We’re still years away from the SAP HANA 2025 deadline, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be working on it. Upgrading to S/4HANA is an involved, complicated process, requiring significant transformation beyond simply updating your software.
Here’s how to evaluate your progress so far — and how to plan your journey to S/4HANA 2025.
Why Should I Plan for SAP HANA 2025?
Business are rarely able to plan as far in advance as they’d like to. Between market changes, shifting customer demands, financial constraints and internal changes, it’s a challenge to plan out the next six months in advance, to say nothing of the next six years.
Additionally, businesses are increasingly aware that the SAP migration process has gotten so much faster and reliable. At the cutting edge, Protera has been able to deliver a 100% successful S/4HANA migration in just 3 months, and quite a few providers can do it in six months. So how much progress on HANA 2025 do you really need at this point, and more broadly, why even worry about it now?
The question is compounded by the fact that moving to HANA today won’t end your journey. In fact, even if you move to S/4HANA you’ll still have to perform other upgrades to both your database and your applications (albeit quick, inexpensive and non-disruptive ones) before 2025. It’s entirely reasonable to ask why you shouldn’t just put it off for a year or two.
In fact, putting off the actual upgrade may end up being the right decision — there are use cases we’ll talk about later, where it makes sense to stay on your current SAP software for at least another year. But for the vast majority of companies, starting on your SAP transformation today will provides immediate benefits and make meeting the SAP 2025 deadline easier and more cost-effective.
And even if putting off the upgrade ends up being the right choice, there are changes you can make now that will yield substantial ROI and ease future steps in your journey. In any case, you can’t find out which group you’re in until you do a self-assessment — the first step on your journey to SAP HANA.
Understanding SAP Transformation in Context
If you’re reading this, SAP software is probably the centerpiece of your landscape, but it’s not the only piece. Your landscape includes:
- Your Hardware: Like everyone else, SAP users are moving to the cloud, but most maintain key production applications on-premise at the very least. To support those applications, they’ve made substantial investments in hardware, energy, infrastructure and other costs related to that hardware.
However, the benefits of the cloud are compelling enough that very few companies plan to stay on-premise in the long run. As a result, your migration window is constrained by the investments you’ve made. You want to get value from your existing investments, but avoid investing in expensive new hardware.
- Your Hosting Service Model: SAP Suite on HANA and S/4HANA are designed for the cloud era. SAP is moving companies from a broad set of applications to a much smaller and more manageable set of tools that incorporate the same functionality — and more.
Instead of complex, infrequent upgrades, companies can undergo much simpler and more frequent updates, staying on the cutting edge with less overall strain. The goal is an experience similar to SaaS — a constantly improving tool, with consistent performance and very low downtime — but with customizability and power SaaS can’t provide.
However, to get that sort of reliability, you’ll probably have to change the way you run your infrastructure. You’ll need a managed services provider with the technical capabilities and internal processes to regularly tune, maintain and upgrade your system without disruption.
That requires changes to how your internal IT team, management and others interface with your SAP admins, and necessitates new procedures and controls. In a large company, that’s a significant change all by itself.
- Other Software and Services: Your company may depend on legacy or third-party software for CRM, HR or other areas, along with SaaS applications. To meet the SAP HANA 2025 deadline, you’ll need to ensure your company can maintain business flow between SAP and third-party software.
S/4HANA offers extensive support in areas where you may have previously depended on third-party providers, which means it might make sense to hone your software portfolio as well. These are strategic decisions that will affect cost, productivity and technological capabilities going forward — you can’t afford to leave them until the last minute.
- Cloud Migration Strategy: The more time you have for your migration, the more freedom you’ll have to choose the right cloud migration strategy. In many cases gradual transformation, beginning with a “lift-and-shift” migration (i.e. moving your SAP landscape to the cloud without substantially changing it) can help you deliver immediate ROI, accommodate a risk-averse culture, and give you time to gather more information before moving to HANA.
In addition, early planning can help you make more strategic use of the SAP HANA roadmap. For example, SAP is moving CRM functionality to S/4HANA. For companies that need that functionality, the best plan would be to move to the cloud now, then upgrade to S/4HANA in the future.
They’ll save money immediately on cloud hosting, and further reduce costs via shrinking their software portfolio by moving their CRM processes to S/4HANA.
The Journey to SAP HANA 2025: Basics
The first step to assessing your progress is understanding what you need to accomplish by 2025. At the end of 2025, SAP is sunsetting support for legacy software, such as SAP ERP, BW and CRM. You’ll need to upgrade your database to HANA, and upgrade your software to S/4HANA.
So once you get on S/4HANA, are you ready for 2025? Not quite. SAP’s move to smaller, more frequent upgrades comes with shorter support periods. You’ll need a database upgrade to HANA 2.0 by 2021. Additionally, you’ll need to upgrade your S/4HANA software before 2025, as current versions are scheduled to sunset before then.
Fortunately, those further upgrades are relatively minor and straightforward. They should not be costly or pose significant disruption. However, it’s important to keep them on your radar so that your organization knows what to expect.
