becomes critical in the destination you may select. Are you planning to move because you have hardware coming to end of life, or are you hoping to make the most of new functionality available in S/4HANA? Do you want to simplify your business processes to reduce total cost of ownership (TCO)? Or are you simply concerned about the impending end to mainstream support offered by SAP.

All of the above drive the destination and therefore the possible journey. For example, some of the new capabilities become available first in cloud, or due to their architecture can only be delivered through the cloud. Considering this, it would be unwise to remain on premise if your driver for change is to make the most of those innovations.

Technically, the question should be ‘where from’ referring to your current ECC6 solution’s starting position. This encompasses not only your hardware and hosting situation, but also your underlying database and patch levels. There are many starting points…

From an on-premise solution on a legacy database that has never been patched through to a hyperscaler hosted, HANA deployed ECC6 instance, the starting point may help determine your destination.

You must decide if it’s worthwhile to bring across years of development which has not been properly documented and nobody is sure what they were really designed to do? Or should you use this opportunity to remove technical debt and do you consider starting afresh? Or is it these customisations that truly transform your business processes are vital and need to be included in the target solution?

So you understand the reason for the upgrade and the starting position, but does your timeline impact your approach? If time is of the essence, this may have to be considered when looking at the options. It’s certainly worth noting that SAP provides many accelerators to ease a move from ECC6 but these are for predefined destinations. For example, standard business process flows and automated test scripts work in a new Greenfield deployment but, if you are still planning to migrate customisations, they are unlikely to be usable straight out of the box and any changes would take time.  

With a clear understanding of why, where from, and when you want to move from ECC6, you’re better equipped to choose the most appropriate destination based on your business needs.

When defining the “what” you must also consider how it aligns with the “how.”

For example, if your driver for change has been mainstream support concerns then you may opt for a ‘lift and shift’ or brownfield approach. If so, this may rule out S/4HANA Public Cloud depending on your starting position. Conversely, if you want to leverage new innovations which may only be available in cloud this then may rule out S/4HANA On-Premise. All the while your current datacentre hardware is end of life, do you have time to complete a greenfield implementation?

So the starting point and the destination may drive the ‘how’ but the ‘how’ shouldn’t drive the destination.

Kick-Start Your Migration Journey With a Digital Discovery Assessment

One of the first questions that businesses ask when they consider moving to the cloud is “where do I start?” The Digital Discovery Assessment (DDA) is the process by which we look at your current SAP EEC6  landscape holistically to determine your compatibility with the cloud. Think of it as a checklist that helps identify how much of your existing landscape fits into the standard SAP S/4HANA product.

The goal of the DDA is to determine what in your landscape can become a standard SAP process, and what is needed to be extended to maintain your competitive advantage.

3 Simple Steps…

Step 1 – Complete the online Digital Discovery with one of our certified SAP Consultants

Step 2 – The DDA tool generates a SAP S/4 HANA Scoping Report that is reviewed by your nominated Consultant

Step 3 – Your Consultant presents back your personalized Scoping Report report and discusses potential next steps

Got any questions?

Book a Free Discovery Assessment.