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What the extended SAP S/4HANA migration deadline means for you

Earlier this year, SAP announced it would extend the SAP S/4HANA migration deadline, giving thousands of businesses additional time to transition from SAP Business Suite 7. 

Citing customers’ need for flexibility in their migration timelines, SAP has extended mainstream maintenance for core applications of SAP Business Suite 7 from 2025 until 2027, with the option to extend maintenance on a custom basis until 2030. 

Now that you have more time to prepare for S/4HANA migration, what are the changes you should be focused on, both to ensure your ability to drive short-term innovation and prepare for a longer-term strategy? Read on to learn more about the effects of the extended migration deadline, as well as how you can use this time to change your SAP application testing, update, and rollout strategies so you are more prepared when the time comes to migrate.  

Even if your migration plans have been put on hold, it’s important to have sound SAP update strategies in place. There may be legal changes, technical changes, and changes driven by business innovation. These changes may be led by the business (custom) or SAP (standard). Regardless of the changes you anticipate to your SAP systems, the impact needs to be identified up front, so you can prevent both risk to the business and production downtime.  

Why did SAP extend the S/4HANA migration deadline? 

SAP first launched S/4HANA in 2015, billing it as “an entirely new generation of the SAP Business Suite characterized by simplifications, massively increased efficiency and compelling features such as planning and simulation options in many conventional transactions.” 

Since then, nearly 14,000 organizations have already made the transition, with thousands more in progress. However, a recent survey of a UK and Ireland-based SAP user group revealed that 27% of users didn’t have plans to upgrade by the end of 2023. 

Both the migration work and a skills gap have contributed to this delay in migration. Many organizations lack people with the necessary skills to carry out an S/4HANA implementation. Furthermore, a June 2019 study by Americas’ SAP Users’ Group (ASUG) found that 63% of organizations viewed custom code in their current SAP systems as a major concern for the migration. This finding is not surprising: Those same customizations power many of these organizations’ most critical business processes. 

SAP’s latest announcement extending the deadline gives organizations much needed time to fill in these gaps. 

5 steps to make the most of the extended SAP S/4HANA migration deadline 

This extended migration deadline certainly gives you more time to get everything in order before the migration and gives your team some breathing room, but it is not an excuse to procrastinate. Instead, you should use it to your advantage to ensure a successful migration. 

With that in mind, here are our top considerations for your SAP S/4HANA migration strategy, including five actionable steps your business can take today: 

1) Make ECC updates and get your systems ready 

First, you need to ensure your current systems are ready for the migration. This involves:  

  • Converting your current system to Unicode, if it’s not already 
  • Splitting any dual stacks, as these are not supported on SAP HANA 
  • Confirming your DB/OS meets the minimum required version for conversion into S/4HANA 
  • Making the standard ECC updates to get your system prepared (your system should be at ECC 6.0 or higher) 

At Tricentis, we’ve heard from many SAP customers that this last requirement, making standard ECC updates, is their most pressing challenge today. Updating ECC can involve some significant changes to people, process, and tools – and even “changing the business model of [the] company where you can,” according to SAP Co-CEO Christian Klein, who was interviewed by Computer Weekly. Some of the common pitfalls when upgrading ECC or shifting business processes include lack of transparency in documentation and failure to maintain regular ECC updates. Avoid these headaches by creating an upgrade strategy, communicating it clearly, and making sure that you’re not playing a frantic game of catch-up to the latest release of ECC.  

This newest version of SAP requires a little more preparation from customers, but for good reason. SAP S/4 HANA comes with a hybrid database that only operates on the HANA database management system and the Linux operating system. These enhancements allow for more powerful analytics and to aid SAP customers’ transition to the cloud. But you shouldn’t let SAP’s deadline’s dictate your business strategy. According to an article on velocity.com, customers who choose not to upgrade to S/4 HANA will still be able to receive maintenance at a fixed price. The article also notes that SAP’s commitment to support through 2040 will give their customers at least 20 years of use out this new platform. While the path to SAP S/4 HANA may seem daunting, it is not an uphill climb.  

2) Determine what you can leave behind 

Second, you should assess your current systems to determine what you can leave behind in the migration, as the transition represents a good opportunity to clean up your system to save space and improve agility. Think of it like a spring-cleaning exercise for your code base. Go through your code – keep the code that is essential and toss out the programs you don’t use.  

