Tools to Help Solve Challenges Associated with SAP ECC to SAP S/4HANA System Conversion
Reading time: 13 mins
by Mithun Gaur, SAP S/4HANA Sales & SAP S/4HANA Cloud-Sales Implementation certified SAP Senior technical Consultant, LTI
Digital transformation is driving SAP customers to embrace SAP S/4HANA conversion to attain greater agility & streamlined processes. The pursuit to attain improved user experience, in memory capabilities, flexible API’s, real time analytics to gain competitive advantage is further accelerated by SAP’s 2027 deadline to phase out support for SAP ECC forcing customers to embrace SAP S/4HANA. As an existing SAP install base customer, we can either follow a single step approach ( moving from any database to S/4HANA in one step) or two step approach where we first move database to SAP HANA and then convert to S/4HANA. However, in both the approaches, there is overwhelming complexity of dependencies and activities which create a lot of pressure on organizations to navigate with caution and gain learning curve. To address this implicit need, this article provides a toolkit of varied SAP tools which can not only give a starting point but also help organizations be adequately equipped and better prepared to undertake this big bang conversion journey. This article explains what the key challenges customers are facing in conversion to S/4HANA and what tools they can leverage to gain learning curve. This article also provides a core understanding of benefits and the value that each tool provides in SAP S/4HANA conversion journey.
What is System Conversion and Who Should Opt For It?
Conversion could be defined as the transition from legacy SAP ERP to SAP S/4HANA for an existing install base customer. Typically, IT-sponsored projects are all conversions to SAP S/4HANA, which lay the foundation for incremental innovation projects driven by the business. In conversion projects, there are high number of interfaces and a strong need to retain all historical transactional data. For conversion, single-step approach is possible only for SAP ERP 6.0 (any enhancement package) single-stack, Unicode systems. If the system can’t be converted technically in a single step, a new implementation is often a better choice, because the combined cost of an upgrade to SAP ERP 6.0/Unicode system and conversion to SAP S/4HANA would be extremely high and the downtime required will also exceed the maximum system outage the business can afford . The advantage of system conversion is it preserves company assets, including data, processes, and custom code but this also necessitates the true assessment of the perceived value of these assets to check for obsolescence. Now, the question is “How do we shorten the learning curve to perform such checks for obsolescence and convert faster to SAP S/4HANA ”?
How to Shorten the Learning Curve to SAP S/4HANA Conversion
SAP has introduced an efficient set of conversion tools to help smoothen the conversion of the SAP ERP application to SAP S/4HANA and help its existing install base customers by reducing complexity and increasing automation. This portfolio of tools help companies overcome common challenges with ease and minimal disruption, while allowing them to adopt additional digital capabilities as their needs evolve and business grows. These tools can also eliminate manual labor in execution and provide valuable analytics. However, the ability to navigate through these tools, and be able to use the right tool for right job is the mantra to shorten the learning curve. Let’s deep dive into what challenges customers face while planning for conversion and which tools can help shorten the path to conversion.
Challenge #1: How to create a convincing business case that can drive focused discussion between business decision-makers and IT based on hard facts and measurable business objectives
For any IT project, a change in existing system landscape needs a convincing business case justifying not just the benefits of the new system but an in-depth analysis of the shortcomings of the existing system. The business case will not only increase the company’s readiness to innovate but also set the stage for business transformation. A business case provides the confidence to the stakeholders that the investment aligns with the overall business strategy and will deliver the benefits envisioned. In conversion to SAP S/4HANA, customers need to understand their current business process performance and identify the new functionalities that SAP S/4HANA and SAP Fiori Apps provides, but often the customers lack a starting point to create a compelling comprehensive business case.
Solution: SAP Business Scenario Recommender
SAP Business Scenario Recommender (BSR) is the first go-to tool that will help in building concrete business case by identifying the key business processes that can be improved by moving to SAP S/4HANA and it also provides industry benchmark for comparative analysis. The BSR tool provides unique insights into the existing operational business process performance, functional usage of existing SAP ERP, and computes the key process performance indicators (PPIs) for the relevant process areas—such as degree of automation, process failures, and on-time execution—and highlights the new or improved functionality of SAP S/4HANA, SAP Leonardo technologies, and other SAP innovations that can help improve the performance and efficiency.
BSR provides specific recommendations for the 6 lines of business (Finance, Sourcing & Procurement, Sales & Service, Supply Chain, Manufacturing & Asset Management) and their respective S/4HANA functionalities and specific SAP Fiori apps. It also provides industry specific full proposed target architecture, relevant abilities and offerings that an organization can leverage to its benefit. Last, but not the least, it also gives SAP Model company which provides industry specific ready to use, preconfigured processes for each line of business. BSR gives a comprehensive view of all these aspects and helps organizations in creating a solid, compelling business case to embark on the SAP S/4HANA conversion journey.
Challenge #2: How to create a roadmap guide to the transformed future state?
