Collecting, interpreting and storing data is a critical commodity in business.

Business data has become a commodity, which makes investing in the right technology a critical part of any successful business strategy, says Dr Setumo Mohapi, Chief Go-to-Market Officer from Dimension Data.

The strategic application of technology has become a business necessity. It is the enabler of productivity and agility, the driver of scale and mobility, and the tool that can support the organisation in fully realising scale, opportunity and functionality.

In the evolving digital landscape, organisations can leverage technology as a service, as a tool that allows for scale up or down on demand, and as a platform from which to launch additional services and solutions.

However, the consistent evolution of technology to support improved processes and capabilities does introduce significant change, and the upcoming end-of-support deadline for SAP customers is a change that will impact business-critical processes for numerous organisations globally. In 2027, SAP finally says goodbye to its stalwart ERP system, ECC6 and SAP S/4HANA becomes the new normal.

It’s not a sudden move. SAP has had the deadline on the cards for quite some time, but the goalposts are now set in stone and the next five years should see organisations focus on strategies that will allow them to make the move to SAP S/4HANA with minimum disruption.

All SAP customers have to migrate their systems across to the new platform and this requires significant planning to overcome some of the biggest challenges that organisations face when it comes to making such a disruptive move – skills to manage the process; optimising processes and applications; and managing risk.

SAP S/4HANA migration challenges

As can be expected, there are numerous challenges when changing a critical business system like SAP ERP, but three challenges stand out and require the business to take note of.

Firstly, the organisation has to ensure a deep understanding of its existing operating environment to identify risks and potential pitfalls and to manage these appropriately. A lack of visibility of existing business processes and infrastructure can end up costing the business serious time and money when making the move to SAP S/4HANA, and these are two resources that organisations usually have in short supply.

The second challenge is that the move to SAP S/4 HANA is not a simple lift and shift and the six years left to deadline is not as long as it sounds, especially if you consider how many boxes need to be checked, i’s dotted and t’s crossed. You can’t just replace the existing infrastructure and systems; migration likely needs either a full SAP ERP re-implementation or a significant data shift and this has to take the requisite end-user training and process optimisation into account. This introduces another challenge: skills. There are not enough people with the right skillsets to help every business make the right move at speed. This skills crisis was already existent due to geopolitical challenges and limitations, but has been made even more complex and challenging thanks to the pandemic.

The last challenge is optimisation. What’s more important than meeting the SAP S/4 HANA deadline is using the opportunity to optimise existing processes and functionality to align to modern data processing methods and get the most business value from SAP S/4HANA. This move is an opportunity to refine the capabilities of the business and fully realise the potential of the new platform, but it is equally the time to draw a hard line under legacy approaches, applications and models. Don’t lift old problems into a new architecture.

The business benefit of SAP S/4HANA running in the cloud

SAP S/4 HANA comes with numerous business benefits, especially when deployed on a hyper-scaler cloud platform like Microsoft Azure. If managed properly, cloud technology can help the organisation to scale up or down at speed to accommodate changing computing demands and other business drivers like mergers, acquisitions and divestitures.

Benefits like access to multiple application and data management services and improved functional capacity; reduced risk; transformation of the total cost of ownership and delivery of measurable cost benefits to the business; and utilising the myriad benefits that come with the as a service business model. As stated before, the move to the new platform introduces several challenges that have to be overcome to realise the business benefits. The challenges, however, do not need to be faced alone, Dimension Data has the experience to migrate and operate a next-generation, mission-critical ERP landscape that delivers unparalleled uptime, solid service delivery, application innovation, all at a significant scale