Many enterprises rely on SAP to run their most critical business processes. Most of these businesses will eventually have to face the transition from SAP ECC to SAP S/4HANA.
SAP S/4 HANA is the successor of SAP ECC (Enterprise Core Component) and is thus SAP's new Business Suite offering for enterprises.
This new Business Suite is intended to be easier and more agile to use and administer, and to help enterprises solve more complex business processes and handle more data than its predecessors.
However, to reap those benefits, enterprises will have to set up their systems anew in SAP S/4HANA, which is a big pain due to the amount of time it will take as well as the risk involved in tampering with business critical processes.
The deadline for migrating is not until 2027 but as a business, you should already now be considering how you want to approach the transition journey, which will probably take you about a year, and you should also begin putting a testing plan in place to secure a safe transition.
It can be a good idea to get experts to advise and guide you through this comprehensive transition, and so we recommend reaching out to one of our partners, NNIT, who are specialized within this area for consulting services.
A good starting point, however, is to educate yourself on the process ahead of you. For that, we have put together this informative guide in collaboration with SAP Consulting Director Kenneth Vagn Olsen at NNIT.
This guide answers the following frequently asked questions:
- What makes SAP S/4HANA different from previous SAP ERP Business Suites?
- How long does the transition take?
- When should I start the transition journey?
- What tools are available to get me through the process?
- How can I lower the risk involved?
- What should I know when searching for an SAP S/4HANA testing tool?
What makes SAP S/4HANA different from previous SAP ERP Business Suites?
With SAP S/4HANA, SAP are releasing an entirely new product line of their ERP business suite that offers several benefits in the form of a series of new features. These include:
- A platform that is built to fully utilize the In-memory columnar database (HANA) which can process more data, faster
- A simplified data model
- Pre-configured, deeply integrated, end-to-end business processes
- Intelligence and innovation with AI/ML capabilities to speed up and automate business processes
- Embedded analytics for simulations, predictions, and insight to action
- A simpler, more user-friendly user interface (Fiori)
- Support for multiple de-central deployment options
- Support for both Cloud and On-Premises capabilities
But rather than listing new features and tech specs, it might make more sense to talk about the differences between SAP ECC and SAP S/4HANA from a functional and technical perspective, respectively, and what these each mean for the user.
First, from a functional perspective, users should expect little difference in the way that they use the SAP system. For most SAP users, this new product line will allow them to perform the same tasks as always via the traditional SAP GUI.
From a technical perspective and UX perspective, however, there are a few significant differences.
Let’s begin with SAP HANA. SAP HANA (high-performance analytic appliance) is SAP’s in-memory columnar database, which was introduced a while before the SAP S/4HANA update. What makes SAP HANA unique is its ability to process massive amounts of real-time data in a short span of time. The fact that the database is columnar means that its footprint is about a quarter of the size as before, which frees up a lot of server and memory capacity. The fact that it also uses in-memory technology means that, overall, the digital footprint is minimized massively.
SAP S/4HANA is powered by the HANA database, and, in addition, also provides its users with a simpler data model and visualization of data through Fiori, a dynamic user interface. According to SAP, this simpler data model combined with a better user experience is what gives businesses new capabilities and improved productivity with SAP S/4HANA.
Overall then, in SAP’s own words, they are helping businesses to “run simple” in the digital economy by leveraging technologies and principles such as the Internet of Things, Big Data, business networks, and mobile-first.
The SAP product line includes three products that will further support specific business needs:
- SAP S/4HANA Enterprise Management gives enterprises a broader level of functionality and higher flexibility
- SAP S/4HANA LoB Products gives businesses additional features specific to a line of business (LoB). SAP S/4HANA supports 10 LoBs, from Finance and HR to Supply Chain and R&D.
- SAP S/4HANA LoB Products for specific industries gives businesses additional features specific to a certain industry. SAP S/4HANA supports 25 specific industries, from Manufacturing to Pharmaceuticals.
