Migration to SAP S/4HANA: 7 tips on how to reduce the risk of migration and optimize the implementation of the new ERP system

Sep 13, 2021 | SAP

The SAP S/4HANA system premiered in 2015. The new system for enterprise resource planning aims to adapt ERP to cloud services and data storage in the cloud. The main component of the SAP update is the unique in-Memory Appliance technology. It enables parallel data processing in near real time. SAP S/4HANA is distinguished by many innovative concepts related to the simplification of resource management mechanisms and the use of intelligent business process automation. Migration to SAP S/4HANA radically changes the way an organization operates, but its implementation is a very complicated undertaking.

An additional motivation to migrate to SAP S/4HANA is the information about maintaining support for older versions of SAP software only until 2027.

How can we consciously carry out the migration process to SAP S/4HANA without the risk of disabling business mechanisms? How to develop an optimal scenario, prepare a plan and carry out a quality verification of the entire implementation process? Based on our own experience, we have some insights and recommendations that will be useful to you during this venture.

Be methodical and meticulous about the migration to SAP S/4HANA

Most organizations that use SAP solutions are aware of the need to thoroughly prepare their migration to SAP S/4HANA. Nevertheless, research shows that as many as 40% of the companies that made such an attempt did not appreciate the complexity of the entire process.

Migrating an ERP platform is a complicated challenge that requires the development of a comprehensive and coherent plan, and then its thorough implementation. Actions taken as part of such migration must be optimized to minimize their impact on the functioning of the organization.

The process of transforming an organization to SAP S/4HANA requires a lot of effort and is rather inevitable, but the benefits of moving to the new system are real. If you prepare your company well for it, the migration will go smoothly, saving many problems associated with it.

Migrating to SAP S/4HANA is more than just a technical project

The launch of SAP S/4HANA is the beginning of an innovative transformation. To take full advantage of this system, you will need to change the way your organization works. It will be necessary to optimize and modify business processes in departments such as finance and controlling.

Due to the size and complexity of these changes, verifying whether new solutions work as expected is a complex undertaking. For this reason, we should limit manual testing of changes as much as possible. Otherwise, the labor consumption of the entire implementation process will be overwhelming, and the risk of delays and production errors is high.

So how to approach migration to SAP S/4HANA? Here are Soflab’s recommendations based on our experience that we have gained while supporting customer migration processes. Their implementation will speed up activities and allow you to implement the new system without losing your image or additional costs.

1. Automate the risk analysis process and don’t try to test everything comprehensively

Migrating to SAP S/4HANA requires extensive testing. Since the testing process in the entire migration issue is very laborious (almost half of the time spent on migrating to SAP S/4HANA is related to it), this is where you should focus your attention. This is needed to discover in advance potential problems that may arise after implementation. To do this, you need hundreds of scenarios that allow you to verify all the changes made.

Don’t focus on verifying “everything”. Define the optimal scope of tests based on the risk analysis of migrated processes and functionalities. Accelerate your risk analysis by automating it. Thanks to this, you will gain time and confidence that it was carried out comprehensively and reliably.

How does it look in practice? To define the scope of the tests, in the first step, we should identify the objects in the SAP system that will be affected by the migration. Due to the large area of data for analysis, it is worth automating this scope of work.

Modern solutions recommended by SAP, such as the Tosca test automation framework by Tricentis with the LiveCompare module, come to our aid.

LiveCompare uses artificial intelligence models. It analyzes the current SAP environment and compares it with SAP S/4HANA. In this way, it automatically assesses the impact of the migration to SAP S/4HANA on business processes implemented in SAP. Both basic SAP functionalities and introduced modifications are analyzed.

LiveCompare automatically determines all integration points with external systems and determines where this communication will not work after migration.

In the next step, we define the optimal scope of tests that will be sufficient to verify potential sources of production problems. The optimized range of tests will eliminate the need for large amounts of work.

Picture 1. LiveCompare window Source: Tricentis

LiveCompare has another advantage. The results of the analysis are presented in the form of summaries or detailed statements. This builds the confidence of business teams for optimized test scopes.

Picture 2. Tricentis LiveCompare window

Our experience shows that the dynamics of implementing the new SAP S/4HANA system depends on:

  • speed of performed tests
  • optimization of their scope
  • test process automation.

Tricentis reports that LiveCompare helps customers optimize SAP tests by up to 85%!

2. Automate tests with the Model-Based Test Automation method

Migration to SAP S/4HANA requires test automation. Use an approach that doesn’t force you to program every element of your test script from scratch. The operating scheme based on the Model-Based Test Automation (MBTA) used by Tosca facilitates the construction and maintenance of automated scripts. Significantly reduces the time of their preparation and updating, even in the case of a large number of scripts.

The effect of using MBTA is a repository of models of tested systems. Tosca builds this repository automatically. Tosca uses the functionality of “scanning” the application’s user interface without writing any code. You can create automatic test scripts understandable for business employees from the repository elements.

Models can be used in multiple scripts. As part of a single script, they can be appropriately modified so that the entered data is adequate to the tested functionality. A change to the application code that is made to the existing model is automatically propagated to all related scripts. As a consequence, all test scenarios are updated, which significantly simplifies the maintenance of the scripts.

