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SAP DevOps: How to Streamline S/4HANA Migration

January 11, 2024

SAP DevOps

Staying ahead is tough when the playing field keeps shifting. 

Agility, speed, and innovation are not mere buzzwords but are necessary for survival and growth.

A digital transformation is critical to success for an SAP-using organization, allowing it to respond rapidly and safely to market changes and business demands. In the SAP world, a digital transformation is commonly associated with migrating to S/4HANA SAP’s newest enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, which can be deployed on-premises, in the cloud, or through a hybrid model.

However, S/4HANA migration is not a simple upgrade. 

A technical change is only half of the digital transformation story. A readiness to change and an ability to handle new business processes are also part of the foundation for leveraging SAP S/4HANA to your advantage.

This combination of a technical upgrade and re-definition of how a business interacts with systems and executes processes requires a transformative shift to overcome the challenges. Organizations must foster a culture that is accepting of change and proactive in adopting technologies and processes to deliver fast, low-risk SAP applications and enhancements as they migrate to S/4HANA.

SAP DevOps is widely considered the answer as it is more than just technology. It’s a methodology encompassing practices that help bring development and operations teams together to streamline software delivery.

In this blog, you will learn: 

  • Why it’s crucial to adopt a SAP DevOps approach
  • How organizations can prepare for digital transformation
  • How SAP DevOps aligns business processes with technical upgrades
  • Automation’s role in SAP projects
  • How SAP DevOps helps post cutover

Embracing the SAP DevOps mindset 

SAP DevOps is a game changer.

At its core, the methodology combines a wide range of technologies (or tools), practices, and processes to reduce the time it takes to deliver applications and services.

The approach is a key enabler for achieving high-level agility and quality in development projects. Its basic approach is to break down silos that development and operations teams traditionally work in, creating a unified delivery channel. 

Adopting the SAP DevOps approach enables you to deliver reliable and secure applications and updates at the speed of business.

Migrating to S/4HANA is more than just an upgrade or shift in technology. It heralds a new era of efficiency and agility for SAP-using organizations. Underpinning your migration with the SAP DevOps approach enables you to benefit from the considerable gains.

From rapid delivery of high-quality SAP change to reducing risks to system stability, the SAP DevOps approach is crucial to a successful digital transformation. It provides a structured, efficient, and less risky approach to a typically complex and resource-intensive process.

Preparing users for digital transformation with SAP DevOps

A successful S/4HANA migration relies on user readiness and a smooth transition with less (human) effort and significantly reduced costs.

Consider user readiness

A digital transformation is a massive project with many IT and process-related challenges, especially for the unprepared. Disruptions are inevitable when technical changes (or a digital transformation) impact how business users do their jobs (that is, a business transformation).

When an organization transitions to S/4HANA, it can significantly affect how users carry out business processes. Simple changes to user experience (UX), for example, may cause confusion and frustration, particularly if employees previously performed the task without issue. This lack of knowledge and understanding can lead to users struggling to adapt to changes, slashed productivity, and inconsistent work methods.

To meet the challenge head-on, organizations must consider how change enablement can help users effectively engage with digital and business transformation. Change enablement is about getting users to accept and adapt to change.

Implementing a change enablement tool into a change management workflow as part of a broader SAP DevOps initiative helps to ensure users are proficient and ready when you cutover to S/4HANA. With the proper tools incorporated into a unified SAP DevOps platform, users will be aware of the changes and how they affect their day-to-day work.

Accelerate and simplify your SAP DevOps journey

Deploying a SAP DevOps approach can also speed up your S/4HANA migration without disrupting your daily business operations.

Balancing a major upgrade and maintaining your usual SAP ERP central component (ECC) workload of business-as-usual (BAU) changes and application enhancements can be challenging.

Yet, as a CIO, project head, or S/4HANA lead, it doesn’t have to keep you awake at night. The cornerstone of a successful shift to S/4HANA is preparation. Suitable preparation in the lead-up to the cutover ensures that system software, hardware, and business users are ready for future changes.

From a technical transformation point of view, large-scale migrations like a transition to S/4HANA take time and considerable planning, which helps to minimize the project’s complexity and cost.

