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SAP Business Suite 7 support extended to 2027. Is it long enough?

20th February 2020,  

SAP has announced that support for Business Suite 7 will be extended to 2027. This is welcome news for the many ERP customers who aren’t yet able or willing to migrate to S/4HANA. But is it long enough?

2027 seems a long way into the future, there’s plenty of time for organisations to plan their migration. There’s even an option for extended maintenance until 2030 if necessary. Also, S/4HANA looks to be a suitable successor to Business Suite 7, a game-changer even. So what’s the problem?

Well, there are 2 actually. Firstly, for most organisations, migrating to S/4HANA will require a full ERP implementation, which is both risky and expensive. Secondly, there is a serious shortage of applicants for SAP ERP jobs. In house teams simply aren’t geared up for this kind of undertaking.

Here we examine the benefits of migrating to S/4HANA alongside the risks and challenges.

What is SAP S/4HANA?

HANA is an in-memory platform. Whereas a traditional ERP solution stores its data in a disk-based database, HANA holds the data in memory. Disk-based databases use tables to hold data and many of those tables are for housekeeping, to maintain links between the data items or to hold indexes to find and retrieve data quickly.

Holding data in memory is far more efficient, it’s vastly quicker to find and retrieve data as there is no disk I/O needed and there is no overhead of maintaining housekeeping tables. This simpler data model helps to reduce the administration of the data, such as reconciling conflicts.

Theoretically, it would be possible to simply lift an existing database structure and implement it in an in-memory system. This would reduce the cost to the ERP vendor and make migration less of a challenge. However, with S/4HANA, SAP has completely redesigned the ERP data model to make it as efficient as possible. There is no housekeeping or duplicated data.

This approach makes S/4HANA a game-changer in ERP and perfect for new adopters. However, for existing Business Suite 7 customers, migration comes with significant risks and challenges.

Migration challenges

Moving data from a disk-based database into HANA is much more than data migration. It requires specialists with skills and experience to carry out the migration along with a thought-through strategy for using on-premise or cloud, with backing at executive level.

SAP HANA was launched in 2010. The fact that organisations are still not ready to migrate indicates their level of confusion and apprehension. Initially, there were horror stories about deployment and over-budget migrations. There was also confusion over the benefits of the in-memory paradigm.

A successful migration involves getting a number of ducks in a row.

1. The executives who sign-off the migration budget need to understand the business case for S/4HANA. This needs to quantify the benefits alongside the costs, including the licensing impact and specialist staff to carry out the migration.

2. The organisation needs to agree its strategy for using on-premise, private and public cloud. This also forms part of the business case and supports business transformation.

3. Organisations need to invest in SAP ERP jobs; staff who can exploit the technology, with skills in cloud infrastructure, business process and S/4HANA operation. Of course, experienced migration specialists are essential.

An experienced consultant will define the scope of the project and ensure that appropriate hardware and software are in place. This will reduce the risk of time and budget over-runs and take account of gotchas such as custom code impact, replacement of existing transactions and analytics.

Is support until 2027 long enough?

The danger with having another 7 years of support is that organisations may simply kick the can down the road. This is a risky strategy. S/4HANA presents an opportunity not only to move onto a fully supported technology but also to transform the business. It needs a management team able to make the case for investment and access to the skilled staff able to carry out the migration.

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