Key Considerations for a Successful Migration from ECC to S/4HANA: Strategy, Technology, and Expertise

Brian Trout, Executive Vice President, Sales, Baer
Brian Trout
Executive Vice President, Sales
15 September 2023

Early in the pandemic, we saw an acceleration of SAP ECC to S/4HANA migrations, followed by a more recent slowdown due to economic uncertainty and tightened budgets. However, I am currently seeing indicators that the market is on the move again. More enterprises are undertaking explorations and building business cases, with an eye to starting work in 2024, and given the 2027 end of mainstream support for ECC, they are starting none too soon. That exploratory work is foundational—it entails making critical decisions about long-term business strategy and technology infrastructure that will impact every aspect of the way they do business for years to come. It will also impact how your initiative is resourced from an expertise perspective, and because of the tight labor market for specialized S/4HANA consultants, it is critical to develop a strategic staffing plan during this exploratory phase.

The following are key considerations enterprises will need to explore and decisions they will need to make to build a strong foundation for a migration from SAP ECC to S/4HANA from strategy, technology, and expertise perspectives.

Strategy: Aligning around a Why and Desired Outcomes

Any enterprise undertaking an S/4HANA transformation must first explore and internally align around strategic objectives, including both “why” behind the initiative and the desired outcomes. The strategic imperatives underlying an initiative of this scale and complexity vary due to the diverse range of industries and enterprises that rely on SAP as their foundational ERP solution. However, in our conversations with clients at Baer, there are several that rise to the top: reimagined business processes, operational standardization and alignment, improved customer, supplier, and employee experiences, deeper business insights, and total cost of ownership (TCO) considerations.

S/4HANA is more than just the next iteration of SAP’s ERP foundation. In developing it, SAP leveraged its deep insight into the enterprise and created a vision for how businesses can optimize efficiency. As such, migrating to S/4HANA presents a pivotal opportunity to reimagine end-to-end business processes. In so doing, enterprises can standardize the way their business units and teams work, significantly reducing the pain points that come with misaligned operational practices such as cost inefficiencies and compliance gaps. S/4 HANA also provides platform analytics that enable in depth reporting and analysis of your business across a broad spectrum of dimensions, unearthing new insights and opportunities to maximize revenue. It is also an opportunity to rethink what matters most to both your customers, suppliers, and employees, design better ways for them to interact with your business and create best-in-class user experiences.

There is so much to unpack around financial implications. The most obvious point is that SAP is ending regular support for ECC in 2027, after which companies will begin accruing elevated maintenance charges, although I would argue that there are more pressing considerations. Enterprises should be asking themselves what a move to the cloud means in terms of sunsetting their on-premise infrastructure and associated costs, consolidating third-party solutions, and right sizing the personnel needed to maintain them. What is the nature of their current licensing agreements with SAP, and how will that change? These are massive, multi-year investments—do they have buy-in and resources to sustain it? Of course, all this must be balanced with the potential, although challenging to quantify, financial gains from enhanced operational efficiencies and deeper insights.

Ultimately, it is these underlying strategic imperatives that will inform every aspect of the undertaking, from architecting the solutions to planning to maintenance and upgrading it throughout the entirety of its lifecycle.

Technology: Determining Your Approach

Once you have solid internal alignment around why you are migrating to S/4HANA and what your objectives are, the next step is to determine your approach. The key considerations here are around how you will get there—who you will partner with from a systems integrator perspective to shepherd you through the change and what role they will play relative to your internal staff; how you will deploy and manage the solution; and what modules you will implement and in what order.

The scale, complexity, and potential impact of a migration to S/4HANA is so great that most enterprises will partner with a systems integrator that can provide strategic guidance and bring significant, proven methodologies, and industry-specific accelerators. Whether you have a pre-existing relationship in place or are initiating a new one, there is again a broad range of ways to structure the relationship so that you fully leverage their expertise while taking advantage of the capabilities of your internal team who knows your business best—with respect to keeping your current systems operational. Of course, specialized, contingent expertise will be critical, as I will explain in the next section.

From a deployment perspective, you will need to explore and align around whether you will deploy the solution on premises or in the cloud, and if you choose cloud, as most enterprises do, whether that will be leveraging SAP’s S/4HANA public cloud offering, their RISE infrastructure approach, or a self-managed private cloud environment. In addition, you might partner with a systems integrator who has built an offering around it as Accenture has done with SOAR.

From there, you will need to determine what process areas of the enterprise management layer to implement and in what order to address them. The latter will be informed by what your strategic objectives are, the global structure of your business, and specific key processes that your organization leverages or plans to enable. Other key factors that will impact your technical execution strategy include what your areas of greatest opportunity or pain are, what is most achievable, and what requires the least amount of readiness work. For many organizations, the low-hanging fruit, the S/4 HANA finance core is a logical place to start. Since the processes are somewhat standardized across industries, it is integral to all business operations, and all other aspects of S/HANA rely inherently on the structural changes in finance, and it represents an area of profound impact for the business overall.

Expertise: Identifying the Right People, at the Right Time, for the Appropriate Investment

As your overarching approach to technology begins taking shape, it will become necessary to think through how you will resource your initiative. Certainly, your systems integrator will bring strategic expertise to the table, and you may want to leverage the talents of key internal team members. Beyond that, you will need to consider what expertise you need to support the new initiative; what expertise you will need to maintain your current systems; how you will engage them (contract-to-hire, contingent, on-call, or off-shore); and how you will access the IT labor supply chain.

The goal here is to find the right expertise, at the right time, for the appropriate investment, and it can prove more challenging than you might initially anticipate due to how limited the SAP labor supply chain is for highly specialized talent. Partnering with enterprise performance partner can provide an advantage here, particularly if understand the strategy imperatives of your initiative and the nuances of S/HANA implementation, as Baer does. At Baer, we have significant experience staffing S/4HANA transformation initiatives, so we understand the skills sets that will be needed. As a result, we can take a proactive approach to identifying and building relationships with the best and brightest, proven talent. In addition, considering your RTO approach and industry specific skillsets. We also emphasize finding the right cultural fit, which supports staffing continuity throughout the life of the program, and ultimately, better outcomes.

About Baer

Unlike typical technology staffing companies, Baer is a true enterprise performance partner. We have a deep understanding of the scope of enterprise technology transformation initiatives and the highly specialized skillsets you will need at different stages of the process.

To learn more about how Baer can make a positive impact on your enterprise transformation, please reach out to Brian Trout,, Executive Vice President, Sales, or John Wilson, Vice President of Strategic Accounts, at

We look forward to speaking with you and learning about your specific challenges.

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