Blood, sweat and tears incoming: Why implementing SAP S/4HANA is not easy?

Nowadays, companies are built on software. No matter the core business, a successful and growing organization has digital tools for fuel. From sales to marketing, human resources & procurement: every department works more efficiently thanks to tools such as ERP software. They keep all information in one spot, automate tedious tasks and deliver meaningful insights. The result? Less time wasted, fewer mistakes, more opportunities. 

Of course, as a C-level manager, you know that the right tools create the right opportunities. You know they lead to efficiency and effectiveness, which in turn leads to results. You understand the importance of a well-oiled machine, which is why you’re happy that your company runs on SAP. 

Because SAP software does all that and more. It helps companies of all sizes better analyze their financials, forecast issues and run a more productive company. However, SAP is constantly evolving—as a tech company should, of course—to give users the best experience. And its biggest change is happening right now. 

You’re probably wondering what that has to do with you. Well, everything. Since your company uses SAP software, you’ll have to go along with these changes. And this time, it’s not a simple update to keep you up with all things new. This time, more work is required. But no worries, we’ll tell you all about it, so you can be prepared. 


The situation: a new, better software has entered the world of SAP

So what’s the deal with these SAP changes? In 2015, the German tech company released its new software: SAP S/4HANA, which is better equipped to help you deal with today’s challenges. Since the growth of digitalization, customer expectations have grown as well. They want everything to go smoothly. Do they have to wait 30 seconds for your payment page to load? Then you might lose them. The world has moved from a business-first approach to a customer-centric approach. And so has SAP. 

The new gold 

S/4HANA stands for 4 major (S)implification processes of SAP. HANA as database that processes all data. The big difference with this new software is how it deals with data—it is the new gold, after all. In older SAP versions, your data about clients, suppliers, employees, products, and so on, were all separated. But what if a supplier is also a client? What if one of your employees has a job on the side and delivers goods to you as well? Previous SAP software would not connect that information. S/4HANA does. 

What’s more: S/4HANA gives you the opportunity to add more information to a client’s profile. These days, you need more than just a phone number or an address. Preferably, you also know how they first heard about your brand, for example. Maybe social media plays a big role for this client? It’s also interesting to know if a client pays your invoices on time or if they have the habit of paying them a few months late. By enriching your data with more personal information, you have the opportunity to be more customer oriented. It also gives you the chance to work more proactively: you can take certain actions before a problem arises, e.g. a client who repeatedly pays late. 

Let’s talk advantages 

This new way of handling data is not the only change SAP has implemented within S/4HANA. The updated software allows companies to be more flexible, letting them ride the waves of our ever-changing markets much better. Let’s take a look at some other advantages: 

  1. Better user interface: Accountants, for example, used to see all available tools in SAP. From logistics to procurement: they had every option available, but never needed all of them. Talk about a complicated user interface! Now, SAP has easy-to-use apps that show only what a user needs. 
  2. More automation: In previous versions of SAP’s software, many tasks still needed to be done manually. For example, accountants still had to manually send invoices to the control department for a check. With S/4HANA, a tedious task like this is done automatically. 
  3. More insights: S/4HANA makes it easier to produce analytics and insightful reports about anything you need to know. The system will even create them automatically. 
  4. Better forecasting: Thanks to AI and machine learning, S/4HANA is better equipped to forecast. 
  5. Quicker than ever: From simple tasks to generating insightful reports, S/4HANA does it quicker than its predecessors, allowing you to take action at exactly the right time and not a minute too late. 
The time is now 

The changes sure sound great! You’re no doubt ready to implement this new kid on the ERP block. Here’s the catch, though: it’s not as easy as 1-2-3. To give you an idea: the tech company had set its deadline to 2025, meaning that they will end all support of older SAP versions on December 31st, 2025. However, over the years, SAP has noticed that clients need more time, resources and skills to move from the older SAP software to S/4 Hana. So they pushed the deadline to 2027. This doesn’t mean that you have a few more years to sit back and relax—on the contrary: it’s time to get started. 

What should you remember? 

