Using the latest technology to upgrade technology
Remember the last time you went through a major technology upgrade of say, SAP or Oracle? Either a technology upgrade or a functional upgrade, or perhaps both. And it took strong stomachs, mountains of time, commitment of the IT team, scores of users, a pile of cash, probably an SI, and ultimately disruption of the business – all parts of the business. In today’s world, we are looking to move a company into the digital world through new architectures, new capabilities, and sometimes into new business ventures. Products like SAP S/4HANA can provide this capability – if we think about using technology to implement the technology.
It never ceases to amaze how people (IT, management and users) think about upgrading their technology base. It is viewed with skepticism, fear, costly, doing it for the sake of technology just to keep current. Even though they know they need to do it, especially if it is line with their digital or transformation strategies. While upgrades usually offer plenty of new functionality, the focus ends up on the technology itself and the new functionality loses the attention it deserves. Months of business / IT meetings, understanding pain points, where the integrations exist, the data, documenting processes, learning the new functionality and trying to figure out how it can be implemented and actually used – consumes a year or more. The fear of dealing with all the custom code and the interfaces/integrations that were built over the years, the skills required to support the software and, of course, little documentation. In fact, there is probably little documentation about how the entire system was actually configured ‘back in the day’ and if there is, it is probably ancient history. What a shame. Companies can miss out on the newest business process features, perhaps compliance requirements, ability to exploit digital capabilities and/or opportunities to streamline and improve operations and maybe even discover new revenue streams. All because the focus is on the technology and not on the new capabilities it may offer a business. Readers, you know what I am talking about. How many of you are thinking about the road from SAP ECC to S/4HANA? Read on.
We have moved along over time with a wide variety of new tools that can help in the effort to migrate to the latest technology / release of a large-scale application like SAP. The days of ‘fingertip testing,’ manual scrubbing of custom code, even understanding what the current environment is actually configured to do and integrates with, are over. Time has taken its toll, skills are outsourced, and the knowledge of the configuration is perhaps lost.
New tools on the market are designed to take the implementation of a large-scale system like SAP ECC to S/4HANA and make sense of it. Identify how SAP is being used, by whom, how much custom code is actually part of the framework, how many interfaces and to where, as well as how much of the custom code is actually being executed. I mean, why would you upgrade software that isn’t being used? This brings to mind a technology for SAP environments that helps to bring order to the chaos, reduce the fear of an upgrade, and significantly reduce the time it takes to get to S/4HANA, thus opening a window to exploiting the new capabilities.
WestTrax, a German software company, is all about non-intrusive analysis of a working operational SAP 4.7 or SAP ECC ERP system. There is a certified SAP WestTrax app as well. It will do things like tell you how much of SAP you’re actually using by functional area; how your configuration and usage compares with your industry; where the integrations are and of course, the custom code. WestTrax helps take the guesswork out of what you’re trying to migrate to S/4HANA. It provides a footprint of where you are, what areas are being used/underused, and where the focus needs to be. A typical WestTrax analysis using the app is about a month. Yep, a month. In the good ol’ days, this would have been 6-12 months of gut-wrenching deep diving. Now you have tool that can tell you what your current system is configured to do, what it doesn’t do, and how that matches up to migrating to S/4HANA – in a month. But it gets better.
The custom ABAP code. WestTrax told you what was out there. Now, how can the ABAP code be automatically upgraded to be compliant with S/4HANA, that is, only the code that is currently being executed? Enter smartShift, another German product that can do just that. No more finger tips at the keyboard to modify code and hope you get it right. It does it automatically to the tune of about 99.9% accuracy. It replaces inefficient verbs as defined by SAP, puts in standards defined by a company (like who wrote it, when, etc.) and can even find out when variables are declared after they’ve been used in logic, thus avoiding execution failure. Thus, code is ready for testing a new S/4HANA configuration in something like 30 days. By my counting, this says in 60 days, one should know what they have in their current SAP system, have identified unused software, and cleared the decks for the real purpose of upgrading to S/4HANA: take advantage of new functionality and driving digital transformations.
Focus on a solution
With these tools available, the speed to upgrade to S/4HANA is substantially increased. It gets the users to understand and think about new capabilities and stop worrying about the technology itself. It helps takes the fear out of ‘technical upgrades’ and focuses an organization on the real work of implementing a solution that will potentially change their way of working. And for management, it can help defuse their fear of cost overruns, confusion and business disruption. For IT, it means learning some new skills and tools, but more importantly, it gives IT a new way of working to take advantage of S4/HANA. That’s what IT should be doing.
What about the data? Let’s save that one for my next post. We’ve got an app for that too!