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SAP S/4HANA is Not a “Migration” Project – What CIOs Need to Know

This article was originally published on CIO.com

“Migration” vastly underestimates the level and scope of transformation involved in adopting SAP S/4HANA. This is not a straightforward movement of your existing data and processes from one location to another. It’s more like relocating from the house you’ve lived in for the past 20 years to a more modern city apartment. In the transition, you’ll certainly need to rationalize some of your belongings, streamline your daily tasks to suit your new environment, and maybe even decide to move some of your assets to “public storage.”

With SAP’s 2025 S/4HANA ultimatum looming, now is the time to start anticipating what’s required to:

  • Advance the digital transformation initiatives driving the project as a whole
  • Rationalize and optimize business processes for the new platform
  • Leverage the cloud as a central component of your architecture
  • Adopt an agile release cadence as well as a culture that embraces frequent change

SAP estimates that an S/4HANA migration could take 12-18 months. Yet, enterprises who have already initiated the project report that any oneof the above transformations (cloud, agile, etc.) could easily take 12-18 months on its own.

A new Gartner report, What Customers Need to Know When Considering a Move to S/4HANA, provides recommendations and helps CIOs decide if, when, and how they should plan for the move to S/4HANA.

If you do decide to move forward with the “migration,” it’s important to consider the often-underestimated impact of software testing. Modernized software testing can help you ensure a smooth SAP S/4HANA migration as well as protect the user experience as the company adopts a culture of continuous change and innovation. On the other hand, applying decades-old testing approaches to your reinvented digital business will significantly undermine your speed and success.

Why Modernize SAP Testing? 

The industry-average test automation rate is a dismal 18% overall—and we’ve found that it’s actually closer to 8% for large enterprises working with complex systems including SAP. This means that each time the SAP infrastructure or business processes change, they rely on internal business users or dedicated manual testers to click through each critical business process and note whether the expected results are achieved at every step. As you can imagine, this is an incredibly slow and costly process:

  • Completing a single test cycle commonly takes weeks or even months
  • Testing is routinely cited as the #1 bottleneck to delivery speed
  • Testing consumes 30-40% of the average IT budget

Considering that each phase of the SAP migration process typically involves multiple iterations with multiple rounds of testing, it soon becomes clear that manual testing simply isn’t an option anymore. For the project to proceed on time and on budget, you need fast feedback on whether each round of changes achieves the desired results—without producing an obscure side effect that could bring your business to a standstill. This requires extremely high levels of test automation. 

Additionally, the need for fast, continuous testing persists well after the migration is complete.  With SAP S/4HANA enabling more agile responses to rapidly-evolving customer and market demands, change becomes a constant. Moreover, the SAP infrastructure itself will continue to evolve as well. Quarterly (or more frequent) SAP updates will be rolled out automatically, and Gartner believes that a “significant” amount of SAP S/4HANA platform development still lies ahead over the next 3-5 years. 

If you invest in establishing a resilient, sustainable test automation approach for your S/4HANA migration, you can continue leveraging it to quickly identify and remediate any subsequent changes that negatively impact your core business processes. We’ve seen that organizations who adopt test automation not only reduce testing cycles from weeks to minutes—they also catch 50% more defects prior to production.

[Get Gartner research and recommendations on what’s required, compliments of Tricentis]