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Have success with SAP C/4HANA on-premises-to-cloud migration

There is no one way to complete a CRM platform migration, but a little planning and asking questions along the way can ensure you are on the road to success.

Migration is usually never as seamless as vendors promise, but with business continuity at a premium, organizations are getting less tolerant of even the slightest tech hiccups.

SAP is making a big splash in the customer experience tech market with its relatively new C/4HANA platform, and companies that use on-premises CX systems will probably take a close look at C/4HANA in the cloud.

SAP on-premise-to-cloud-migration challenges aren't rare, but they're also not widespread, industry analysts and consultants said. Success or failure depends on what an organization is trying to achieve and whether the technology fits those goals, they said.

"It's all down to how complex your business model is," said Stuart Browne, founder and managing director of Resulting Ltd., a U.K.-based consultancy. "There is no cookie-cutter approach."

Any CRM platform migration, no matter the vendor, can pose problems, said Luke Marson, an SAP strategist.

"CRM is a very heavy data process," Marson said. "Companies need to think about what it all entails before migrating."

Migration challenges

Companies can avoid SAP on-premise-to-cloud-migration challenges for CRM by first recognizing limitations of the technology, experts said. Integration is typically easier for on-premises systems, but it becomes difficult when companies migrate to the cloud and start mixing physical and cloud tools.

For SAP users, one such issue is that the vendor's cloud products sometimes don't communicate well with one another.

"[SAP] atomized one core ERP system and turned it into many cloud systems," Browne said, pointing to Success Factors as one example of an SAP cloud product that doesn't integrate well. "They don't talk to each other natively. This is what Oracle did -- acquire and brand solutions but not solve the native integration -- and it failed."

C/4HANA consists of five separate but soon-to-be integrated SAP cloud products: Commerce Cloud, Customer Data Cloud, Marketing Cloud, Sales Cloud and Service Cloud. Customer Data Cloud includes elements from the company's acquisition of the identity management company Gigya. Sales Cloud is made up of pieces of two companies acquired by SAP: CallidusCloud, a sales performance management service; and Hybris, a customer sales and revenue offering that SAP initially tucked into other cloud packages.

No vendor likes to speak about integration issues -- potential or actual -- and SAP is no different. But the company does believe it has already achieved a key step in harmonizing the five products by giving them a universal user interface.

CRM is a very heavy data process. Companies need to think about what it all entails before migrating.
Luke MarsonSAP strategist

Each of the five cloud products can be integrated with the technology of another SAP purchase -- Qualtrics -- an analytics tool that measures customer and employee sentiment. SAP is placing a big bet on organizations wanting to integrate the CX of C/4HANA with the ERP of S/4HANA and potentially have a combined view of the front and back offices, so they can have a full view of the customer journey.

SAP is in the process of integrating the five cloud products, said Thomas Vetter, an SAP senior vice president and the head of C/4HANA. Eventually, the five clouds will share master data, intelligence and analytics, technical capabilities and other attributes that make what he calls a "federated cloud." The second step of integration is combining the CX components of C/4HANA with the ERP of S/4HANA. That process has already started for component manufacturing users; next up are utilities, consumer packaged goods and retail, Vetter said.

However, Browne urges caution as this all plays out.

"Why would you bank on something that hasn't been proven yet?" he asks of organizations thinking of migrating to next-generation SAP cloud solutions.

Weigh your options

Organizations that are considering shifting to cloud should first ask, "What does the cloud really mean to you?" said Liz Herbert, a principal analyst at Forrester Research. Pure SaaS has the advantage of being standardized and helping set a pace of faster innovation. A SaaS provider such as SAP also has a community in which users benefit from advice and tips.

But SaaS doesn't fit everywhere, Herbert said. Data concerns and regulations are a concern for some organizations. Other companies want a more agile enterprise environment but don't have the right approaches to take advantage of that.

"The tech itself just won't make you agile," she said.

Before migration, organizations should ask how they will approach governance, and whether it should be distributed or more controlled, and whether a center of excellence will be beneficial, Herbert said.

Also, before migrating Commerce Cloud or other on-premises SAP CX technology to any or all of the C/4HANA clouds, companies should get their data in order, Marson said.

"Data cleansing is something that takes a significant amount of work," he said. "But it is necessary when going to a new system. Data can be redundant over time."

Once the data is cleaned, organizations can transform it into the migration target's format.

Companies can sidestep any SAP on-premise-to-cloud-migration challenges for CRM if they plan implementation as thoroughly as possible, Marson said. Businesses should ask these questions:

  • What will implementation look like?
  • What are the growth areas?
  • What are the pain points?
  • Is there a roadmap?

"Any new solution has pain points," Marson said. "Sometimes weaknesses won't hurt some companies, but some weaknesses will hurt others. It all depends on your processes and culture. Understand those things upfront and get answers out of SAP."

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