Roadmap Realities: a guide for systems integrators to power up conversion projects


Where would we be as a software partner if we didn’t listen to our customers or take notice of industry trends? Through talking with CIOs, senior IT professionals, and SAP leads, it’s clear their top priorities are saving costs, navigating the effects of COVID-19, and — with SAP’s decision to end support for SAP Business Suite 7 by 2027 — the conversion to SAP S/4HANA.

Many SAP IT leads see the final challenge as the most daunting task. But with effective partners and SAP-native technology in place, it’s simple to create win-win outcomes: both during and after conversion.

Where are we now?

Many organizations — especially in the public sector, healthcare, and pharmaceutical — are busy implementing their digital strategies and actively looking at ways to convert to SAP S/4HANA.

Conversion presents a huge opportunity to digitize, with systems integrators (SIs), SAP Partners, and skilled consultants in high demand. Armed with best-practice methodologies, they play a key role, especially for large companies with heavily-customized SAP back ends and lots of custom code.

Some of these organizations have more custom code than SAP ships out of the box, and for them, the move to SAP S/4HANA is far from trivial. They need SIs and experienced partners to help them with a fundamental challenge: what to do with all the custom code? They need to choose what to keep in their custom code migration to SAP S/4HANA and how to renovate code so it maximizes the technology advancements coming with SAP’s new in-memory-powered ERP solution.

The custom code dilemma

SAP leads have to decide whether they still need all the custom code they’ve relied on to protect their competitive advantage. They must ask themselves:

  • will the code still work as-is in a SAP S/4HANA environment?
  • will moving it along provide value or just increase technical debt?
  • can the code be renovated to maximize SAP S/4HANA’s underlying technology stack?

Start with a thorough gap analysis — a common practice in every methodology offered by SIs. This will determine what code needs to be kept, renovated or thrown out, as well as shining a light on what is still missing that needs to be addressed via build or buy.

Whatever the direction of their cloud strategy or broader digital transformation (DX) agenda, organizations wishing to keep and renovate their custom code need to carefully balance the pros and cons. In all cases, SAP endorses “keeping the core clean”, to cut down technical debt, and establish a stricter “separation of concerns” (SoC) for smooth sailing.

Those wishing to convert custom code on a larger scale need a simple, near-automated way to renovate. It’s the only way to scale and manage the costs.

Avoid innovation paralysis during conversion

Your custom code migration to SAP S/4HANA is just one priority. SAP leads know they also need to leverage their in-house teams’ expertise and innovate in parallel to the conversion process. That means producing business-critical apps at pace, and within an evolving environment.

In-house ABAP development teams have a key role to play, as they possess business process know-how and thorough understanding of the workings of SAP business backends. Provided with the right tools, they can lead the process of converting custom code and build a new ‘digital foundation’.

Neptune Software’s DX Platform (DXP) is the key ingredient. It has an SAP-centric module embedded within the ABAP stack. This zero-footprint toolset blends seamlessly into the known environment and allows the ABAP dev team to port and renovate existing custom-code in a near-automated fashion, while exposing any business functionality as APIs. DXP enables model-driven UI development for Fiori and UI5 apps, and due to its graphical modelling tools, developers don’t require specialist knowledge in HTML5 or Javascript.

This means ABAP developers can develop custom apps using SAP’s strategic technology stack from within the digital core – without needing any additional platform, tools, or skillset. At the same time, the APIs future-proof your efforts, enabling you to develop new apps now – in parallel to the ongoing SAP S/4HANA implementation project – within ECC, with the option to continue to use them with minimal adjustments needed for SAP S/4HANA.

Simply put; using their existing skills, your workforce can develop apps in a future-proof way, in parallel to your ongoing SAP S/4HANA implementation.

Could this be the end of bi-modal IT?

In the medium-to-large business and enterprise space, there are usually two IT camps: SAP and non-SAP. The first is typically associated with “keeping the lights on” while the latter is seen as the innovators in areas like cloud and IoT.

At Neptune Software, we believe both camps need to work together to holistically tackle a company’s digital transformation and continuously drive business outcomes by building custom apps in an industrialized fashion. This aligns perfectly with SAP’s vision of the intelligent enterprise and confirms “bi-modal IT” as an outdated concept.

What should CIOs on their SAP S/4HANA journey consider?

To ensure a smooth transition to SAP S/4HANA without sacrificing innovation, first establish a strategic development platform that will enable custom development in line with your overall corporate technology strategy.

  • If SAP S/4HANA is your digital core, choose the best-integrated solution that makes the most out of the skillsets you already have in-house, and aligns with your overall future direction.
  • Neptune Software’s ‘app factory’ approach means the more custom code and differentiating apps you produce, the less each will cost.

Earn and maintain C-Suite support

Modern IT transformation projects don’t produce big-bang results overnight, and your business can’t afford to be idle during such a lengthy conversion project. SAP leads need to deliver continuous small wins by way of innovative digital solutions to keep key stakeholders and executive sponsors onside.

They also need to demonstrate efficiency breakthroughs. Software is a key enabler for streamlining business processes and building differentiators. Sometimes standardization is the right approach; yet sometimes ‘prior art’ doesn’t cut it. Combining SAP S/4HANA with a strategic and modern RAD platform provides the right mix. But without people who know and understand your business processes, the best systems and platforms count for nothing. Including the right team of developers is vital for a successful SAP S/4HANA transition. Think “people plus platform” and you’re on the right track.

Choose the right development platform

Before moving to SAP S/4HANA, prepare your architecture with a low code, rapid development platform that has a comprehensive toolset for designing, building, deploying and managing multi-channel enterprise apps. This will allow you to fully leverage all the business functionality residing in SAP backend systems and connect it to other systems and technology within your enterprise. Make sure the platform caters to the existing skillset and established tooling of your in-house IT teams. And choose the technology that will complement a ‘build and buy’ approach.

Above all, be brave in your SAP S/4HANA conversion: keep the core clean, don’t settle for second best, and embrace a scalable custom code approach for areas where you want to differentiate.

With DXP you can establish an app factory to do just that. It’s time for you to innovate on your own terms.

Key take aways

  • Begin an examination of your custom code with a gap analysis. What do you need to keep, renovate, or remove?
  • Handle the custom code migration to SAP S/4HANA.
  • Keep your digital core clean, but don’t limit yourself to standard solutions.
  • Use your in-house expertise to build differentiating custom solutions as needed.
  • Avoid innovation paralysis with a rapid app development platform.
  • Leverage your in-house expertise with a platform that gets ABAP and web / full-stack developers working together.
  • Gain and maintain executive sponsor buy-in with regular, tangible signs of your success.

About the Author

Christoph Garms

Christoph Garms

Managing Director

For Christoph, the key to successful digital change lies in the right technical tools. His vision as Managing Director of Neptune Software in Germany is to bridge the gap between business and IT and to move the DACH market towards a true digital transformation. With his cross-industry expertise, Christoph is certain that this is a question of digitalizing from process to process, creating a new work culture with agile methods and cross-functional teams. As a graduate software architect and with extensive background in pre-sales for Neptune Software, he knows the importance to supporting partners and customers from the first demo to implementation, onboarding and expert training.

Want to know more about how Neptune Software can help to smooth your transition to SAP S4/HANA? Get in touch now: