How to successfully transition your SAP career from ECC to S/4HANA

  • September 19, 2018

How to successfully transition your SAP career from SAP ECC to SAP S/4HANA

One of the biggest issues currently faced by SAP consultants, is the lack of a clearly-defined path on how to successfully transition, reskill/upskill their SAP ECC expertise to S/4HANA, so as to remain relevant and in-demand in the SAP consulting world. This ECC-to-S/4HANA upskilling and transition is necessitated due to a large number of new SAP S/4 HANA implementation projects coming up and also current ECC landscapes of companies being converted to S/4HANA.

SAP S/4HANA is the successor of SAP ECC (Enterprise Central Components) and is the next-generation ERP software with digital core. S/4HANA brings several technological and functional innovations to take advantage of the digital transformation that companies need to embark upon to stay competitive.

The current situation of ECC and S/4HANA skills transition is similar to the ‘chicken or the egg’ scenario: companies implementing/converting to S/4HANA want ‘experienced’ S/4HANA consultants for their projects, as they want to introduce and implement the innovations and simplifications that come with S/4HANA. These companies will often refuse SAP consultants who only have SAP ECC expertise, where these ECC consultants are deemed ‘obsolete’ or not ‘upskilled’ enough to bring the return on investment (ROI) from the S/4HANA investment. SAP ECC consultants are frustrated by their inability to get deployed on their first S/4HANA project (from which they are able to gain their first real-life S/4HANA experience!). Fortunately, all is not lost for SAP ECC consultants if they carefully plan and follow the suggested route to transition to S/4HANA.

Let’s now discuss the SAP ECC-to-S/4HANA skill transition in some greater detail.

This blog post focuses on the path of ECC-to-S/4HANA skill transition for on-premise SAP ECC consultants. SAP ECC consultants wanting to upskill themselves on ECC-to-S/4HANA Cloud can also use most of these guidelines. One major difference between S/4HANA on-premise and S/4HANA Cloud is that while the on-premise innovations are released once-a-year, the S/4HANA cloud innovations are released every quarter. Hence SAP ECC consultants engaged or planning to upskill in S/4HANA Cloud implementation need to focus on more frequently keeping up-to-date.

Figure 1: SAP ECC (or SAP ERP) to S/4HANA Functionality Roadmap. Source: SAP SE

Figure 1 shows the functionality/component transition from ECC (also known as the SAP ERP system) to S/4HANA. The left-hand side denotes ECC components or functionality while the right hand-side shows the S/4HANA functionalities or components. It makes it easier to see how the ECC functionalities are replaced/upgraded in S/4HANA, and also the newer functionalities introduced in S/4HANA.

Let us now discuss Figure 1 with some examples:

SAP ECC Materials Management to S/4HANA Materials Management

SAP Materials Management (MM) has always been a core and the central component of any ECC implementation. With the advent of S/4HANA, certain SAP MM functionalities have been expanded upon, changed or even eliminated. For example, a ‘Vendor Master’ in ECC is now replaced with ‘Business Partner’ in S/4HANA (in which multiple transactions of vendor master are replaced with a single business partner transaction ‘BP’). As an ECC consultant, even if you mistakenly enter any of the ECC’s vendor master transactions in S/4HANA, the system will direct you to single ‘BP’ transaction.

Fortunately, many ECC functionalities and features in MM are still available in S/4HANA and it really won’t take long for an experienced SAP ECC MM consultant to transition to the newer and more robust MM functionalities of S/4HANA. If you are an SAP ECC MM consultant, check out the SAP PRESS book “Materials Management with SAP S/4HANA” to stay up-to-date.

New S/4HANA Component for Production Planning

In the production or manufacturing area, Production Planning and Detailed Scheduling (PP-DS) used to be a separate and standalone subcomponent of SAP Advanced Planning and Optimization (SAP APO). SAP APO being a separate and standalone materials and capacity planning engine that is often used by companies having complex manufacturing and scheduling requirements that could not be met using the Production Planning (PP) component of ECC.

Now the PP-DS component is in-built (native) to S/4HANA and can be implemented by companies having the need to use this component. If there’s no such need (or a need to implement PPDS at a later stage) then the SAP Production Planning component in S/4HANA is still sufficient to meet the business needs.

To learn more about PP-DS, SAP ECC PP consultants can check out the SAP PRESS book “Production Planning with SAP APO” and the e-book “Introducing Production Planning and Detailed Scheduling (PP-DS) with SAP S/4HANA”.

