Data Migration

The 4 Key Steps to Prepare for SAP S/4HANA Transformation

When you decide to move to SAP S/4HANA, you must begin preparing for your data transformation. These are the key tasks to ensure a smooth transition.

Preparing an enterprise for a large-scale SAP S/4HANA transformation is no easy process. From the moment you decide to move to S/4HANA, to the moment you go-live, there are a series of crucial tasks to undertake to ensure a smooth transition of data and business processes.

In a recent webinar featuring Arndt Hoffman, Chief Strategist at smartShift, and Leonard Maganza, Chief Customer Officer at Syniti, the challenges of getting data and custom code ready for S/4HANA were discussed at length (check that out here). For this blog though, I’d like to focus on the 4 key preparation stages that were highlighted in the webinar and give you the blueprint for a successful S/4HANA transformation preparation.

1. Immerse Yourself in SAP S/4HANA Education

No matter how much expertise you carry with you from prior transformations, when it comes to SAP S/4HANA it’s an important step to re-educate and immerse yourself in the latest technologies and approaches.

For example, significant technological advances in the custom code space have been made in recent years. “Now, with intelligent automation (for custom code) you’re able to sort 90-95% of transformation challenges with technology, and allow your team to focus on value-adding efforts,” said Arndt Hoffman, in the recent webinar. “Given the resource shortages in the market, it’s likely never too late to start thinking about automation.”

“For all transformations, data and code are on the critical path. When you master them, you master the project plan. When you accelerate them, you accelerate the migration program. When you de-risk them, you de-risk the entire project.”

Arndt Hoffman, Chief Strategist, smartshift

The immersion process unlocks insights that could significantly change your transformation process. With the technology available such as the Syniti Knowledge Platform, you don’t need to wait until the transformation starts to begin addressing data quality. Businesses that work with Syniti have identified opportunities to get data sorted upfront prior to moving, whether that be through a Business Partner consolidation, Central Finance integration, or Spare Parts/Inventory initiative. Many data optimization tasks don’t need to wait until you’re live in S/4HANA.

In the custom code sphere, it’s a similar story. “50% of custom code changes can be done now in ECC,” said Arndt Hoffman.

In the fast-paced world of data transformation, it’s never been more important to research and/or liaise with the experts to establish what the best new strategies are for moving your transformation forward.

2. Align Your SAP S/4HANA Program Objectives to Business Strategy

While it may seem like an obvious step, aligning the transformation program to the business strategy is crucially important.

“You have to ask yourself, is your internal organization ready for all the new technology?” explained Hoffman. “You need to build a roadmap towards enablement to ensure maximum productivity (of the transformation).”

Leonard Maganza, Chief Customer Officer at Syniti, added: “It’s more about best fit than it is best practice. You have to find a transformation approach that suits where you’re heading as an organization.”

In the world of enterprise transformation, there’s rarely a situation of one-size-fits all.

“You need to start with assessing your internal situation. Why do you want to change your platform? Do you have technical debt? What’s the business driver?”

Leonard Maganza, Chief Customer Officer at Syniti

As plans develop, it’s important to look at data in terms of a value stream. Try to identify areas where data could be more helpful in driving the business’ agenda, whether that’s in procurement or finance, and build your transformation plan to drive data, process, and business improvement in those areas.

With custom code, it’s more an issue of re-evaluation: what’s important for the business to take with them to S/4HANA and which code is best to be retired. “We find that 40-60% of custom code is not used,” said Hoffman, citing an area business could immediately focus on to improve system agility. “The rest (of an enterprises’ custom code) might be strategic and useful but it limits your ability to adapt to SAP platform innovations.” Hoffman went to on discuss how more custom code enhancements in ECC/legacy, ultimately means, the more transformation work you’ll need to do to migrate them over. At this planning stage, it’s worth evaluating which processes you’ve customized (most likely for a good reason at the time) could be standardized as per S/4HANA recommendations. Over the long-term, it’s very likely this wouldn’t hurt the business. In fact, it would likely provide more benefits through greater access to SAP functionality and automatic upgrades in the future.

3. Automate the Assessment of Your SAP S/4HANA Data and Custom Code Landscape

The next part of the preparation process is to delve into the transformation’s critical areas of data and custom code, using technology to assess where data / custom code is causing the biggest issues and conversely where value may be hidden.

“You have to let the data speak for itself,” said Leonard Maganza, “Once you’ve got the data, validate it. It will help you prepare.”

Data Assessment Express, the automated data assessment solution can help you analyze your organizational data. “In the assessment, we tier the data and apply business relevancy criteria to it, “continued Maganza. “Once you know what you need you can eliminate the data that’s more of a liability than an asset. Archive aging data that’s required for audits and customer services and move unstructured data into a data lake if you’d like to retain it.”

“Identify where the higher volume discounts can be found. Decide what data is relevant then approach it from a business impact perspective before you send off people to work.”

Leonard Maganza, Chief Customer Officer at Syniti

Assessments are a dime-a-dozen in the technology industry, so finding the right specific assessments that focus on the critical aspects of a transformation is where you’ll find the long-run benefits. With a data assessment such as Syniti's Data Assessment Express, you’ll be in a better position to identify where pre-migration activity can be conducted to smooth the ultimate transition. “There’s lots of data quality initiatives you need to do in advance of migration to avoid elongating your timeline,” said Maganza. “Optimizing data in your legacy systems before you migrate really is a sensible approach.”

4. Sandbox Testing

Assessments get you to a certain point, but it’s soon time to put that knowledge into practice. ‘Sandboxing’ is an excellent way to test data and processes before you move your full dataset and code over to S/4HANA, and protects you against stress and pain down the road.

“It’s about addressing the data interoperability problem,” as Maganza put it. “The only way you can test if it’s going to work is to have the data and custom code in a sandbox environment that mirrors the new system.”

“You can get into analysis paralysis that gets you nowhere. Sandboxes with real data and custom code are essential to build a minimum viable product fast and test that the system works.”

Arndt Hoffman, Chief Strategist at smartshift

Testing is a core part of Syniti's migration methodology. When we say “Load early, load often,” what we really mean is through an agile approach to testing, learning, and repeating. You’ll be put in control of the process and assured your data is right-sized and right-formatted for the ultimate S/4HANA migration.

That covers our 4 key steps to prepare for an S/4HANA transformation. For more on Syniti Migrate, you can read more about the product here. And to watch the full webinar recording referenced in this blog featuring Arndt and Leonard click here.

To read more news and thought leadership from Syniti visit our blog at

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