SAP users have their work cut out for them in the next few years, as the enterprise resource planning (ERP) giant plans to phase out support for existing ECC systems by 2027. A total of 73% of SAP customers plan to deploy S/4HANA, the company’s long-percolating ERP software suite that claims to unlock new business capabilities, generate new revenue opportunities, increase cash flows and productivity, improve ROI and elevate customer satisfaction.
Getting there will be easier said than done because for all of its advanced capabilities (i.e., its in-memory database), S/4HANA has been difficult and time-consuming to deploy. Moreover, migrating to a new ERP can be challenging. That’s because mapping business processes to today’s dense, multi-layered application landscape can be difficult to navigate, along with meeting stringent migration deadlines and managing spillover costs.
A lack of available skillsets and ROI concerns add to customer woes. Therefore, enterprises need a comprehensive quality assurance (QA) strategy – crafted from the get-go – to catapult SAP S/4HANA from “interesting set of technological capabilities” to “fully functioning ERP environment” status – whether organizations are migrating from existing SAP code or building net-new systems. A robust QA process also ensures compliance with regulatory requirements following S/4HANA migration.
How to Smooth the Road Ahead
We recommend that organizations focus on the following tenets:
- Emphasize business process assurance: Since SAP business processes traverse multiple applications, QA teams should abstract an end-to-end view of business processes to identify and predict potential defects during migration. This ensures all critical business processes function as expected and that any deviations are identified and fixed early. Any slippages in production code can lead to not only monetary loss for the organization but also dissatisfied users. QA teams should be highly experienced, with a detailed understanding of S/4HANA and underlying business processes.
For a biopharmaceutical company that wanted to streamline the distribution of its products with the help of S/4HANA, we automated business process validation end-to-end. We identified the critical business processes using an impact analysis tool and then automated these tests, shifting the focus from testing everything to testing the right thing. Automating end-to-end business processes reportedly helped the customer reduce its regression testing cycles by 30%.
- Adopt an automation-first approach: Automating testing of SAP S/4HANA ensures an accelerated rate of testing and roll-out. QA teams can use a machine learning-based intelligent automation approach to capture workflows during functional testing and establish an automation framework early in the lifecycle. Further, automated execution, coupled with a broader test data strategy, improves test coverage, avoiding the leakage of defects to production.
We helped a leading German manufacturing company achieve greater supply chain operational efficiency with a greenfield S/4HANA implementation. Because the business had over 600 business processes and 15-plus critical systems involved, we recommended an automation-first approach. This helped the customer go-live without any critical defects in the production environment and a reported 40% reduction in quality assurance investments.
- Test for security and scalability: Enterprises need to ensure security and performance with S/4HANA. Be it cloud or on-premise deployments, SAP promises secure patch rollout and back-end updates. The QA strategy should address access-level controls for securing applications, especially multi-tenancy in a public cloud environment. Data synchronization between applications hosted on the cloud and on-premise is key to ensuring expected performance improvements.
We helped a leading pharma company seamlessly roll out S/4HANA in 60-plus countries, with some of its operations deployed on Microsoft’s Azure cloud infrastructure. To ensure better end-system performance in a heavily regulated environment, we adopted an early performance testing approach, where we identified the performance pain points early to fine-tune the S/4HANA systems as per the end-user load. Doing so reportedly helped the business avoid losses due to failed transactions, which was critical given high user load, and was said to improve the overall user experience.
Embracing New Thinking
In all these areas, best-of-breed tools – paid, licensed or open source – can help businesses fast-track S/4HANA adoption, whether a new deployment or migration. Enterprises should take an advisory-led approach to define a QA strategy that addresses enterprise objectives and is aligned with their IT estate, risk tolerance and resources – both human and technological.
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