Plaut Australia recently converted its on-premise SAP systems on HANA to S/4HANA 1610 – and lived to tell the tale. Technical lead Rob Meredith gives his tips on how to optimise the process.
Plaut is SAP’s S/4HANA Light House Partner in ANZ. A key part of our commitment is to arm our consultants with access to, and the ability to work on, SAP’s cutting-edge products and solutions; to cut our own teeth on the technology.
At Plaut, we have built a lab with HANA infrastructure and a full suite of on premise SAP applications running on HANA databases, and we recently completed a full conversion to S/4HANA 1610 OP.
We know that the web is full of helpful ‘tips’ written by marketers, but what about the technical people – the ones that have to complete the conversions? Well, we sat down with Rob Meredith, Plaut’s technical lead and got him to give us the real insights.
- Technical roadmap is crucial. Understand that activating business functions and/or installing SAP add-on software components can become a roadblock to S/4HANA conversions. If you are planning OS/DB refreshes, then look to include Unicode conversions and/or HANA DB migrations if S/4HANA is on your SAP roadmap.
- Everything is changing, fast. While a technical roadmap is crucial, SAP are feverishly working to remove barriers to conversion. They are porting previously unsupported add-on functionality to the core product and providing methods for uninstalling unsupported add-ons.
We experienced multiple no-go situations in Maintenance Planner for months. Then we achieved a successful run, as the S/4HANA conversion process became accepting of our source system’s status. Again, technical roadmap is crucial – but the game is always changing.
- Get prepped … SAP tools are freely available and can be used well in advance to prepare for an upcoming S/4HANA system conversion:
- SAP’s Maintenance Planner tool will give you an early indication of your system’s readiness for an S/4HANA conversion. Checks include HANA DB, Unicode status, software components (including add-ons) and activated business functions.
- Custom Code Analyser tools can be used to identify any custom code that will need to be adjusted in preparation for an S/4HANA conversion. This provides customers with an insight into the effort required to adjust their code to an S/4 compliant state.
- S/4HANA Pre-Conversion Checks. This is where the bulk of the preparation effort is spent. Depending on source system state, you may be required to implement hundreds of outstanding OSS notes to include the latest pre-conversion check details in your source system. After running the pre-conversion checks, you will be presented with a report detailing which functional areas require adjustments.
- Familiar, reliable tools. SAP’s Software Update Manager (SUM) tool is used to perform the S/4HANA system conversion. The technical process of performing an S/4HANA system conversion is very similar to a classic SAP upgrade, so when issues are encountered Basis consultants should already be familiar with the troubleshooting tools available in SUM.
- Tune your system. Those who have been through an SAP upgrade in recent times would surely appreciate the benefits of SAP’s downtime-minimised approach and the upgrade tuning options available to technical consultants?
Well, the good news is that these features are also available for S/4HANA system conversions. The I/O bottlenecks that have hampered SAP upgrades in years gone by have now largely been removed due to the improved performance of the HANA database platform.
However, careful consideration must now be given to the tuning options applied to the shadow system instance during the system conversion process. We found that removing the I/O bottleneck at the DB layer resulted in increased CPU/RAM consumption on the application server hosting the shadow system as less time was spent waiting for I/O operations to complete.
- Bring in the functional folk. In the past, SAP upgrades have largely been the domain of Basis consultants. Leave us alone for a week and we’ll deliver you a technically upgraded system that’s ready for testing by Monday. Due to the functional preparation and post-conversion tasks required during an S/4HANA system conversion, the functional consultants now also get to join in on the weekend fun! Following the technical system conversion there are many SPRO-driven functional activation and data migration tasks that need to be factored into the post-processing task list during go-live.
- Make it look sweet. You know UI can’t be overlooked during an S/4HANA system conversion when SAP produce a dedicated guide on the topic. End users will no longer access SAP via the SAP Logon client, so careful consideration needs to be given to the UI aspects of an S/4HANA system conversion. It is recommended to provision dedicated front-end servers to host the SAP Fiori launchpad and the individual apps that will be used by your business to perform their daily duties.
- Notes, notes, notes … OSS corrections were required during the pre-conversion checks, then during and after the technical system conversion. Depending on the state of your source system, it’s possible that hundreds of OSS notes may need to be implemented to support your S/4HANA system conversion. While this seems like quite an impost, it’s comforting to know that SAP have been working hard to resolve issues that have previously been identified before, during and after S/4HANA system conversions. No doubt the number of OSS notes will reduce as the patch levels of source/target systems increase and the conversion process matures.
- Ask Plaut to complete a feasibility study with you. Given the complexities to be considered during the initial planning and preparation phases of an S/4HANA system conversion, it is recommended to first conduct a feasibility study before attempting a proof of concept S/4HANA system conversion. SAP’s Maintenance Planner tool plays a key role here in providing you with an early indication as to whether or not your source system will support a conversion to S/4HANA. If Maintenance Planner gives you the green light, perform a proof of concept S/4HANA system conversion on a sandpit environment that can be used to showcase S/4HANA’s potential and support business cases.
- Synergy, cohesion, etc, etc (insert all buzzwords for teamwork here). These might all seem like buzzwords to technical project managers, but they’ve never been more relevant. A cohesive team spanning both functional and technical skillsets is mandatory when embarking on an S/4HANA system conversion project. Also, given the end user impact and training requirements, strong relationships with key user groups is a must.
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