If you are an existing SAP business suite customer running on SAP HANA (BSoH), chances are that you have already made up your mind to move to S/4 HANA sooner or later; provided you foresee SAP as the preferred ERP for running your business operations. The business case is more or less about getting the timing of the move and the approach right. (A guide to SAP S/4HANA Deployment.)
On the other hand, there are more than a handful of business suite customers not running their operations on HANA today, who still prefer to wait and watch while they make up their minds on SAP HANA adoption - the two obvious choices being a migration to business suite on HANA or a direct adoption of S/4HANA Enterprise Management. Both approaches have their pros and cons but are largely dependent on the organization's risk appetite (i.e. licensing, application integration, infrastructure options). To be fair to this group of customers, apart from sophistication in financials and logistics, there is very little to separate the two choices made available by SAP SE today.
If you are in the second group of customers mentioned above - trying to draw a business case for HANA adoption, then there is a set of variables within your SAP operations that you can start looking into today in order to ensure that the inherent complexity of the S/4HANA (or BSoH) program is reduced by a great extent - if and when you exercise either of the two SAP HANA adoption choice. Some of the critical ones have been summarized below:
- Custom code and usage - If you have too much of custom code in your landscape then 'Back to Basics' should be your mantra for the next year or two. There was a time when custom code was a necessary evil but over the years we have seen examples where custom objects have been lying around for 4-5 years together without being used at all and in some cases, survived the enhancement upgrade cycles as well. It is a proven fact that custom code can be a dampener to cost effectiveness by not only inflating existing support costs but also being an obstacle while transitioning to SAP HANA. Thankfully, we have tools available in the market today that provide greater insights on custom code extent, usage patterns to identify candidates for elimination. Also, these tools can throw insights about underutilization of certain standard transactions which can potentially be put to use instead of custom enhancements for similar functionality. Stay tuned for more on these tools in my next blog.
- Pick the right business improvement projects - As is often the case with ERP implementations, 'To-Be' business processes designed during blueprinting are in stark contrast to what gets executed in real life. Blame it on user preferences, tool integrations which differ from geography to geography or lack of effective change management; but these practices do leave a dent on business process performance and as a result - higher ongoing maintenance costs. The need here is to study again how transactions are actually being performed in real life, measure KPI's across geography and invest in simplification where deemed necessary. Like in case of custom objects, there are mature tools in the market which can reconstruct business processes based on actual transactional and event data which can thereby help you measure KPI's, and identify most viable candidates for simplification - either through elimination of redundant steps, robotic process automation or re-engineering the process itself. As recommended earlier, consider making more use of standard ERP application functionality in future improvement projects, avoiding customization wherever possible as it will always help you make the switch to SAP HANA simpler, faster, and cheaper.
- Invest in solution manager upgrade today - SAP's Solution Manager v7.2 is a powerful tool with multiple improvements over v7.1 and is being promoted by SAP SE as the defacto ALM platform for S/4HANA implementation. With the capability to run on SAP HANA as the underlying database, it can also be the starting point for you to test your business case for performance using SAP HANA. Additionally, there are features like business process analytics - adoption of which can help you keep a track of business process performance on an ongoing business process.
While many other choices exist, the above-mentioned initiatives will have the most definitive material impact on the overall complexity of your S/4HANA program.