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S/4 Engineering

The digital transformation of many SAP customers focuses on the migration to S/4. In view of scarce resources, there is a need for efficient implementation of the migration and subsequent upgrades.
Kerstin Eder, SOA People
March 3, 2023
This text has been automatically translated from German to English.

SAP S/4 Hana migrations and updates with scarce resources

Mainstream maintenance for core ECC 6.0 and SAP Business Suite 7 applications ends in December 2027, leaving many companies with the challenge of migrating with scarce resources at minimal cost. The pandemic, ongoing supply chain difficulties, and geopolitical changes around the world have in some cases delayed planned S/4 migrations at some companies, as well as further limiting resources. 

Last year's DSAG Investment Report found that of the 198 member companies surveyed, 75 percent still use SAP ERP or Business Suite 7, 32 percent use S/4 on-premises, and a small percentage rely on S/4 private cloud (6 percent) or public cloud (2 percent). Gartner estimated last year that around 70 percent of Business Suite 7 and ECC customers would like to switch to S/4 by mid-2023 and almost a quarter by 2025 at the latest. 

The migration wave resulting from these figures has to be managed within a few years. Each of these migration projects requires, among other things, business process experts for evaluating improvements and added values of S/4, functional experts for configuration, and various technical teams for migrating interfaces, enhancements, and customer-specific content. A survey of DSAG members in June 2022 shows, not surprisingly, that 63 percent of respondents consider internal skills and staff shortages to be by far the biggest challenge in innovation projects.

Deadline 2030

SAP offers a maintenance extension until 2030 at a surcharge of 2 percent. This may be a temporary stopgap for those who cannot implement the migration in time. However, the big disadvantage is competitiveness. For example, those on the last ECC version, EHP 8 of 2015, are using an old core system with no update or new functionality. If this system were not replaced until 2030, the company would be around 15 years behind technologically in the core system.

At the same time, these SAP customers pay annual maintenance without being able to use many of the profitable innovations. From the first S/4 release 1511 to S/4 Hana 2021, a total of 2868 new functionalities have been provided by SAP. With S/4 release 2022, another 873 innovations have been added. Without these innovations, SAP's existing customers are missing out on opportunities for continuous business transformation, increased productivity, and simplification of business processes.

Maintenance and basic work will be a challenge with Innovation, Maintenance and Extended Line - the construct should then exist until 2040.

Eight S/4 releases have already been issued since 2015. The next will be S/4 Release 2023, from which there will be a new S/4 Hana version for on-premises every two years in the future. The mainstream maintenance of a release then consists of two phases: the Innovation Line, where new functionalities are provided via the Feature Package Stacks (FPS), and the subsequent Maintenance Line, where changes are available via Support Package Stacks (SPS). On the Innovation Track, one thus only remains with regular updates every two years.

According to the Statista Research Department, around 20,000 customers worldwide are already on S/4 at the end of the second quarter of 2022. The releases S/4 1511, 1610 and 1709 are already no longer covered by Enterprise Support. For version 2022, maintenance will end in December 2027, and for version 2023, the new deadline will then be 2030. Analogous to Extended Maintenance for ECC, SAP offers a maintenance extension for S/4 on-prem customers for a surcharge of 4 percent. Upgrades to S/4 Hana can thus also be deferred. However, in addition to reduced innovation and competitiveness, experience has shown that delaying upgrades to S/4 is also unattractive for companies from a commercial perspective. It can therefore be assumed that the majority of companies using S/4 on-premises will almost certainly want to update within the regular maintenance period of their S/4 version. These required S/4 updates will thus meet the migration wave. In addition, companies that want to remain in the Innovation Line will continue to update to the latest version every other year after 2030.

Options for action

The core of the classic approach is a consulting project. In exceptional cases, when major optimization steps are necessary, this is a new implementation project "on the greenfield" (Greenfield), which is also associated with very large resource requirements on all sides. As a rule, however, a conversion of the existing system into an S/4 system has proven successful (brownfield). In this case, the existing systems are first transferred one-to-one to S/4 Hana, and then the desired optimizations are carried out. Although this approach still means a significant project for customers and partners, it offers the advantage that the innovations of S/4 can be used in some places, even if not all optimization discussions have been completed yet.

Rise, Abap on BTP (Steampunk), Feature Flags Service (Toggle) - every time, its suitable Technology

If one would now like to optimize the use of resources even further, automation tools such as Mignow are available. On the one hand, this SAP-certified solution uses the Software Update Manager (SUM) and thus enables a true conversion of the system. In addition, upstream and downstream processes are automated to such an extent that the project team can concentrate on the more complex special topics. Viewed over the entire process, this results in automation of over 60 percent, depending on the project, and even 95 percent in the area of custom code conversion (Z namespace). 

In order to get the double burden of migrations and updates under control, it is crucial that this form of automation also covers the regular updates of the Innovation Line. Based on the above and other migration options, it is therefore necessary to check in each individual case with a migration expert which approach and operating option is optimal, taking into account the individual initial situation. 

2023 will be complicated: SAP wants to position itself properly for 2025 and beyond with a consolidated S/4 Hana. (All graphics: SAP)

What is certain, however, is that the sooner companies are aware of how they want to position themselves in SAP S/4 Hana in the future and transform to the cloud, the more room for maneuver they will have. A core system that is largely up to date is ultimately the key to the latest innovations and, as a result, to greater competitiveness. This is also confirmed by the Chairman of the Board of the German-speaking SAP User Group e (DSAG e. V.) Jens Hungershausen, who highlighted in an October 2022 press release that cloud technologies have the potential to "help companies or organizations to better keep pace with change.

Kerstin Eder, SOA People

Kerstin Eder is SAP Sales Representative at SOA People

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Working on the SAP basis is crucial for successful S/4 conversion. 

This gives the Competence Center strategic importance for existing SAP customers. Regardless of the S/4 Hana operating model, topics such as Automation, Monitoring, Security, Application Lifecycle Management and Data Management the basis for S/4 operations.

For the second time, E3 magazine is organizing a summit for the SAP community in Salzburg to provide comprehensive information on all aspects of S/4 Hana groundwork. All information about the event can be found here:

SAP Competence Center Summit 2024


Event Room, FourSide Hotel Salzburg,
At the exhibition center 2,
A-5020 Salzburg

Event date

June 5 and 6, 2024

Regular ticket:

€ 590 excl. VAT


Event Room, Hotel Hilton Heidelberg,
Kurfürstenanlage 1,
69115 Heidelberg

Event date

28 and 29 February 2024


Regular ticket
EUR 590 excl. VAT
The organizer is the E3 magazine of the publishing house AG. The presentations will be accompanied by an exhibition of selected SAP partners. The ticket price includes the attendance of all lectures of the Steampunk and BTP Summit 2024, the visit of the exhibition area, the participation in the evening event as well as the catering during the official program. The lecture program and the list of exhibitors and sponsors (SAP partners) will be published on this website in due time.