Customers are often wondering how to map their organization’s way towards becoming an Intelligent Enterprise that uses leading-edge integrated applications and intelligent technologies like machine learning and the IoT, all on a digital platform. And auto-adapt to changing conditions of the experience economy, and continuously improve performance by focusing on higher-value outcomes. There are 2 tools that help in laying the overall implementation roadmap for conversion:-
Solution 1: SAP Roadmap Viewer
The SAP Roadmap Viewer is a tool that is used by project team to navigate the complete SAP Activate Methodology content, with all its phases, deliverables, tasks, templates, workstreams and accelerators. It also contains project experience from SAP S/4HANA implementations to support conversion with structured documentations for each step of the project. It basically offers an organized, comprehensive view of the overall implementation roadmap there by keeping track of all innovation and improvement projects in one place. Overall a great tool to access & keep track of the implementation roadmap for S/4HANA conversion journey.
Solution 2: SAP Transformation Navigator
SAP Transformation Navigator tool for SAP S/4HANA helps customers control their journey as a self- service tool which allows customers to use their current landscape and see what their future transformation will be. It guides customers on how to plan their move to SAP S/4HANA by assessing their current IT landscape, business strategy, industry trends, and creating a comprehensive report of custom recommendations and road map to accomplish their future state. This tool generates a product roadmap of recommended SAP products and solutions tailored to the organizational need to guide through digital transformation. It also allows an organization to understand different value drivers which can assist in building a business case for the digital transformation journey. The tool also provides information on customer proof points and demonstrates successful adoption cases by showcasing value maps with core industry priorities, related capabilities, predefined deployment preference and recommended product. SAP Transformation Navigator can be the first point of reference for potential license implications too. It generates 3 guides as output namely-business guide, technical guide and transformation guide with detailed information about products, licenses, integration, services, business capabilities, methodology and a complete guide on roadmaps & heatmaps.
Challenge #3: How to assess the organization’s readiness, amount of functional system redesign and which activities need to be performed & when, in the conversion journey?
Now that we have a clear roadmap, customers need to assess technical and functional readiness and often seek an assertive assessment of their existing SAP ECC system, estimate of database sizing, compatibility of third party add-ons, data volume and a deep analysis of impact of custom code . They want to gauge associated work to individual activities level and at what point in time these should be carried out. They need a reality check on existing system landscape before they embark on the actual conversion journey. SAP provides SAP Readiness Check to help organization assess their existing system.
Solution: SAP Readiness Check for SAP S/4HANA
The SP Readiness check is an indispensable tool which performs functional and technical assessments and should be run 6 months in advance from the project start date. The functional assessment provides the baseline for required functional redesign. Technical assessment includes sizing, data volume management, software prerequisites for conversion and more. SAP Fiori section maps current transactional load with available SAP Fiori apps and roles and recommends relevant Fiori apps based on frequently used transactions. The technical assessment determines software-conversion prerequisites like compatibility of installed add-ons and activated business functions. It filters out mandatory activities to ease project planning and identifies potential improvement areas. It also includes system sizing to get an estimation for initial SAP HANA memory requirement and allows making a simulation for target SAP HANA size. Additionally, it provides a base estimate of the impact of custom code in the system (user needs to upload ABAP test cockpit results) and it also performs BW extractions. Software section checks operating system and database versions, performs compatibility checks for industry solutions, activated business functions and add-ons (supported or need to be uninstalled) . The dashboard’s interactive feature helps in team collaboration, where members can collaborate , set statuses, mark Simplification Items and SAP Fiori Apps in and out of scope for their project and therefore use it as project management document to work with the project team and leverage this tool for a great start.
Challenge #4: How to simplify maintenance process & all related dependencies?
There are so many maintenance processes such as defining product maintenance dependencies, generating configuration stack files, downloading software archives that it becomes extremely cumbersome to efficiently plan all tasks. Therefore, SAP provides SAP Maintenance Planner to handle this:
Solution: SAP Maintenance Planner
Maintenance Planner is an equally invaluable tool which should be run early on to know upfront if SAP ERP system can be technically converted to SAP S/4HANA. Maintenance Planner performs compatibility check of components, add-ons, active business functions and industry solutions to ensure compatibility with SAP S/4HANA and helps the organization make informed decisions pertaining to these components. It simplifies the maintenance process by consolidating critical tasks such as definition of product maintenance dependencies, implementing changes by generating stack configuration, downloading archives, and so on, in one tool. If an add-on can be uninstalled, the tool will prompt and allow planning to continue, if the add on can’t be uninstalled later during conversion then the tool will prevent the planning process. When the tool is run for conversion it actually triggers the Maintenance Planner SAP S/4HANA pre-check to analyze if all add-ons, active Business Functions and Industry Solutions and if it encounters any failures during pre-checks, it directs back to the summary screen where results are displayed and can be downloaded as pdf. The Maintenance Planner will not complete planning until any open issue is resolved, making it a very useful tool to account for all system dependencies.
Challenge #5: How to Identify items that need Business process redesign?