If you’re planning on bringing in new code, you should check the impact of those changes beforehand, like making sure you have enough closet space for new shoes. If your organization uses custom codes, ensure that only low-cost, easy-to-change, easy-to-test and easy-to-support programs are ever promoted out of development. Another good thing to tidy up is duplicate code, which will reduce cost and improve quality. A final thing to consider is to get back to basics by using standard SAP programs and eliminating your enterprises custom ‘pieces’ of code.   

To simplify this process, you can use a tool like LiveCompare that will scan all your code, determine what’s no longer being used, who wrote it and how long ago they wrote it. LiveCompare also fully supports custom code. In fact, there are unique features designed to benefit the developers of custom code beyond smart impact analysis. LiveCompare can help you:  

  • Identify unused custom code – Reduce maintenance costs by identifying custom programs that the business no longer uses.
  • Simulate change impact analysis – Quickly check the impact of custom changes before you make them.  
  • Focus on quality first – Ensure that only low-cost, easy-to-change, easy-to-test, and easy-to-support changes are ever promoted out of development.  
  • Eliminate duplicate custom code – Identify duplicate copies of the same or similar custom programs, and retire unused versions. 
  • Return to standard – In some scenarios, it may be appropriate to eliminate custom programs and returning to standard SAP programs.

3) Review your integrations 

Next, it’s important to review all of your integrations between third-party applications and SAP, as these can negatively impact your migration should they fail to operate correctly in the new system. 

If you take the time upfront to review your integrations and evaluate how the new SAP S/4HANA system will impact them, you can mitigate this risk. For example, you should check compatibility of all integrations with the new SAP code base, as some integration requirements will change. Assessing the compatibility early on will give you a complete understanding of any potential risks and provide enough time to make the necessary updates to avoid any delays in the migration or breakages once you go live. 

Critically, you will have to assess your third-party integrations on an ongoing basis, even after your migration to S/4HANA is complete, since most of these applications release new updates regularly. Conducting regular reviews of the integrations will help you stay ahead of any updates that impact compatibility with the S/4HANA code base. 

4) Get the proper migration team in place 

You also need to take the time to get a proper migration team in place by making sure you have access to skilled SAP resources (either on staff or through a third-party service provider).  

Perhaps most importantly, your migration team should include testers who can use the information from tools like LiveCompare to test high risk areas following system updates. Ideally, you can iron out the testing process early on as you make minor updates, that way the team will be much better prepared for the heavier lift of the full S/4HANA migration testing. 

Additionally, identifying and implementing an automated testing tool for SAP will go a long way toward improving your SAP S/4HANA migration, since it can reduce the time and resources associated with manual testing. 

5) Develop a testing strategy 

Finally, once you have the right resources in place you can develop a clear testing strategy. The classic approach to testing SAP applications is to test everything. At best this means run all the tests that are documented, which is different to testing the impacted functionality. This explains why so many go-live events experience a large number of high priority issues.  

For the transition to SAP S/4HANA, your testing strategy should focus on three critical elements: 

  • Understand the impact of changes: Conducting a change-impact analysis early on will give your team a focused list of risks that you can use to prioritize testing during the migration. This analysis should also help you better understand the differences between S/4HANA and your current environment earlier on in the migration process. 
  • Create testing resiliency: Using test results from your current SAP environment as a baseline for acceptance criteria may help save costs in the short term, but doing so carries significant long-term risk. Since SAP S/4HANA is so different from previous SAP environments, looking backward in this way will not produce accurate tests for the new system. Instead, you should consider model-based test automation (MBTA), which allows for more resilient test cases that won’t break when the system undergoes test changes. 
  • Start automating now: Many SAP customers delay developing a test automation strategy if they’re planning a major upgrade to SAP systems. Consider using a tool like Tricentis Tosca, which you can use to develop test cases that are not only resilient to system changes, but also have a high level of reusability across both ECC and S/4HANA environments. Many other SAP test automation tools lack this compatibility and require testers to rebuild tests after migrating to S/4HANA. If you start automating testing now, and avoid becoming overwhelmed by the need for testing transformation in the midst of such a major project.

Get started on your SAP S/4HANA migration strategy today 

SAP’s extension to the S/4HANA migration deadline gives your organization more time to prepare for the migration so you can minimize risk and optimize your outcomes.  

While it’s easy to view this extension as an opportunity to put off migration plans, that would be a mistake. Instead, you should view it as a chance to shore up your migration strategy and get your house in order by preparing your current system for the transition, assessing risks early on, assembling the right resources, and aligning on a testing strategy.  

The sooner you take these steps, the better prepared you’ll be for a smooth and effective migration, making now the optimal time to get started. 

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