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6 ideas to consider before making a C/4HANA SAP cloud migration

Moving to SAP's C/4HANA platform may lead to improved CX. However, companies should make some considerations before starting an on-premises to SAP cloud migration.

SAP is pushing to extend its dominance of ERP into CRM and customer experience with SAP C/4HANA. This CX platform combines customer data management, marketing, commerce, sales and service into one unified platform.

Businesses that are considering an SAP cloud migration could streamline the integration between the different pieces required for building better customer experiences.

But despite the possible benefits, an SAP cloud migration needs caution and a little planning to get the best results. Here are six things to think about before starting a migration:  

1. Understand the SAP value proposition

Business leaders should familiarize themselves with the SAP platform and how it could affect their existing CX strategy. There are typically three points that drive a decision, said Thomas Vetter, senior vice president and head of SAP C/4HANA Suite Development.

The first is the desire to revolutionize CX with speed and innovation in the cloud. A consolidated SAP platform can make it easier to adopt innovation such as chatbots, machine learning, automated business processes and a state-of-the-art lead-to-cash process.

The second is the ability to adopt a consolidated UX platform for guiding employees and customers through various business and CX processes.

A third consideration is to look at how a consolidated platform could affect the total cost of ownership, particularly with regards to potentially streamlining application development and business processes.

2. Consider support services

Enterprises should also consider working with SAP or consulting partners in planning an SAP cloud migration.

Enterprises should also consider working with SAP or consulting partners in planning an SAP cloud migration.

SAP has set up a dedicated, strategic program -- SAP C/4HANA Movement -- that helps on-premises customers to move to the cloud. This program can help enterprises map their existing application ecosystem into the SAP platform so the move can be as simple and efficient as possible.

3. A holistic decision

Businesses should pursue an SAP cloud migration with the understanding that this is likely to be more than a single product or platform decision.

"You are potentially making a holistic CRM business suite decision as well as a core ERP platform decision," said Chip Hanna, practice director of the SAP advisory practice at Upper Edge, an IT consultancy.

This decision could involve rethinking existing workflows and customer experiences that use competing offerings from platforms such as Salesforce and Adobe.

SAP does not make it easy for customers to move a single application into its cloud platform, and managers should consider the effect of adopting other pieces of the sales, marketing and customer service infrastructure, or find out what is involved in integrating with competitive offerings, Hanna said.

4. Weigh efficiency vs. lock-in

SAP provides a suite of adjacent services that can potentially add value to a variety of enterprise processes related to CX -- or prove a distraction.

"SAP will couch this in terms of 'maximizing the functional capability' of your migrating product, but in the end, it's a strategy to maximize a revenue opportunity and lock you into their full C4 suite," Hanna said.

Also, by choosing to move a strategic business function such as C4 into SAP's cloud, business leaders should expect that SAP will make a full-court press to move their core ERP to the cloud on S/4HANA.

5. Evaluate the whole offering

It's important to look past the applications themselves to the entire SAP ecosystem and sales strategy when planning a migration. Business leaders should educate themselves on all major SAP products, go-to-market strategy and business practices; then plan out a future-state technology platform and roadmap, and where SAP fits -- or doesn't, Hanna said. It's important for business leaders to internally align expectations and timing as to when and how they will make technology investments related to SAP or competing solutions.

"Address the short-term transaction, but first ensure you have transparency, flexibility and predictability in your commercial relationship with SAP now and over time," Hanna said.

6. Plan an integration strategy

A migration to the cloud -- especially to a SaaS platform -- provides a certain agility to teams that can be a huge differentiator, said Shekhar Vemuri, CTO of Clairvoyant, an IT consultancy. But it can also create new integration challenges.

It's important to ensure a single unified view of business entities such as customers, products, partners and sales. It's also important to ensure that this kind of migration aligns with your data governance strategy. While these are not easy problems to solve by any means, there are some architectural principles and approaches, when implemented, that make it easier to deal with.

There are multiple integration techniques that businesses can use. This can include real-time, API-based, event-based and batch-based.

"The key is to employ the right [technique] for the right purpose," Vemuri said.

It's also important to ensure these integrations make it possible to combine data across silos. This will make it easier to stitch together touchpoints for customers, suppliers and sales across multiple systems and build 360-degree profiles more effectively.

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