Digital transformation is on everyone’s agenda and with a 75% mid-market share, SAPs S/4HANA is one of the technologies at the forefront of that transition. But, while many organizations are being forced to take the leap to the cloud – many lack the data to do so safely.
We sat down with Mike Biggs, Enterprise Transformation Executive and Sales Architect at Cognitus Consulting, to discuss digital transformation with S/4HANA. With over a decade of experience with SAP and SAP rollouts and transformations across organizations like Microsoft, NTT Data, and consultancy work across dozens of others, Mike has the experience to offer insight into the digital transformation process and what it means for your organization.
His takeaway? Get started as quickly as possible. You have to make the shift – and starting sooner ensures you have the resources and the top talent available to guide your transformation process. If you wait till last minute, those resources may not be available. And, like our first guest in this series, Rene van der Zanden, Mike is a firm advocator of taking the time to redesign processes for business optimization at the same time.
Digitization is happening rapidly. That’s pushed both by trends like SAP ending support for legacy versions of its software in 2027 as well as by the increased adoption of the cloud by competitors and other businesses. The economic slowdown from the COVID19 pandemic was a period which thousands of businesses leveraged as an opportunity to transform processes and technology – which according to McKinsey & Company, accelerated the pace of digital transition by over 7 years over previous estimates.
The fact that everyone else is transforming their business and processes often means that your organization has to do so, not only to leverage new technology, but to keep up and stay competitive.
While many businesses are approaching the upcoming S/4HANA transition with some trepidation, you can choose to take the “easy approach”. For example, with a Brownfield migration, you move your old ECC data and configuration into S/4HANA without changing business processes. You essentially change the shell you’re working with, adding on digital nativity, FIORI apps, and the advanced Business API capabilities found in S/4.
Even the rollover from GUI to FIORI can be worth the transition. And, compared to Greenfield transitions, Brownfield are fast and relatively painless. As Mike likes to say, it’s like getting a new car. If you’ve been driving a Nissan Maxima for the last 10 years, buying the newest model won’t be that big of a deal. You’ll get the virtual console, integrated apps, and smart features, but, in essence, it’s still the same car, all the buttons are in the same place, and you can continue business as usual.
And, that can be worthwhile. If you stay on ECC, your business will stagnate as you fall behind, have more difficulty integrating with other tools, and overcoming the mounting barriers of engaging with other companies that have already made the shift. That’s true because of FIORI, because of APIs and integration with tools like ServiceNow and Salesforce or SuccessFactors and SAPs Native CRM, the Business APIs, etc. A Brownfield conversion will provide these features and functions with minimal transformation pains.
At the same time, while you can transition to S/4HANA without changing your business processes, taking the time to assess and redefine how your business works might be the most valuable part of the transformation. A Greenfield transformation means adopting SAPs best practices and thoroughly defined processes with the transition. For some, it can mean redesigning how your business works. And that’s a huge shift from the original transformation to ECC, in which businesses needed to customize, design their own processes, and build their software around the business due to the gaps in process delivered.
Greenfield optimizations allow you to adopt industry standard best-practice processes to ensure you’re optimized and in-line with best practices. And, with many organizations facing process issues around finance, data governance, and maintenance – moving to S/4 and its native, embedded modules in the core can save thousands of hours of work.
That can be extremely difficult for organizations with unique data and processes. That’s especially true for those with gaps in their system, like dozens of legacy systems, processes that rely on one specific system, etc.
At Cognitus, we specialize in helping with those transformations. Understanding the rules of logic used to transform data is crucial. But sharing it in a way that’s readable and legible to the end-user is crucial. We achieve that in a few ways. The first is, of course, putting experienced consultants on your team – so they can guide the transformation, map out processes, and point out when things are going wrong.
One of the key elements of transitioning is that you have to know what data is there, what processes are there, where there are gaps, and then most crucially, map out what it will look like in the S/4HANA system.
We also offer transformation as a process or transformation as a service. That starts with our Gallop Discovery, a pilot of S/4HANA, where you can trial a Brownfield implementation with your existing ECC data. You can also create a unique business case and move that over to set up processes inside of SAP. This allows you to see resourcing, timelines, and potential pitfalls of a Brownfield conversion or a Greenfield Transformation.
Gallop Discovery scoping can give you invaluable insight into the manpower, time, and other resources you need to make the transition. And, it ensures that when you do transition, your people are already roughly familiar with S/4HANA.
We also leverage partnerships for impact analysis and change intelligence. We use system scans to identify how many SAP systems you have up and what they link to. You can also utilize SAPs system scans, although you have to be on 6.0.
Organizations have to transition. If you don’t, it’s going to be more costly and more difficult the longer you wait. SAP has RISE in place to help you make that transition. Cognitus has Gallop. In either case, this transformation is the first of many. SAP is constantly changing.
Most importantly, by shifting to standardized business processes, many organizations can “future-proof”, potentially making the next transformations as painless as moving to a Brownfield implementation now.