Why including the right automation solution is key to a successful S/4HANA data migration plan


The deadline to move to SAP S/4HANA has currently been extended by SAP to 2027 and research from the UK & Ireland SAP user group shows that many users in the region are still at the planning stages of the migration, or are yet to even begin. For many of these users, the sheer size and scale of the task ahead may be stalling their plans. However, taking adequate time to plan and prepare processes and data for migration is essential.

The move to S/4HANA is more than just a technical system change, it’s a completely new SAP generation with different data models and processes. Organisations need to rethink their current processes and their entire system landscape, built, and evolved over many years of SAP use alongside other disparate systems. While many organisations started transformation initiatives with a clear focus to improve and automate their processes, data quality plays a significant role not only in the migration process itself, but also in future processes in S/4HANA. As a result, both process efficiency and data quality must be considered in the planning phase.

Another challenge can be freeing up domain experts who understand specific processes and data from their daily activities. These people are often required to help design new processes and support the migration. The need to include these experts further complicates planning and execution, but is there a better way to include them in the migration process?

Let’s look at a couple of examples of how companies have dealt with these challenges. Sharing their experience of how automation technology can boost the transition process is Scientific Drilling, a Winshuttle customer and global provider of navigation and drilling solutions to the energy sector. Scientific Drilling faced a challenging migration to the new system as it held ERP data in multiple homegrown systems as well as SAP ECC, in fact some 30 different legacy systems, none of which reconciled with S/4HANA. The organisation was also working to an extremely tight migration timeframe.

Scientific Drilling’s issues are common – overcoming system complexity by moving to the new platform while trying to meet a tough internal deadline. In this situation, automation provided the answer to a smooth, fast migration. However, selecting the correct automation path can be a challenge.

Scientific Drilling tried to use SAP’s LSMW migration tool initially, but it is difficult to use for this purpose and any data errors can derail the data upload process. Using this tool, it took considerable time and effort to transfer material master data from just one of over 100 manufacturing plants. Looking to optimise the process and migrate the rest of its manufacturing data more effectively, the SAP IT team discovered Winshuttle’s data management software to automate the migration and support both ECC and S/4 HANA at the same time, without the need for any additional technical programming skills.

Adopting this software, the team was able to create data migration scripts quickly, and easily make any modifications needed along the way. This speed and its ease of use allowed Scientific Drilling to successfully migrate over 15 million master data records within the deadline while cleaning up its data in the process. The software also helps with ongoing data maintenance now Scientific Drilling is up and running with S/4HANA.

Of course, not all SAP users are working to such tight migration schedules and for a lot of organisations a gradual transition to S/4HANA makes a lot of sense. In this scenario automating data movement with the correct tools remains just as crucial and can often help businesses manage the migration themselves without the need for additional IT support.

Another Winshuttle customer, Imperial Logistics International, recognised from the outset that migrating its existing data to S/4HANA was going to be a slow and resource-heavy process. It took the plunge to introduce a uniform approach to SAP across its entire group of 80 subsidiaries and decided to migrate to S/4 HANA Finance upon the acquisition of another business.

The initial task of extracting data from SAP, processing it and loading it into S/4HANA proved to be extremely time-consuming so the organisation turned to Winshuttle to streamline the process. Due to the ease of use of the software, the accounting department was able to conduct the first successful migration on its own. It then migrated 34 companies (including 15 large ones) over to the new system in just five months. The software enabled it to create and test templates in just three to four days which would previously have taken them around six weeks to achieve manually.

Imperial Logistics was able to successfully optimise its processes because it really understood its data and was able to get fully involved in the migration process. All processes are now optimised, and core financial data is clean, easy to maintain and compliant.

Ultimately, the use of automation for the testing and data migration helped these businesses to accelerate their data moves, minimise business disruption and avoid increased costs and timelines not being met.

After a successful migration to S/4HANA it is even more important to not only keep the data clean but to implement efficient processes to manage the most important SAP master data. These new processes need to be in place from the beginning and therefore should also be included in the planning phase.

Migrating to S/4HANA is undoubtedly a complex process, but it needn’t be a complete struggle. With adequate time to plan the migration, optimising and streamlining processes alongside the use of automation tools to boost efficiency, a smooth, risk free transition can be achieved and enable organisations to benefit from a system designed to drive businesses forward.