The Effective CIO’s Approach to Migrating SAP ECC to S/4HANA

Migrating to S/4HANA is a huge endeavor that requires the participation of both internal stakeholders and external advisors to enable a successful transition. In my experience, the most effective CIOs take the initiative to determine their approach to engage, leverage, and mobilize key parties in a way that puts their organization on the path for a successful migration.

Five major groups of internal stakeholders and external advisors need special attention:

Business Stakeholders

Effective CIOs understand that their organization’s stakeholders may have independently managed relationships with SAP Cloud solutions such as Ariba, Concur, Fieldglass, and Hybris. They also know that these stakeholders were likely managing the operating expense for these solutions and they were likely operating with limited engagement from IT.

A key aspect of an S/4HANA migration will be the development of an engagement strategy that includes a greater set of internal stakeholders. The CIO will also need to be prepared to address different levels of organizational maturity, which had previously enabled solutions with potentially conflicting priorities and timelines. Savvy CIOs recognize the need to get in front of this early.

IT Stakeholders

Effective CIOs also understand that engagement of their application, infrastructure, security, and operations teams early in the migration process is critical.  They understand the days of taking a serial approach to purchasing on-premise software, hardware, and racking and stacking, are over. They know that SAP is coming to the market with vertically integrated solutions and the assessment of SAP’s offerings requires a parallel path evaluation and negotiation strategy.

SAP Value Assurance Services

SAP will most likely offer value assurance services to support the development of an S/4HANA business case and will likely do so as a relationship “investment.” Although SAP will bring direct insights into their product strategy and capable pre-sales expertise, proactive CIOs know in advance whether the breadth and depth of an SAP engagement will produce a Board-ready business case.

These CIOs also understand the potential impact this level of engagement may have on its sourcing strategy and negotiation leverage when engaging SAP and they will adjust their engagement strategy accordingly.

Consulting Service Providers

Incumbent consulting providers with executive level access and knowledge of a potential migration to S/4HANA will likely offer to either develop a business case or to provide a credit toward the implementation phase as an investment.

Though the service providers will certainly bring capability to the table, successful CIOs will assess the depth of the service provider’s S/4HANA capabilities specific to their industry, as well as their ability to implement complementary SAP Cloud solutions.  They will determine upfront if their timeline will enable a competitive process for the implementation phase or if the probability of a sole source award is a more likely outcome.


Peer Network 

At the outset, many CIOs engage their peer networks as a key instrument to inform their engagement strategy.  These executives engage peers with these specific characteristics:

  1. similar industry (without compromising competitive position)
  2. similar company size and strategy
  3. similar current and future application strategy
  4. more experienced in the decision or migration lifecycle

They not only appreciate the learning opportunity to engage with their peers, they also understand that their influence on the peer network does not go unnoticed by SAP and it represents future reciprocal relationship and leverage opportunities with SAP post-contract signature.

One way or another, engagement is going to occur. In our experience, what differentiates a highly effective CIO is their choice to lead the engagement rather than be run by the strategies of SAP and their consulting partners.

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