Before triggering the conversion, we need to understand what will be considered throughout system conversion project from the SAP ERP application to SAP S/4HANA and which areas will require a business decision or a business process redesign before starting the conversion. And the best available tool to find out this is Simplification Item catalog.
Solution: Simplification Item Catalog
Simplification Item catalog can help in scrutinizing the relevant simplification items and pay close attention to the topics that involve business decisions and, possibly, entail a business process redesign or require preparations and changes in the existing ERP system. Simplification item catalog is the central repository of 600 items from which we can find out which key items are incompatible. It is advisable to run the Simplification Items check as soon as possible, as adaptation of complex business processes may require more time than expected. The simplification check report identifies around 50-70 simplification items as relevant for a given system. These items can be bottlenecks, so it is advisable to use the tool early on to handle these showstoppers early on and Incorporate the respective action items into the corresponding work packages before first sandbox conversion cycle.
Challenge #6: How to reduce the overall conversion time and find a right optimization strategy?
Customers often wonder if the standard conversion time can be reduced. And if their optimization strategy can be fine-tuned. The solution to this problem is Software Update Manager.
Solution: Software Update Manager
Software Update Manager is a multipurpose tool used for SAP software maintenance (for example, for installing support packages, migrating an SAP system to another database, installing add-ons, and other tasks). It is also the tool that technically converts an SAP ERP system into an SAP S/4HANA system. It combines the migration of the system to the SAP HANA database. It allows to see if the source system fulfills the requirements on source OS version, source database version, and SPAM patch level. The Project team can analyze the output result of this check and address any version compatibility issues upfront to be better prepared for conversion. If SAP ERP source system is not yet running on SAP HANA database, SUM will cover the migration by Data Migration Option. It will partially trigger the data conversion- the transfer of the table content from the old data model to the new and simplified data model of SAP S/4HANA. SUM takes care of the software update such as apply new software components & update existing ones.
Challenge #7: How to Optimize custom code and clean the core?
Next the question arises, how do we segregate what custom code is obsolete, unused, irrelevant with SAP S/4HANA, replaceable and ultimately what truly needs optimization and modification to support an organization’s critical business processes. There are 2 tools that can help answer this question namely-
Solution 1: ABAP Call Monitor
Activate the ABAP Call Monitor and enable aggregation of statistics in the production system as soon as possible to have a reliable data set by the time of system conversion. ABAP SQL monitor and call monitors help in checking usage patterns, and productive usage monitoring on the production system so figure out what custom code is not being used which can be removed straightway. ABAP Call Monitor statistics and the “Custom Code Migration” SAP Fiori app can be used to remove unused code upon conversion. This step is now technically integrated into the conversion process and makes the execution very easy.
Solution 2: ABAP Test Cockpit and ABAP Development Tools
ABAP test Cockpit is another invaluable tool which allows the project team to run static checks and unit tests for ABAP programs. It is based on Code Inspector (SCI) checks. It helps in identifying ABAP custom code that needs to be adapted to make it compatible with S/4HANA and avoid potential functional issues. Custom code evaluation is extremely critical task and often the complexity of managing it is underestimated. Yes, we do need to identify dead code which is sitting idle and can be gotten rid of, but we also need to identify what custom code needs to be carried over to SAP S/4HANA. And most important of all, how can we do remediation and optimization of custom code. We need to budget the adaptation tasks in pre-project phase and adapt these objects (if they are used and still relevant for future use) in the realize phase of the project. Starting with SAP S/4HANA 1809, the ABAP test cockpit offers automated custom code adaptation. With the first available set of rules, the so-called “quick fixes,” can deliver an automation rate of up to 60%.
Challenge #8: How to seamlessly perform data migration?
Next the question arises, how do we migrate the data without hassles of programming and creating migration objects and writing rules encapsulating logic in LSMW. The solution is SAP S/4HANA Data Migration cockpit with more features and better control.
Solution: SAP S/4HANA Data Migration Cockpit
For SAP S/4HANA data migrations, SAP recommends SAP S/4HANA data migration cockpit which comes as part of both SAP S/4HANA and SAP S/4HANA Cloud without any extra license and cost. This is also the only tool to migrate data to SAP S/4HANA Cloud and has ready-made set of migration objects and rules encapsulating the logic to create the specific business entities through the corresponding APIs offered by SAP S/4HANA. It allows migrating data from both SAP and third-party systems and offers step-by-step guidance throughout the data migration process that includes automatic generation of migration programs, simulation mode for migration to verify data quality and help ensure error-free data loading, cross-object value mappings to help ensure data consistency, progress monitoring. And, we can extend the existing migration objects and rules and create custom objects with the SAP S/4HANA migration object modeler.
Every system is unique, every customer is unique and, in some cases, meeting the prerequisites for conversion can take a very long time to resolve, which could even threaten the entire project plan. Hence knowing the various tools and when to use them in the conversion journey provides a head start in chalking out a clear roadmap and building confidence in the project team to seamlessly and confidently migrate existing SAP systems to SAP S/4HANA.