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There is an impending storm heading towards corporate IT, and the outlook doesn’t look sunny for cash-strapped, time-constrained IT departments. Just like in 1999 with Y2K, there is an absolute deadline – support for SAP ECC 6, the core component of SAP’s enterprise software platform, will end in 2025.
Then there is the upgrade. As Computer Weekly has found, moving to the next version of SAP, S/4 Hana, is not a simple upgrade. Yes, the technical stuff to get S/4 Hana running can be achieved in three months or so. But this is only viable in a greenfield installation. In the real world, businesses have accumulated vast amounts of enterprise software over time, intricately linked to enable business data to flow across these disparate systems in as seamless a fashion as possible. The people who originally implemented these highly complicated integrated systems are either well on their way to retirement, if they are in-house, or long gone, if the project was handled by a system integrator. And new IT staff are not exactly banging on the door with SAP skills.
In fact, it is widely recognised that there is an S/4 Hana skills shortage and the younger generation of IT professionals simply do not find SAP sexy enough to invest the time and effort to learn it. In many ways, the SAP systems currently running businesses have become a kind of technical debt. The data that flows through these companies has become essential to keep the business running, yet few organisations have a sound understanding of these workflows, how the data flows between enterprise applications to support a business process.
Experts have forecast that most of the time in implementing S/4 Hana will be taken up by understanding and cataloguing these data flows. Some companies will opt for third-party maintenance to extend the life of their existing SAP system, while others will replace SAP with something else. But as businesses start building a digital core, irrespective of whether they deploy S/4 Hana or implement something entirely new, the preparatory work in understanding data flows will be an essential step to take.