The issue is every SAP landscape is unique. So, there is no universal blueprint for preparing for S/4HANA migration. For some organizations, it might involve consolidating systems; others may focus on optimizing advanced business application programming (ABAP) code or cleansing master data.

However, a common first step to preparing for S/4HANA migration exists - decide on a transition method. At the heart of this decision is legacy data. How do you want to utilize existing data, customizations, and business processes? The size and complexity of your SAP landscape and your data preservation goals will determine your migration journey.

There are three approaches to migrating from your legacy ECC system to S/4HANA:

These include:

  • Greenfield: Configure new SAP systems without using existing data, customizations, or business processes 
  • Brownfield (system conversion): This is often described as lift and shift. In this approach, you build upon your legacy ECC environments, making necessary adjustments and updates
  • Bluefield (hybrid): A more tailored migration where you choose which systems, data, customizations, and business processes are transferred to the new S/4HANA environment.

Choosing the right approach can be a challenge. 

The method you choose impacts everything from data and business processes to custom code and syncing between your current ERP system and your S/4HANA environment. Selecting a conversion plan that aligns with budgets, timelines, and ROI is crucial.

Whatever approach you choose for your migration, there are other key factors to consider that can impact your success.

These include:

  • Code simplification
  • Code compatibility
  • Cross landscape dependency
  • Onboarding the development team and change management process training
  • SAP Business Technology Platform (BTP)

Embracing a SAP DevOps mindset and using a solution that supports DevOps strategies is advantageous as you migrate to S/4HANA. The capability to enforce change management and transport automation workflows and control SAP change smooths the transition and mitigates the risk during the preparation phase.

Aligning technical upgrades with business processes for SAP S/4HANA efficiency

Adopting a sophisticated SAP DevOps tool accelerates the delivery of high-quality SAP change while reducing the risk of an unscheduled system shutdown and ensuring the business processes align with business objectives.

Business processes are the backbone of SAP systems. 

They determine how an organization achieves its objectives. Some parts of the process are automated, and others require engagement with a system by a customer or business representative.

But what happens when your business processes break?

A broken business process:

  • Impacts your bottom line
  • Slashes productivity
  • Requires time and resources to troubleshoot and repair
  • In the worst case, they can bring your operation to a grinding halt

However, in a constantly evolving landscape, making technical updates is crucial for growth, more efficient change management processes, compliance with government and industry requirements, improved security, and increased productivity. However, all changes are risky as they impact critical business processes.

Changing business processes demands thorough planning, rigorous testing, clear communication, managing stakeholders, and approvals to guarantee that critical processes work well today and in the future.

Adopting an SAP DevOps approach is crucial to achieving a smooth S/4HANA migration. It ensures a seamless transition, aligns technological upgrades with business needs, and lays the groundwork for enhanced efficiency and agility.

The key is to have an SAP DevOps process that can be easily updated and enhanced as business processes are adjusted, ensuring a reliable automated approach to managing and progressing changes across an SAP landscape. Guaranteeing the capabilities of business processes as they change is the foundation of a successful digital and business transformation.

SAP DevOps empowers efficiency through automation

Migrating to S/4HANA is not a simple locate as-is. The significant project can strain resources, time, budget, and disrupt your ongoing business operations. Leveraging the power of automation is crucial to navigating the challenges for a smooth digital transformation.

Relying primarily on manual SAP change management processes to manage your legacy ECC environment and S/4HANA systems until cutover can result in costly shutdowns and excessive project costs.

The challenge is an S/4 migration will likely involve migrating thousands of transports into production, whether done gradually or all at once. This can be overwhelming, with significant risk attached. By automating change management, you can overcome concerns and streamline the process, cutting both the risk and effort required.

An appropriate DevOps solution enables you to deploy faster and more frequent SAP applications and updates, accelerating your shift to S/4HANA and reducing the risk of unexpected shutdowns.

It can do this in four ways:

  • Control SAP change: Enforce pre-defined DevOps workflows to move large volumes of change quickly and safely.
  • Automate transports: Eliminate the headaches of manual transport management, improving efficiencies and reducing risk.
  • Deploy releases: Simplify the collation, categorization, and management of SAP change.
  • Error detection: Safety checks and risk management functionalities are essential to a successful deployment. This “look before you leap” approach minimizes the risk of runtime errors and system downgrades, maximizing production uptime.