On top of this, SAP S/4HANA delivers comprehensive support for local regulations and languages of global enterprises by delivering 64 country versions in 39 languages – out of the box. To further support global enterprises, SAP S/4HANA offers several extension possibilities, such as In-App extensions, Custom Applications and Partner Applications.
And to wrap it all up, SAP S/4HANA promises a user experience that enables the users to run on any device, in a role-based environment, with on-the-fly embedded analytics and Machine Learning, and fully supported by the new Digital Assistants.
All in all, SAP S/4HANA is intended to give users a better experience with a faster and more streamlined execution of individual transactions.
How long does the migration take?
The current deadline for transition from SAP ECC to SAP S/4HANA is in 2027. After 2027, customers will only be supported by optional extended maintenance until the end of 2030. SAP has announced a maintenance commitment for SAP S/4HANA until the end of 2040.
Businesses can expect for the transition to take about a year, depending on variables such as the scope and complexity of their current ERP landscape. For example, are you migrating from a legacy system to SAP S/4HANA or from a previous version of SAP ERP to SAP S/4HANA? Does your landscape include integrations with other systems? And how much custom code does your current SAP ECC solution have?
According to SAP, it can be done in as little as 6 months, but longer if you have many and complex customizations. Users should expect the technical conversion itself to take about a week, with a weekend of downtime for the switchover. For the switchover, SAP offers different downtime-optimization approaches:
- A Standard approach using Software Update Manager (SUM) with several optimizations
- A downtime-optimized conversion approach using SUM as well. This approach reduces downtime by moving data conversion and migration partly to uptime.
- A zero downtime technology approach that allows further reduction of downtime by executing the conversion on a clone.
In addition, factors such as whether you decide to bring consultants on board for the transition journey, regulatory compliance in your specific industry or business, and what tool you use to test the transition, will also determine how much time you’ll need to invest in the transition journey.
All of these considerations are a part of a larger process of the SAP S/4HANA transition journey.
Ideally, the process is broken down into cycles, where the transition journey is split up and tested along the way. This is one reason why it can pay off to start early, which leads us to our next question.
When should I start the transition journey?
There’s still a long time until the deadline, so for many businesses, the primary question is when is the right time to get started?
One thing to consider here is building the roadmap for the transition journey. Only when you have the roadmap will you know how much time and work needs to go into the process.
A roadmap can be created based on input from the SAP Readiness Check 2.0 tool. Performing the readiness check sooner rather than later is therefore ideal. Based on the results from the readiness check, it can be decided to run additional application-specific check programs not covered by the SAP Readiness Check 2.0 tool.
Some organizations will have very complex SAP ECC solutions implemented that require more time. And some solutions, processes and integrations will need to be tested before others, or they’ll be contingent upon one another. This calls for a cyclical approach, with testing gates that check that a process runs as intended before moving on to the next. The reason that it’s cyclical, rather than linear, is that if a change occurs in any part of the solution setup, it will need to be tested again before moving forward.
For this reason, test automation is a crucial component in your migration setup.
What tools are available to get me through the process?
SAP has its own set of tools lined up to help you through the transition journey.
These include the Maintenance Planner, the Readiness Check 2.0, the Custom Code Worklist, the Software Update Manager, and the Value Assurance Packages. They also offer a roadmap that maps out the process from beginning to end, based on the input provided.
The SAP Readiness Check 2.0 is, for businesses attempting to scope the transition process, perhaps the most mention worthy. It is a tool that checks the readiness for conversion by reading your SAP solution, uncovering custom code, and identifying how much of that custom code is compatible with SAP S/4HANA.
It also lays out the solution-specific simplifications and automatically sorts them and puts them into process categories for the user (as opposed to 3-4 years ago, where manual mapping of the simplifications had to be done using the simplification spreadsheet). Sizing reporting is also included as well as a preliminary suggestion for which Fiori applications to implement.
Put simply, the Readiness Check 2.0 tool is a cloud application that, based on the input of your system files, reads, interprets, writes, and spits out guidelines for developing a roadmap for your transition journey.