  1. The new software S/4 Hana gives you the opportunity to be more customer-oriented
  2. The new software S/4 Hana allows you to work quickly and proactively
  3. The deadline for implementing S/4 Hana is 2027

The problem: implementing new software requires time, skills, and experience

SAP software has a reputation for being very complex. The running gag amongst SAP users is that the acronym stands for ‘slow and painful’ (instead of System Analysis Program Development). S/4HANA is making things easier, but that doesn’t mean that the implementation of the new software is easy as well. Switching an old system to a new one when your entire company is dependent on the software is tricky. That’s exactly the problem with S/4HANA. Great software, but difficult to implement. You need time and money, and so much more… 

You need skills 

Not every company has the right people in-house to help with the transition. If you’re lucky, you still have one or two employees who were part of the team that implemented SAP in the first place. But what are the odds of that? Right, not very high. You no doubt have employees with a lot of technical skills and SAP knowledge. But the right person needs more than that. Ideally, they have gone through an implementation process before, so they can tell you that such a project consists of four important parts: 

  1. Analyzing the current situation
  2. Deciding what you are going to change 
  3. Looking back at how the transition went 
  4. Testing what you’ve implemented  

Someone with knowledge of SAP and big implementation projects knows when it’s time to transition to the new system and pull the plug on the old one. He or she will know how to coordinate not just the four parts of the project, but also your different departments who will eventually have to use a newer, and in many ways a different, system. 

You need to prepare employees

That brings us to the next issue: you are dealing with people. Sure, you’re implementing new software. But at the end of the day, people have to use this software. Their way of working is going to change—in some cases, even people’s jobs might change. Automation takes over multiple tasks and makes others much easier, which means that some employees will see a shift in the work they do. Or maybe their job will become obsolete. 

You get it: you can’t bring new software home and expect your employees to just run with it. People need time to prepare, so don’t throw this at them the week before the new software goes live. You will need to apply change management to make sure people adapt well. Clear communication, guidance, and patience throughout the project are necessary. 

You need to test the system  

And now for the trickiest part of the problem: testing. It’s an important part of the implementation process. Still, you might be thinking of skipping the testing phase. Understandable; it takes extra time and money, after all. You can trust the SAP software to run smoothly straight away, can’t you? Well, not really. Remember, SAP is complex, and your entire business is built on the software. It’s a big risk to skip the testing stage and go live right away. There are multiple examples of SAP clients who took that risk and, unfortunately, failed. 

A big European fashion brand got in trouble two years ago for taking this risk. The brand is known for changing its product range almost on a daily basis. New items, new prices,… something is always happening on this web shop. During their S/4 Hana testing phase, they decided to skip a day. The system crashed. Not one customer could access the web shop or pay for items already in their shopping cart. It took two hours to fix the problem. In that relatively short time, they lost three million euros in revenue. The result for this brand and many others? A painful dent in their reputation and a lot of money spent to rectify where things went wrong.

So let’s test the system, shall we? If you thought finding the right skilled people and changing employees’ way of working was going to be difficult, then testing is really going to, well, test your nerves. It’s an entirely different process, which consists of multiple steps, validations, lots of tweaking—and possibly doing all that over again, once, twice or multiple times until you’re 100% sure that the new S/4 Hana software runs as it should for every department.  

What should you remember? 

  1. The transition to S/4 Hana is complex and requires a lot of knowledge
  2. The way of working will change for a lot of people in your organization 
  3. The testing phase is a crucial but difficult part the mplementing

The solution: relying on experience is the way to go

However, as a C-level manager, you understand the importance of change. You know that S/4 Hana is the way to go, not only because you have to (deadline, remember?), but also because it will launch your company into a new era. After all, a business that uses the most recent and state-of-the-art tools certainly grabs the attention of customers, partners and new talents. But of course, your company doesn’t change its software system every year. Chances are this is the first time that you’ve had to prepare your organization for an entire software overhaul. Don’t have the right people to coordinate? Don’t know how to even begin a testing phase?

Not to worry, Go NoGo specializes in coordinating and testing SAP S/4 Hana implementation projects. With 15 years of experience in SAP, we will not only make sure your new SAP application suite works. We will also take care of your people, making sure their new way of working doesn’t scare them but rather inspire them. In this series of whitepapers, we will guide you through SAP test management, show you the importance of the necessary steps and let you in on how to deal with the challenges. 

Scroll to Top