Cloud Opinion South Africa

How to overcome the 6 biggest barriers to SAP cloud migration

Enterprise resource planning software provider, SAP, has set 2025 as the deadline for when it will terminate support for its ECC6 on-premise solution. However, despite the compelling advantages of the cloud, many local businesses are still nervous to modernise and migrate their SAP ERP systems.
Zelda Klaver
Zelda Klaver

For local organisations looking to migrate to more advanced SAP Hana systems in the cloud, 2025 may seem like a long way off. But the deadline shouldn’t be the driving force behind your migration strategy.

Cloud-based SAP Hana solutions offer businesses a vast array of benefits, as they look to harness the potential of digitisation and business transformation.

Many local companies cite a number of reasons for why they are hesitant to migrate, namely:

1. Uncertainty over cost vs business value

For CIOs looking to motivate the financial benefits of SAP migration programmes to their CEO and CFO, it’s essential to focus on the increased business value that the cloud can unlock.

Aside from new efficiencies and optimised business processes, organisations can introduce a number of new ‘frontier technologies’ to their operations – the likes of big data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), internet-of-things (IoT), software-defined networking and robotic process automation, to name a few.

From these advanced technologies can spring exciting new revenue streams and opportunities to evolve one’s business model – to reach new markets and develop new products and services.

It’s also well worth mentioning that, unlike traditional on-premise SAP configurations, cloud-based solutions allow firms to only pay for the resources they need (from an Opex perspective, rather than high-cost Capex investments). This gives one a very clear view of the return on technology investment, as one’s business grows.

2. Perceived complexity

By working with providers that have in-depth experience - both locally and globally - in successful SAP modernisation programmes, you’re able to avoid much of the complexity associated with your project.

How to overcome the 6 biggest barriers to SAP cloud migration
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Another way to remove some of the headaches is to consider Suite on Hana as a ‘first step’ in the migration journey. This retains your existing Enterprise Core Components and moves them to a SAP Hana database.

It allows you to capture many advantages (such as AI-infused data processing engines or bringing smart devices onto your network for proactive logistics management or predictive maintenance), but without needing an entire re-implementation of your SAP environment.

From there, one can evolve into the full-blown S/4 Hana solution.

3. Security concerns

It’s a fallacy to think that public cloud environments are inherently less secure than on-premises alternatives. In fact, with security top-of-mind, SAP Hana takes a comprehensive approach to security, firmly addressing everything from authentication, authorisation, logging, and encryption, to customisable tools for secure system setup, configuration and administration.

Of course, it’s essential to work with an integration partner that also places security at the top of its agenda, which has a strong track record and full international accreditations and certifications in the security space.

4. Risk concerns

Fearing potential downtime and disruption to business, some firms remain hesitant to embrace the cloud. To allay these worries, your technology partner should guarantee implementation timelines and delivery outcomes (supported by clear SLAs and fixed-price agreements).

In our case, we even take this a step further, guaranteeing clients cost-savings on the hosting and running of the SAP environment, and the commitment that clients can ‘quit on incident’ if there is ever an interruption in services, offering to move them to another provider at zero cost.

As you consider your migration journey, look for a partner that has these high levels of confidence, and is capable of walking with you on an end-to-end journey – implementing, maintaining, and ensuring that you continue to get maximum value from your SAP investments.

5. Data residency confusion

With the forthcoming launch of hyperscale data centres on South African shores, many of the worries about data sovereignty and residency will fall away.

Your ICT partner should allow you the flexibility to migrate applications and data between different cloud platforms, ensuring that any sensitive data is held on-shore, while gaining the cost advantages of global hosting for other services.

6. Losing the customised elements

Over the years, many organisations have developed a number of bespoke customisations to their on-premise SAP systems. This can be both a blessing and a curse – while it may increase the usefulness, it can also become a maintenance nightmare.

For those organisations looking to retain a high-level of customisation, we can once again look to Suite on Hana as a way to retain custom components, but still take advantage of new cloud-powered technologies.

Keep in mind, however, that SAP Hana allows for a rich array of customisations, extensions and modifications, allowing you to create them in such a way that they continue to operate seamlessly with every update to the overall system. This significantly reduces the ongoing maintenance requirements for highly-customised SAP implementations.

Ultimately, the migration of one’s core ERP systems to the cloud could be a massive catalyst for business transformation, and so it certainly shouldn't be seen as a ‘grudge purchase’.
To ensure the smoothest, most cost-effective migration, look for an ICT partner that takes a highly-structured approach - including thorough cloud readiness assessments, well-constructed migration plans, and the depth of expertise to make sure you truly benefit from the full extent of SAP Hana's potential.

About Zelda Klaver

Zelda Klaver is head of sales - North at T-Systems SA.

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