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Building A Master Data Strategy For S4 That Stands The Test Of Time

If you are considering a data management and/or process integration project you need a solid strategy. A timely example might be an upgrade from ECC to S4HANA.  You will need a roadmap, a project plan, accelerator tools to ease the way, and the right partner.  Many SAP customers are ready to take advantage of the many benefits and improvements offered in S4. But migrating to S4 can be an enormous task.  The more complex and integrated (or non-integrated) your environment is, the more you need to include a solid data strategy. It takes a solid migration plan that looks at all the variables to ensure you will not negatively impact your day-to-day work.  There are two common options when upgrading or migrating any solution which is either the Big Bang or a Step-by-Step approach. Both have pros and cons which you need to understand before you pull the trigger.  You also need a roadmap that shows your current systems, data, and data flows as well as a timetable on what needs to be migrated and cleaned, what does not and what systems need to be replaced and when.  If you are using either a 3rd party PLM system like Teamcenter with ECC or using SAP PLM functionality your task gets a bit harder.  Since we started as a PLM company, let’s have a look at this from a PLM perspective. Here are a few not so simple things to consider. 

Create your data strategy – Knowing your data and systems and having an up-to-date system architecture document is invaluable for any project but it is a REQUIREMENT for all data service projects. A map of the systems, in-out data flows, and processes.  This becomes the roadmap to build the project plan on what needs to be migrated, replaced, and when. 

Reduce Complexity – Moving to S4 from ECC is a big project so break it down into smaller chunks and address the chunks first. How you split up the chucks will depend on what functionality you are using today; what systems are integrated and how complex your data streams are. Chunking will help identify and group the variables and make it easier to organize and address the issues.  After you address each chunk you can then sew them back together to attack the bigger complex picture. 

Validate Functionality - Be sure the functionality you are using today is available in S4. Nothing makes users revolt more than taking away what they need and use today without providing a solid replacement. This especially goes for PLM users. Be sure to also validate all the back-end functionality your users have today to ensure you can still make and sell your products. Validate all functionality with SAP or get the roadmap indicating what will be available when. SAP are the experts in S4HANA so don’t forget to include them. 

Be Process Focused – Look at everything from a process perspective. What are the processes you are using today in ECC and your integrated systems?  What are the processes you need in S4 and your integrated systems?  Then start the mapping of how to get from one to the other. Be sure all your business processes are covered in S4. Some may no longer exist or will be replaced with new solutions.  You need to check them all off.  Business processes are the arteries of your business from which your data flows. 

Find and Use Accelerators – Take advantage of accelerator tools that were created to help you minimize the impact on the business during your project. Here are a few things to think about. 

  1. Unless you are a very controlled and contained ECC environment the Big Bang approach at the start may not work for you. You will need to use the Step-by-Step approach first which means simplifying the landscape and retiring some or all legacy systems before you move to S4. It can be done as part of your S4 upgrade project but beware it has its own scope and risks. 
  2. Many customers have had a mixed environment which could include all of the different SAP user interfaces (SAP GUI, NetWeaver, Fiori) as well as those specific to the CAD and Engineering users like SAP PLM Web UI, CDESK, and ECTR. All your new business processes will need to run across all of them if they are employed. It’s very important to be able to technically include all your needed users in the processes they need to be involved in. We have a tool for this called LeverX IPS. 
  3. Depending on the duration of your project. you may need to automate key business processes to allow the users to work efficiently in a mixed environment. Too many manual processes will lead to data issues over time. Once you identify which process needs to be extended you can use business rules to drive the automation of these processes. An example might be extending your Material Maters and BOMs to several plants at a time that is running either ECC or S4 or both.  We have this tool called BMAX. 
  4. Another consideration is your business process needs to support more than just Materials, BOMs, and Documents. The processes do not end in engineering. The end result of all your business process is a product, not just a drawing or CAD model. Your business processes need to support all the SAP objects in any SAP UI to ensure you include all the downstream S4 users.  We have this tool called LeverX IPS. 
  5. A very important ingredient in a business process accelerator tool is its flexibility and traceability. Since your business processes will need to run across both ECC and S4 and also non-SAP systems for some duration you will need to make adjustments as changes are made to the landscape. If things go wrong you will also need traceability to be able to backtrack and identify and correct errant changes. All of these issues will surface during your project so investing in the accelerator tools will not just save money as well as unneeded aggravation.  We have this functionality as well called VeloX. 
  6. The business processes need to be integrated into your engineering tools. Processes can start anywhere but many need to get to engineering if there are changes are needed to product designs. Engineers like their tools and they want to work on them as much as possible.  If you force them to use others they will count the button pushes and we all know how that will end. Avoid at all costs. 
  7. Finally, take this project as the opportunity to clean house and standardize what data and processes you can to make life easier for the whole organization. There is no better excuse for cleaning data and correcting the things that can be fixed as part of the overall project. What was a big hassle if done standalone pales in comparison to a full S4 upgrade or migration? Get them in now if it makes sense for your organization. 

These are just a few of the things to consider about data and processes as you think about a move to S4.  If you have questions about starting a project or have already started your move it’s a good time to discuss what accelerator tools are available to make your team and your business’s journey a lot easier.  Saving time and cost by focusing on business processes.