How can it work in reality?

For example, an advanced SAP DevOps tool can automate SAP change management and seamlessly integrate third-party tools such as testing and application lifestyle management solutions into DevOps workflows.
This simplifies and accelerates your S/4HANA migration and maintains system stability, ensuring every change is tested and approved before being released to production, avoiding costly outages that can impact business continuity.

Managing control post-S/4HANA cutover

Many organizations adopt a phased approach to their S/4HANA transition. Unlike a big bang approach, where the goal is to minimize the migration timeline, legacy ECC systems are maintained for months or even years until they are switched off. 

A phased approach requires dual maintenance of your legacy ECC system and your S/4HANA environment to ensure continuous operation and avoid costly (unplanned) system downtime. 

It’s crucial to manage multiple releases and phases simultaneously. The goal is to avoid dependencies between changes in different phases, preventing conflict which can disrupt business operations.

Automating change management helps you to streamline the process and reduce the risk. Using an appropriate automated SAP DevOps tool helps to keep your ECC and S/4HANA environments in sync until the final cutover. In this scenario, support for dual maintenance is more efficient, facilitating a smoother transition to go-live.  

The final cutover – what now?

The end of S/4HANA migration marks the beginning of a new operational era. With the cutover a success, most of the heavy lifting is done. Yet, you can’t take it easy; the hyper care phase of the project now begins.

Even after your migration to S/4HANA is complete, you still need to manage SAP change and conduct maintenance to ensure your new environment aligns with your business goals. Combining these with platform updates and new technologies from SAP and keeping pace without sacrificing the safety of critical systems can be challenging.

This is where an SAP DevOps approach post-cutover is an advantage. Typically, managing SAP change involves many people and ABAP and non-ABAP technologies. This complexity can lead to confusion or conflicts, particularly with multiple team members working on the same object or transport.

Integrating all technologies into a unified SAP DevOps toolchain is essential to overcome these challenges. This unified toolchain provides a single source of truth for all SAP technical changes, streamlining your change management workflow.  

An appropriate tool becomes the centralized control point for the unified DevOps toolchain, automating and orchestrating a low-risk approach for frequent, rapid SAP deployments.

This is a win-win for organizations. SAP releases are deployed faster with minimal risk, allowing you to divert resources and funds to support innovation for competitive advantage rather than maintain your S/4HANA system.

SAP DevOps drives seamless S/4HANA success

S/4HANA migration is a significant project for SAP-using organizations. 

However, it doesn’t have to be complicated. The foundation for a successful transition with minimal impact on your daily business operations is an SAP DevOps mindset.

SAP DevOps is a methodology encompassing technology, processes, operations, and people. A digital transformation is lined with opportunities and challenges, whatever your industry or the size and complexity of your SAP landscape. Success rests not solely on the digital transformation but also on the business transformation or the readiness of your organization to adopt a new way of operating.

Embracing SAP DevOps helps streamline your S/4HANA migration and keep your systems operational post go-live. It allows you to navigate the complexities of the migration and your operations post cutover, ensuring systems are resilient, every process is optimized, and every user empowered.

Unlock the synergy of SAP DevOps! Learn to fortify your SAP DevOps strategy and ensure a secure, interconnected future for your operations.

Edited by Sinchana Mistry

SAP Consulting Services
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SAP Consulting Services
SAP experts are a click away

Get strategic guidance and implementation of SAP solutions from certified experts. Find custom configurations for optimized performance of your SAP software.

SAP DevOps: How to Streamline S/4HANA Migration Unlock a smooth transition to SAP S/4HANA with SAP DevOps. Gain insights on simplifying your migration, training users effectively, and enhancing your agility to meet S/4HANA implementation timelines quickly and safely.
Chris Drake Chris Drake is the Chief Technology Officer for Rev-Trac. He joined the company in 2007, working in various roles, from customer support to implementation consultant and product manager. His vast experience has given him a deep understanding of SAP change management, DevOps, continuous delivery and newer SAP technologies like BTP.

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