The input (system files) and output (roadmap) is to many, however, still a pain to perform and interpret, and this is where, once again, bringing external consultants to assist you can be a good investment.
How can I lower the risk involved?
Testing is the best way to lower the risk involved in the transition to SAP S/4HANA, and with automated testing, it becomes feasible to test much more than if you were to perform the tests manually.
Automated tests quickly give you the confidence that the transition is on the right track. By setting up testing gates throughout the process, rather than only at the end, you can ensure that you catch issues and fix them before building on top of a broken build.
With the vast amount of architectural and functional changes in mind, it is important to thoroughly test both new and existing features when transitioning to SAP S/4HANA. Looking through lines and lines of code and manually checking that the system is correctly configured is both slow, tedious and error-prone, and as a result, often rushed or skipped entirely.
Particularly in heavily regulated industries, such as life sciences, the requirements for testing are extremely high, which only makes the argument for test automation stronger. With NNIT’s proven record in pharma and LEAPWORK’s no-code automation platform, test automation becomes feasible even in this field.
With the solution provided by NNIT, who specialize in pharma, and LEAPWORK, testing becomes feasible even in the most heavily regulated industries.
When tested continuously, businesses can expect a smoother transition to SAP S/4HANA at minimal costs.
The outcome is to ensure a smooth introduction and operation of SAP S/4HANA in daily business at minimal costs.
And testing the SAP system isn’t limited to the transition to SAP S/4HANA; using test automation to test your business critical processes supported by the SAP system can drastically lower your operating risk at large.
What should I know when searching for an SAP S/4HANA testing tool?
Choosing the right testing tool is crucial to success with SAP test automation. It can also get you off to a fast and efficient start.
The right testing tool should first and foremost be codeless and work across all technologies, allowing you to automate anything with ease.
Cross-technology capabilities are essential because SAP rarely stands alone; it is rather like a mothership surrounded by a constellation of systems and technologies. In other words, it’s part of a larger value chain, and unless you test the value chain in its entirety, there is a risk of broken integrations or customizations in that value chain that can induce heavy costs on the business.
As an all-in-one automation platform, LEAPWORK is ideal for building automation flows that go across applications, technologies, and environments. If your business processes and daily operations involve other systems than SAP, such as a desktop-based ERP application, a web-based accounting application, or a third-party CRM system, it’s essential to have a tool that can operate across all of them. A multi-application process like this is easily automated with just one LEAPWORK flow.
In addition, LEAPWORK lets you complete tedious tasks such as data generation, which saves time and increases productivity. LEAPWORK’s flowchart-based automation is the simplest approach available for generating all the master data needed for testing and verification purposes. This makes it easy for both technical specialists and generalists across all business units to build automation cases for SAP-based tests and processes.
Finally, LEAPWORK’s 100% code-free automation platform lets everyone automate with ease. All capabilities in the LEAPWORK automation platform are based on the same intuitive draw-and-click approach. This means that as soon as you have familiarized yourself with designing work processes with LEAPWORK, you can roll out automation in your organization.
In sum, LEAPWORK lets you:
- Do end-to-end automation inside and outside SAP
- Easily generate master data and build flows to verify processes
- Implement test automation and RPA without writing a single line of code
In conclusion, using LEAPWORK is simple and straightforward and will put you on a path of productivity and efficiency. At the same time, you will save costs on low-value, manual hours, reduce risk by eliminating human error as a result of fatigue and information overload, and individuals will get more enjoyment from what they are doing, because they get to spend their valuable time on higher-value tasks.
Are you interested in learning more about the transition to SAP S/4HANA or automating tests in SAP with LEAPWORK?
This blog post was created in collaboration between LEAPWORK and NNIT. To learn more about how you can migrate seamlessly from SAP ECC to SAP S/4 HANA please contact: Andreas Lund, Director of Partnerships at LEAPWORK, at firstname.lastname@example.org.