The Tricentis framework is recommended by the SAP supplier as the best test automation tool. A very important additional advantage of the Tricentis Framework is that it is a universal tool that, apart from the SAP environment, supports over 150 different technologies. Thus, it is possible to automate the tests of complete business processes going through various external systems. It is available for almost all applications, websites, mobile applications and databases. According to Tricentis, the use of Tosca to automate regression tests can reduce the time of these tests by up to 75%.

3. Test integration as early as possible – API tests

Migrating to SAP S/4HANA requires intensive interface verification. Put emphasis on API tests (tests carried out in the message layer) even before testing business processes. Verify communication within the SAP environment and communication with external systems as soon as possible. You will save time and costs in the next stages of testing.

With the help of the Int4 IFTT tool, also recommended by the SAP manufacturer, you will test both the API of the integration layer (SAP PO, SAP CPI) and the functional API in SAP S/4HANA systems (SAP IDOC, SAP AIF, etc.).

During the tests, you will verify the final result of each interface and the created final business documents or transactions performed. Thus, you will test all the logic implemented on the backend, taking into account your own modifications.

Preparing SAP API tests with Int4 IFTT is fast and simple – the tool allows you to use messages from the source system (e.g. from production) and restart them in the test environment after migration. Thanks to this solution, you can avoid the laborious recording of automatic scripts.

4. Simplify the test environment and virtualize external applications

Migration to SAP S/4HANA poses a threat to the continuity of business processes. Ensuring the continuity of these processes after updating the SAP system also applies to external applications integrated with the ERP system. The transition to SAP S/4HANA involves conducting integration tests and end-to-end verification of all processes. Also processes based on external software used in business activities.

The tools recommended above will allow you to separate the SAP environment from other systems, virtualizing it during tests. Thanks to this, you can automatically test processes in SAP, without the need to provide a comprehensive integrated environment. You will also save a lot of time and money by reducing the team workload.

Picture 3. SAP environment virtualization mechanism in the test process. Source: INT4IFTT materials.

5. Use the DevOps pipeline and Agile methodologies

After implementing test automation, you can run Continuous Testing to deliver the results of your migration work even faster and more efficiently. Continuous testing should be an integral part of Continuous Delivery (CD) and Continuous Integration (CI).

Carry out test automation at an early stage and plan the entire inclusion of a new system in small steps. By working in sprints, you will gain better control and react faster to unexpected difficulties. It will also be easier to engage business teams to work on system migration.

Automation allows you to run test suites at any time, after each implementation, without the need to involve the business team for repetitive tasks.

6. Select appropriate partners to carry out the migration and verify its completion

Experienced partners will tell you when and how to migrate to the new SAP S/4HANA system and how to optimize your work. Additionally, they will provide technical support and the selection of appropriate tools. Thanks to this, your business teams will not be preoccupied with checking the correct operation of the new system, and the migration process will be quick and efficient. In addition, the verification of SAP environment contact points with the world of external applications will be prepared without the need to set up new environments.

Profits achieved by automating the test process using the activities and tools recommended by Soflab are quantifiable. Preparing your company for the automated testing process can reduce your workload by up to 80%.

An example of such a successful migration to SAP S/4HANA is the car manufacturer HONDA. The company managed to:

  • automate 70% of activities in the migration process,
  • in just 5 weeks,
  • which saved almost 700 man hours compared to manual testing.

7. Use system migration to streamline and better organize your business

Automation always entails the need to standardize the actions taken. Such changes almost always benefit the organization and affect the transparency of the transformation.

Take the migration as an opportunity to streamline your business processes and use it to understand and clean your data as well as to thoroughly audit your code. Select options that can be automated. Involve employees from outside the IT areas in these activities, and you will gain help from people who use the system on a daily basis. Thanks to this, you will build their trust in new functions that will improve their work in the system. Thanks to the proposed solutions, you will free your business team from verifying the progress of migration work.

Migration to SAP S/4HANA: Summary

Migrating an ERP system resembles moving the contents of the entire house, and even a flat, to a completely different place, one with a modern spatial layout and additional elements that were not in the original location. Over the years, we collect items in our four walls, adapt the furniture and building conditions to the premises, we adapt many elements in a unique way, often completely different than their initial purpose.

It is very similar with ERP systems used in companies for a long time. SAP system users know very well how many modifications are made to the code to facilitate the functioning of the organization. The business activities of enterprises also go beyond the ERP system, running many applications from suppliers outside the SAP environment.

Migration to new systems is usually associated with a lot of pressure and limited time. This means a greater risk of problems with maintaining business continuity of processes. The negative effect may be, among others loss of revenues and even customer trust – especially if migration errors affect the handling of their orders.

Therefore, identifying hot spots is crucial and should be a priority. Just like when changing living conditions, you need to consciously plan activities, optimize the logistics of work and use the entire range of available tools in order to function smoothly after the migration.

Following the example of relocation logistics, system migration undoubtedly has such an advantage that it can be maximally supported by a testing process that excludes most errors. Soflab supports this element of work, making the entire procedure fast, safe and predictable.