Embracing Enterprise Architecture in SAP S/4HANA Transformation Program

For businesses, the last decade has been the era of mergers and acquisitions, digitalization, Industry 4.0, and much more. This made it obligatory for businesses to look at IT to enable robust IT solutions which are agile. 2020 -21 has been a year of unprecedented developments due to the ongoing pandemic… The ramification is visible in almost every industry in some or another way due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the world is looking to contain the pandemic, the current decade will endure new challenges as industries try to resuscitate the business. Many organizations are already evaluating different business models. CIO’s top priorities and imperatives changed to make IT/ERP more swift, agile, and digital and build the NEXT-GEN platform that can scale/support ever-changing businesses.

As the business evolved with changing competitive world, SAP as an ERP or Business Platform also has changed conspicuously. With SAP S/4HANA and Business Technology Platform (BTP), SAP has established a platform that provides a boundary-less digital experience. With BTP, SAP continues to provide ambitious direction/solution for truly digital, agile, and versatile businesses.

Many customers have already started with SAP S/4HANA projects or have been evaluating/discovering. But there are a few questions: Are customers looking at SAP S/4HANA as really the game-changer or just a way to get LTO (License to Operate)? Do they have an appetite to be the agile-digital enterprise? There are many more questions – that may be unanswered or partially answered. While there could be affirmative answers, customers should have a structured method to plan and execute SAP S/4HANA transformation programs… and there should be a desire to do it with strategic vision.

SAP customers have a choice to implement SAP S/4HANA in a greenfield manner or with a brownfield or hybrid approach. However, it does involve some element of transformation – whichever option they may choose. So, how do we enable a framework or roadmap for IT to support/enable business strategies… And what’s the starting point?

In our view, this is the time to check if you have looked at all the facets of enterprise to start with the SAP S/4HANA transformation program. Effective execution and management of digital transformation is a key to business success. Enterprise Architecture (EA) practices help with the method and strategy to address the major business/IT challenges. EA helps prepare a roadmap for the SAP S/4HANA transformation program and drives its adoption based on guiding principles.

While SAP S/4HANA will be the digital core for business processes, SAP is positioning BTP as the foundation for Intelligent Enterprise. BTP helps in aligning business, technology, and data layer enabled with technology infrastructure which includes runtime environment, integration platform, etc. With best-of-the-breed SaaS applications available, customers can adapt products or technology independently to address an immediate business need. However, with the SAP S/4HANA program on the horizon or In-Flight, it will be an intelligent and wise decision to invest in Enterprise Architecture for strategic planning and build a holistic view.

Most successful organizations have Enterprise Architecture setup and follow EA frameworks like TOGAF or ZACHMAN. For the SAP S/4HANA program, in our view, we need to establish early connections with the EA group and engage early, much earlier…

For SAP S/4HANA transformation programs, it will be important to check the existing EA setup and artifacts – For correctness and completeness, possibly in the early stage of program definition itself. There could be a desire not to look at As-Is architecture, but there is no reason to re-invent everything. At a minimum, it is recommended to build some of the architecture views which depict As-Is and To-Be Architecture from a Business Process, Data, and application perspective. In parallel, architects can define guiding principles and prepare a roadmap for SAP S/4HANA considering business imperatives as input. Having defined the long-term strategy, EA needs to engage with the SAP S/4HANA program for defining solutions that are based on a hybrid multi-cloud environment using agile methodologies/design thinking.

For SAP S/4HANA transformation programs, one of the approaches is based on TOP-DOWN traversal analysis and EAST-WEST parsing of EA layers like Business, Application, Data, and Technology. Enterprise and Solution Architects define a solution blueprint based on solution concepts and data flows – enabled by technology solutions.

As SAP S/4HANA program progresses through discovery to realize phase, for every business requirement, Enterprise and Solution Architect performs top-down traversal analysis followed by EAST-WEST parsing at each layer. The outcome of this exercise not only qualifies the change to be approved architecturally but also explores different options and solutions. It also will provide input to likely OCM efforts in case of process and user-centric technology changes.

There are many EA tools and enablers available. SAP has an EA Designer tool for managing EA artifacts and has recently provided a Lean EA toolkit and templates. Another tool like ADOIT is popular for EA management.

In a nutshell, Enterprise Architecture can be the driving force for solutioning SAP S/4HANA programs with a perfect blend of design thinking and software engineering. As SAP CEO Christian Klein made an ambitious statement – Future SAP updates/upgrades should be a NON-EVENT for business – EA can assuredly help keep SAP S/4HANA digital core clean and innovate continuously…

Author Details

Nilesh Rathi

Nilesh is Principal Technology Architect with Infosys – SAP. Nilesh has over 23 years of experience in the SAP Consulting and Architecture in SAP Product Suite. His primary skills include SAP S/4HANA Implementations, Large IT Transformation Projects involving ALM processes implementation, SAP Enterprise Architecture, IT Roadmap definition and DevOps.

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