Skip to main content

S4HANA Primer: Change Considerations Supporting Migration

This blog will define SAP and highlight the technical and change management considerations from the perspective of a CARA consultant on a CARA engagement.

Who is SAP?

SAP SE is a German multinational software corporation that makes enterprise software to manage business operations and customer relations. The company is especially known for its Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software. SAP is an acronym for Systems, Applications, and Products.

Companies use SAP to integrate different business processes across various functions, such as purchasing goods and services, fulfilling customer orders and collecting payments, importing and exporting goods, manufacturing and distributing products, financial reporting, and maintaining Master Data, which is core to their operations.

SAP’s Journey to S/4HANA

SAP introduced R/1 enterprise software in 1972 and released R/2 for the mainframe in 1979. The next generation was R/3 for the client/server that was released in 1992. SAP introduced mySAP for the world wide web in 2000. It was an e-business software integration tool that delivers content to the user based on his or her role in an enterprise. SAP introduced HANA in 2011. It is optimized for SAP’s in-memory database known as SAP HANA. SAP has continued to enhance this suite of products with real-time analysis and computing, workflow approvals, self-service tasks, and cloud offerings.

“A comprehensive change management strategy ensures people engage and support the change and implement the behavior to sustain the change.”



S/4 HANA is the successor of SAP R/3 and is SAP’s ERP system for large enterprises. S/4 HANA is a solution specifically designed to run on HANA and helps companies move away from traditional ERP systems towards providing users real-time decision support.

SAP HANA is comprised of three key components:
1. In-memory computing engine
2. Database technology
3. Single database platform

To learn more about these three key components, refer to the following diagram.

SAP HANA three components diagram
Source: M. Schroer

What Must Companies Consider When Migrating to S/4HANA?

From a Technical Perspective…
Companies must consider their migration and implementation strategy as described below.

  • Brownfield or Greenfield Implementation
    • A Brownfield implementation means the company is migrating to SAP S/4HANA without re-implementation and without disruption to existing business processes. However, it does allow for re-evaluation of any existing process flows and any customizations that were made to the system.
    • A Greenfield implementation or Vanilla implementation is the traditional way of implementing an SAP system. The team, which consists of both consultants and key users, starts from best practices and designs the final ERP solution taking into account the team’s joint experience.
  •  On-premise or Managed Cloud Migration
    • An on-premise migration means all of the SAP hardware is located within the companies’ own data center (as opposed to in the cloud).
    • A cloud migration means the company moves its SAP applications, data, and technology to a managed cloud service.

From a Change Management Perspective…
Companies must consider the people, process, and technology impacts their employees and partners to ensure they are ready, willing, and able to adopt the move to S/4HANA. Outlined below is the change management strategy CARA designed for a recent SAP client.

Sponsorship | Stakeholder Assessment | Communications | Training & Documentation | Hyper-care Support

CARA designed activities and tools to support the program’s vision and objectives. Leaders were aligned on the Change Management strategy and benefits and the change agent roles and responsibilities. A program overview video was developed featuring key leaders describing the key aspects of the program – Who, What, Where, When, and Why. In addition, visioning and elevator speech talking points were developed for leaders.

Stakeholder Assessment
When SAP users complete actions in their SAP system, their keystrokes are governed by two components:

  1. Transaction codes (Tcodes) – a short cut key that provides direct access to the desired transaction from anywhere within the SAP system.
  2. Security roles – governs what data and processes each user can access inside the SAP system.

When migrating to S/4HANA, each client will experience changes to their transaction codes (Tcodes), security roles, the look and feel of SAP screens, and changes to business processes.

CARA conducted a job/role impact/risk assessment to identify the impacted stakeholders, assess benefits based on their job/role, and identify potential risks.

CARA designed a robust communication strategy to support 12,000 global SAP users. The goal was to provide the right message, at the right time, to the right audience using the right vehicle. In addition to the sponsorship artifacts mentioned above, the following communication artifacts were developed:

  • Communication plan
  • Stakeholder support site
  • Three-level stakeholder impact summary
  • Monthly newsletter and change agent events
  • IT sponsored system demos to illustrate system changes

Training and Documentation
The typical SAP user is supported by many standard operating procedure documents (SOPs) and training artifacts that govern how they use the SAP system.

Some SAP clients do not completely employ global processes. This results in a larger number of SOPs and training media items to update when they migrate to S4/HANA because they have to update the global processes and local documents that are location or country-specific.

The CARA Stakeholder Assessment identified how changes to the client’s transaction codes (Tcodes), security roles, business processes, and the look and feel of SAP screens impacted the client’s SOPs and training media.

CARA developed a robust media tracker to track the development/updates to over 1500 SOP and training artifacts. The tracker highlighted dependencies between development teams and provided for easy resource analysis and allocation. It also included a dashboard to report development/update progress to leadership.

CARA partnered with the client’s training team to develop a global training deployment plan that included self-service training and recorded webinars.

Hyper-care Support
CARA partnered with the client’s program team to develop a hyper-care support strategy that included:

  • Dashboard and metrics for leadership
  • Launch Communication plan
  • Daily huddles for the program team
  • Q&A conference calls to support change agents post Launch
  • Q&A mailbox/triage strategy to support users/partners post-launch
  • Supplemental training for users/partners

Successful SAP S/4HANA implementations require the client’s organization to move from the current to the future state. However, clients don’t change, people change. The CARA change management consultant assessed the stakeholders and developed a communication, training, and support strategy to ensure their successful adoption of S/4HANA. By applying the right combination of change management activities and tools, the CARA change management consultant ensured the client’s people engaged and supported the change and then implemented the required skills and behavior to sustain the change.

Michael Schroer, Organizational Change Management Strategist, The CARA Group, Inc.

Author Michael Schroer, Organizational Change Management Strategist, The CARA Group, Inc.

More posts by Michael Schroer, Organizational Change Management Strategist, The CARA Group, Inc.