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Explaining The Benefits and The Process

SAP projects like the transition from ECC to S/4HANA or cloud deployment of ERP are a major undertaking for any organization. However, it doesn’t need to be overwhelming if properly planned and communicated.

As an SAP consultant guiding clients through this transition, it’s important to break down the complex migration journey into easy-to-understand steps. This is one of the key skills of many senior project managers. It ensures stakeholders know what to expect (without getting lost in technical complexities), and helps them to see the value of their investment.

As a technical professional it is sometimes hard to know the level of IT competence of your customers: they may feel confused if you assume proficiency with SAP solutions, or conversely, that you are talking down to them if you explain every detail. As with all communication, you must first understand your audience.

Some businesses will have a member of the team who is familiar with SAP, but every stakeholder involved in a project must be able to understand the rationale and actively engage with it: so it is important to use language which is easily understood, at least in the earlier conversations. However, it is important to have presentation material on hand to help explain technical aspects if they are raised.

So for example, if you are explaining why a cloud deployment of S/4HANA would be better for a customer than an on-premise system, justify it in terms of lower IT spend on the project: due to a faster time to value, a lower total cost of ownership, and better agility and scalability for further changes required as the business expands.

Once you’ve justified the rationale, map out the step-by-step journey in simple, relatable terms. Avoid using unfamiliar technical jargon, and explain each step in terms of desired business outcomes instead of specific tools and techniques.

First you must get an overview of the business and its processes.

Assess the Current Landscape

You need to get a clear understanding of the customer’s starting point by assessing their current IT landscape or SAP system. For example, if they are upgrading from ECC to S/4HANA there are some questions you need answered in order to explain the upgrade process more clearly:

What release of ECC are they currently running? How customized is their system? Gather details on the number of their clients, the size of the current database, any modifications or extensions, and the interfaces used.

What are the pain points with their current ECC system that caused them to look for improvements? Are there areas already primed for transformation?

What level of understanding do they have about SAP and S/4HANA in particular? What is their overall organizational appetite for change? Is there executive sponsorship or does that need to be confirmed before going ahead?

What are their SAP peripheral systems and how integrated are they? What are their key third party integrations? What non-SAP systems will need to be accounted for?

What are their infrastructure arrangements? Is their instance of ECC on-premise, private cloud, or public cloud?

The more insights you can gather on their landscape, the better you can tailor the migration approach, as well as the way that you describe it.

Make the Business Case

A compelling business case gets all parties aligned on migration objectives and engaged with the project, so work with key stakeholders to understand their business needs, then build a strong business case for S/4HANA migration.

You can begin by asking what goals the business has and ask them to frame them in clear statements like: “The business should have reduced operating costs by 15% in one year from now” or “We would like to increase or customer reach by 50% over the next three years.”

Identify pain points and bottlenecks within your customer’s current systems and quantify the benefits of moving to S/4, such as increased productivity, faster month closes, improved customer experience, and more. Always try to express these benefits in monetary terms, based on the current model of the business and its processes.

Some other key points to emphasize are:

SAP ECC will be going out of mainstream maintenance in 2027 (though some customers can choose extended maintenance until 2030), so organizations need to plan their transition now. Paint a picture of the risks of staying on an unsupported system, as well as the expected timeline for organizations similar to the customer in terms of size and line of business.

S/4HANA provides major simplifications and innovations over ECC. Highlight key benefits like a simplified data model with other products like SAP Datasphere, interaction with Fiori UX for business users, and real-time analytics, but also explain how these benefits lead to improved business outcomes. Quantify the business value as much as possible so the case is clear for executives and for those in the finance department.

Another important benefit to emphasize is that S/4HANA enables innovation and transformation of existing business processes to intelligent enterprise processes through technologies like AI, machine learning, and advanced analytics. Point out that this is critical for future-proofing the business as many competitors will be in the process of implementing these technologies.

There are financial incentives available from SAP to move to S/4HANA until 2027 in the form of migration program discounts. Emphasize the savings available by moving now for several subscription models.

Explain the Transition Options

Once you’ve assessed their starting point and made the business case for S/4HANA, outline the different options for migrating. Try using a metaphor like property development to make the difference clear if they have no background in SAP.

Do they require a new implementation? You could explain that greenfield deployment of S/4HANA is often best for successful transformation. Like building a new house from scratch

System conversion or automated conversion of an existing ECC system to S/4HANA, (if you use the building metaphor it would be like renovation of an existing property): Using existing resources and adding to them.

For each option, describe the pros, cons, risks, and recommended scenarios. Help them understand which path may suit their goals, and their existing landscape, keeping in mind any limitations they have described.

Illustrate the Roadmap

Walk through a summary of the roadmap for their migration journey. Spend a little time detailing the necessary steps for each stage. So explain what is involved in:

Business process workshops to identify transformation opportunities. This is something which has already begun as a pre-scoping phase while assessing your customer’s current landscape, but will be a much more detailed investigation if the project goes ahead.

Explain the process of infrastructure planning, how it is determined, by whether the customer needs cloud vs on-premise, and sizing requirements based on the extent of the data, number of customers, and other partners like suppliers.

Sandbox installations is a concept that needs to be explained to customers as a means for prototypes for testing and validation in a risk-free environment. Emphasize how it speeds up the timeline for implementations, as preparation of key sections of the implementation can be run in parallel.

Go on to explain other aspects of the implementation roadmap so the customer gets a good understanding of why some work needs to happen and how it ensures a better ROI.

Include a detailed description of the following concepts, but detail should be centered on the needs of the business during the transformation and beyond: include a description of stages like integration testing, training & organizational change management, data migration, go-live, and support.

Some aspects of the road map and SAP best practices may seem unnecessary to those unfamiliar with SAP implementations so take some time to see each stage from the customer’s point of view.

Emphasize the importance of each part of the phased approach, and how you help manage risk throughout the process. Also highlight again the options for accelerating the timeline through your implementation tools or specific methodology.

Address Risks and Mitigation

Although you are selling the benefits of the upgrade it is extremely important to be upfront about the common challenges and risks inherent in migration projects.

For each risk, explain mitigation strategies, best practices, and past experiences in overcoming them. This awareness of risk and planning to mitigate risk builds confidence in your expertise.

Part of your conversation about risk mitigation should cover subjects like: business disruption during cutover, the complexity of integrating SAP systems with non-SAP systems, data issues with legacy custom code, and also training of internal staff to furnish them with the skills and experience to become productive and efficient S/4HANA business users.

Sell the Value of Your SAP S/4HANA Services

Wrap up by positioning your company’s ability to deliver successful S/4HANA projects by outlining your knowledge about technical configuration & integration S/4HANA as well as legacy systems like SAP ECC, and your expertise in business processes that are common in their industry.

Give extensive details about your depth of experience with SAP implementations and upgrade projects, and share a couple of case studies from previous successful projects to demonstrate favorable business outcomes. Take some more time to describe migration tools and other methods you will use to accelerate delivery of their project, so your customer can see that you use all possible means to deliver value for your services.

Remember the reasons why you were personally impressed with SAP solutions and convey your genuine enthusiasm for the business transformation potential of S/4HANA. Your goal is to have them see you as a trusted expert who can guide them to S/4HANA success.

By covering these key areas in detail, you can have productive conversations with customers about migrating to S/4HANA. Focus on making a strong case for change, assessing their starting point, outlining options and roadmaps, managing risks, and selling your services. This will set your SAP customers on the right path to harnessing the power of S/4HANA and improving their businesses.

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