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UKISUG 2021: S/4 Hana skills deficit and legacy custom code hamper migration

On the opening day of its 2021 conference, the UK and Ireland SAP User Group unveils member research showing concerns that an S/4 Hana skills deficit and a surfeit of legacy customisation is retarding migration to the Hana-based ERP

The UK and Ireland SAP User Group (UKISUG), on the opening day of its 2021 Connect conference in Birmingham, disclosed research that demonstrated concerns about a skills deficiency in respect of moving from the supplier’s ECC ERP system to its newer S/4 Hana.

User group members are also burdened with an excess of customised code that is making S/4 migration projects much more difficult than anticipated, with 34% of members are running into unexpectedly thorny challenges.

Paul Cooper, chairman of the user group, said in his opening keynote at the conference, which is being held in person for the first time since 2019, that SAP customers are underestimating the change management side of their S/4 projects.

The group’s 2021 member survey found that just over a quarter of their affiliating organisations are using S/4 Hana, compared with 16% in 2020. On the keynote stage, Michiel Verhoeven, managing director for SAP UK and Ireland, said that around 35% of the supplier’s customers are on S/4 globally.

For his own part, some 18 months into the UK and Ireland managing director role, Verhoeven said that he was driving a change in culture from just sales to focusing on customer success. He referred to his background in consulting and services  at KPMG and Booz Allen Hamilton, as well as to working with SAP user organisations in the Asia-Pacific Japan region prior to taking the UK and Ireland helm.

For the UK and Ireland group, 90% of those on S/4 said that they were satisfied with it, and just over half (52%) pronounced their “implementation experience” as good or excellent.

In a statement, Cooper said: “Despite the pandemic delaying some organisations’ plans to move to SAP S/4Hana, user adoption continues to grow. The 2027 maintenance deadline for ECC 6.0 may still feel some time away, but organisations do need to think about if and when they do move.

“A lack of available skills and the quality of training remain a concern. It will be up to the entire SAP ecosystem to work together to make sure organisations have the support and skills they need to make their implementation a success.”

The research found that more than a third (34%) rated the level of training provided by their SAP partner during implementation as poor or very poor. Some 38% of respondents said the supplier fails to provide customers with enough technical resources and training to help them manage the flagship S/4 system, which is based on the Hana in-memory database.

Customisations that customers, or their previous or current partners, have built into their existing SAP ERP estates is proving a bugbear.

The research indicated that a large majority (92%) of organisations see existing customisations as problematic to their paths to S/4. Some 28% plan to keep their existing customisations, 58% said they plan to rebuild them on the SAP Business Technology Platform, and 12% plan to remove them.

Out of those organisations yet to move to SAP S/4Hana, 71% were concerned a lack of available skills will slow down their migration.

Nevertheless, a significant majority of the 352 SAP user organisations are committed to S/4, with almost three-quarters (74%) either using it or planning to make the move.

Cooper added: “For many organisations, existing customisations are the daunting part of moving to SAP S/4 Hana. It is therefore important that organisations carry out a strategic review to consider the pros and cons of keeping and rebuilding customisations versus using standard functionality. This should be a key part of the change management process, which is critical to the success of any SAP S/Hana project. 

For the supplier, Max Wessel, chief learning officer at SAP, said: “Every day, we see the growing demand for SAP skills. This is especially true for skills related to SAP S/4 Hana across our customer environments and partner ecosystem. That’s why SAP has invested heavily to expand the opportunities to build the skills needed to be successful in our ecosystem.

“Just recently during SAP TechEd SAP 2021, SAP launched its new SAP Learning site that includes a refreshed experience and an array of learning content for developers to make learning more accessible than ever before.

“In the past 12 months our learning offerings – the majority of which focus on supporting organisations to get the most out of their SAP S/4Hana systems – has driven an increase of [more than] 30% in consultants with a valid SAP S/4Hana certification,” he said.

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