There are four main steps in your journey:
- Migration to a New Platform: It’s possible to remain on-premise, but most companies will get the best value in the cloud. If you do remain on-premise, you’ll need to purchase new hardware — either buying an SAP HANA appliance, or adding to your existing hardware to build a cluster capable of running HANA.
- Upgrading Your Database to HANA: If you’re running legacy SAP software, you can move it directly onto HANA before upgrading to the new software. However, depending on how up to date your landscape is, this may require some updates to later versions of your current application suite, as well as other changes.
- Upgrading Your Application Suite: If you’re running SAP ECC/ERP, you will move to S/4HANA. If you’re running an application that hasn’t been fully integrated to SAP HANA, you may have a different destination. For example, SAP BW will need to be upgraded to BW/4HANA. This step may be combined with the database upgrade, if desired.
- Ongoing Upgrades: Once you’re on S/4HANA, ideally you should perform a small upgrade every six months to keep up with SAP’s new releases. This will ensure you meet the 2025 deadline, and provide significant functional benefits. If you’re on another system, such as BW/4HANA or C/4HANA, you’ll have a little more work to do in the future, as SAP fully integrates your software into the S/4HANA suite.
Creating an S/4HANA 2025 Timeline
Those four main steps describe the actual technical actions that are needed to accomplish the migration, but they don’t describe the whole process. The S/4HANA journey is a recursive project that requires many iterations of gathering data, planning, building, testing and revising. For the entire journey, you’ll need to:
Perform an Initial Assessment: In terms of preparedness, organizations are all over the place. Some have relatively up-to-date versions of SAP ERP, which require little preparation before cloud migration. Others have older software, extensive customization, or other complicating factors that can pose additional work.
This can also pose constraints on the project as a whole. For example, if you still need to undergo a Unicode conversion or sanitize old or inconsistent data, it makes sense to do that work before the migration. Doing so will simplify the migration process, reduce the amount of resources required in the cloud and provide cost and performance benefits.
Additionally, you’ll need to upgrade your software to a particular level before you move to Suite on HANA, which needs to be factored into your project. For SAP ERP, you’ll need to be on R/3 4.6C at minimum.
Traditionally, this initial assessment was time-consuming and costly, requiring a team to manually audit your system. However, Protera has automated the process and now offers free self-assessments. This enables you to start planning before investing in a partner organization, making it easier to start your SAP HANA 2025 journey.
- Build a Team: Your move to SAP HANA will require both a functional team to ensure your final landscape has the correct functionality, and a technical team to build and refine the system. You’ll also require an internal team to work with the vendors to elicit input from stakeholders, set goals, benchmark and approve the process as needed.
- Assess and Prioritize: Think of your migration as not just a needed project, but a strategic activity. Identify what you want to accomplish at each stage, considering cost, ROI, internal priorities and your company culture. Staying supported in 2025 and beyond is an important goal, but your migration should provide much more than that.
- Execute the Migration: This is the migration proper. It can be a single project done in a few months, or a series of smaller projects, spread out over a few years.The process may occur in conjunction with other projects — for example, upgrades to other software, a merger, or the development of a product or service that depends on your IT infrastructure. These need to be factored into your planning.
- Cutover and Post-Migration: It’s helpful to think of post-migration as part of the migration process. Once you’ve gone live, you’ll be able to observe how your system works and how the improvements have affected your company. This may lead you to refine your tech strategy, timeline or internal processes.To do that, you need to collect data and follow up. Plan to meet after a few weeks, discuss your experience, and integrate your observations into your long-term plan.
Your Next Step On Your Way to 2025
If it seems like you’re way behind, you’re not alone. The truth is that most SAP users haven’t moved very far on their way to meeting the 2025 S/4HANA deadline. The good news is that you still have time to execute a methodical, successful migration. But to do that, you need to start planning and setting goals, beginning with a free self-assessment.
If your company is still on-premise at this point, you probably have a fairly conservative culture. That’s not necessarily an obstacle, provided it’s factored into your plan. As a first step, plan a modest project, such as an on-premise to cloud migration with minimal changes to your landscape. Set demonstrating ROI and gaining buy-in as goals for your first project, and create benchmarks and mechanisms to support these goals.
At the same time, you should plan with 2025 in mind from the beginning. What’s your window between moving to the cloud and starting your SAP HANA upgrade? How long between that upgrade and the next stage? What does your organization need to learn at each step? What skills do you need to acquire from third-party stakeholders, and when?
It’s important to be realistic about your organization’s limits during this process. If things tend to sit in committee for a long time, you need to get through those committee meetings early. If there’s uncertainty about your organization’s budget or tech strategy, create contingency plans to address different scenarios. And finally, build in a mechanism to meet and adjust your plan regularly. Some uncertainty is a given in a long-term project, but good planning can account for it.
Get Ready for SAP HANA 2025 With a Free Self- Service Assessment
It’s not time to worry yet, but it is time to start planning. If your organization can treat your S/4HANA migration as an opportunity and not just an obligation, you can gain tremendous benefits from the process. Begin your journey by contacting us for a free self- service assessment.
Photo Credit: ©Zeleniy9/Bigstock