SAP announced back in 2019 that it would end maintenance for its enterprise resource planning (ERP) central component (ECC) and other legacy products by 2025, later extending this deadline to 2027.

Ultimately, this means that SAP will no longer add features to ECC and, perhaps more importantly, it will longer issue bug fixes or patches, except perhaps in more serious cases. While 2027 seems far away, the fact is that this deadline looms and will come around faster than retailers think, especially considering how long it can take to find and implement a replacement solution before support ends.

For this reason, many retailers are starting to make the move to SAP S/4HANA ahead of the 2027 deadline. However, migrating to S/4HANA requires careful consideration and, while it may be tempting to put migration on the backburner, doing so will ultimately shorten the available transition time, putting unnecessary pressure on retailers and their support teams, and make the move messier and less value-adding.

Making a smooth transition to S/4HANA

As they make the move, retailers may have preconceived ideas that there is only one right approach to achieve a smooth transition. While this is not necessarily the case, how retailers transition to S/4HANA and the cloud depends on their end goal and understanding of what matters most to the ERP architecture.

For example, if organisations want to make fast, precise, and impactful decisions with accessible, analytics-ready data, then data analytics needs to form a critical part of the data migration plan. This means that retailers need to first determine their objectives and then work their way backward. One critical component of this is understanding what data needs to make the move to the cloud and S/4HANA.

Retailers have access to high volumes of business-critical data, much of which needs to be brought across into S/4HANA. This includes data on stock and suppliers as well as valuable customer information. Failing to move this data across could potentially impact on business efficiencies or even customer service and relationships.

To make the move to S/4HANA and the cloud more efficient and beneficial for all stakeholders, including customers and suppliers that engage with the business, retailers must be able to effectively harness the power of data migration. To achieve this, they need to invest the necessary time and resources into developing a dedicated data migration project that will ensure that moved data is high quality and will support fast-moving business and operational goals into the future.

Data storage can be costly; however, failing to migrate and support historical data may not always be a viable solution for retailers. Taking the time to carefully assess what data retailers have on file and identifying what data needs to be migrated versus archived is a critical part of the move to cloud and S/4HANA.

Specifically, reducing the amount of data that is migrated can deliver benefits to the bottom line by both reducing potential infrastructure costs reducing potential downtime for the business in the cutover event itself. This is essential for retailers as extended downtime can be costly, with every hour of downtime potentially costing retailers thousands of dollars. For example, SNP has helped retailers like Kelloggs and Coles move to S/4HANA and the cloud with near-zero downtime, ensuring there was minimal disruption to operations during the transition.

Investing in a carefully considered data migration plan can help retailers to avoid unnecessary cost, time, and risk when carrying over data from their existing ERP system and let them make the most of S/4HANA. And, using a migration approach that prioritises near-zero downtime and minimal disruption is crucial. However, this can be a complex and time-consuming undertaking for under-resourced and time-poor retailers. It can also take away from their ability to service customers and deliver consistent customer experiences throughout the assessment process.

Engaging with a data transformation specialist can help retailers to analyse their historical data and identify exactly how much and what type of data needs to move before making the transition to the cloud and S/4HANA. It can also help retailers better prepare for their ERP software upgrade and help them achieve a carefully planned move to cloud and S/4HANA sooner, rather than later, to maintain compliance over the supply chain and maximise the benefits of ERP.

Brent Paterson is managing director for Australia and New Zealand at SNP.