Material Ledger in SAP S/4HANA for Managerial Accounting

In SAP ECC, implementing the Material Ledger (ML) functionality was optional for companies if there was a need for actual product costing or if there was a legal requirement to implement ML. The ML implementation was driven by Managerial Accounting consultants (or Controlling (CO) consultants) with the support of MM consultants. Now, in S/4HANA, ML functionality implementation is mandatory. So, it goes without saying, it’s quite important for SAP ECC CO as well as SAP ECC MM consultants to upskill their ML skills. Two resources worth checking out on ML are “Actual Costing with Material Ledger” and “Introducing the Material Ledger in SAP S/4HANA”.

Simplification Lists

As an SAP ECC consultant in any domain, it’s best to always check out the yearly “Simplification List” issued out by SAP to stay updated on the innovations and simplifications they contain. Check out 1511, 1610, 1709 Simplification Lists in your area of expertise. It’s a good idea to always review all simplification lists and also the features pack stacks that come out from time to time, so you don’t miss out any relevant S/4HANA information pertaining to your area of expertise. For example, FPS2 for 1709 was released after the original simplification list for 1709 Simplification List.

Access to S/4HANA demo systems for practice and self-learning

SAP ECC consultants are acutely aware of the fact that no amount of reading books, articles or even watching videos on S/4HANA are sufficient to enable them to upskill themselves. It is far more useful to practice the S/4HANA functionalities in an actual (or demo) S/4HANA system! Learning and retention of newer functionality is much easier when doing and practicing them in the SAP system. Fortunately, SAP provides S/4HANA demo/trial versions for both S/4HANA Cloud and On-premise that you can access here. Furthermore, many SAP consulting firms and SAP partners are making significant investments in ensuring SAP S/4HANA demo systems are available to their ECC consultants.

If you are a freelance SAP ECC consultant, you can always find SAP training companies and services providers offering S/4HANA demo system’s access. A word of advice here: Try to find S/4HANA demo system that comes with preloaded SAP Best Practices and IDES data (International Demonstration and Education System). An S/4HANA system with IDES data will enable you to quickly learn S/4HANA functionality without having to build up the entire S/4HANA system from ground up. For example, we discussed the Business Partner functionality in S/4HANA’s MM component earlier in this blog post. Learning how to quickly create a Business Partner in S/4HANA is much easier and faster on an S/4HANA IDES system that has preloaded master data and comes with necessary configuration settings, instead of having to first configure and setup business partner functions in order to explore its functionalities. Of course, being a SAP consultant, you will also eventually want to explore and practice the S/4HANA-specific configuration (the backend) for which the availability of the same S/4HANA IDES system will again come in handy.

Business Processes Integration in S/4HANA

Do not underestimate the importance of integration among the various S/4HANA functionalities. Integration brings people, processes and data together, so that the information and data flow from one S/4HANA component to another. For effective integration learning and testing, it’s best to form small team of relevant ECC consultants who then demonstrate end-to-end business processes in S/4HANA. An example of some end-to-end business scenarios and processes in S/4HANA are ‘procure-to-pay’, ‘order-to-cash’, ‘plan-to-product’ and ‘hire-to-retire’.

Gain S/4HANA Certification
Being S/4HANA certified not only boosts your chances of being considered for a new S/4HANA implementation or migration project but also gives reassurance and confidence to the companies involved that you possess the necessary S/4HANA knowledge. To get S/4HANA certified, check out the official SAP Training website. You can then check out the various S/4HANA certification options available with SAP Education Partners in your country. You can also check out Learning Hub – Professional Edition which has many S/4HANA certification courses. Additionally (only if you qualify), check out the Learning Hub – Student Edition offered by SAP Education partners that also offers many S/4HANA certification courses.

SAP Certification

Last but not the least; be sure to check out Open SAP Courses (FREE!) where you can register with just your email address.

Learn SAP Activate for S/4HANA Roadmap

As an SAP ECC consultant, you’ll also need to stay up-to-date with the latest SAP implementation methodology known as ‘SAP Activate’. SAP Activate is a successor of ECC implementation methodology known as Accelerated SAP (ASAP). Check out the Eursap’s blog post “How to use SAP Activate for your SAP S/4HANA Roadmap”.

Where to find further information on SAP S/4HANA

Let’s now summarize some of the S/4HANA resources available for your ECC-to-S/4HANA career transition:

1. Keep checking an ever-growing list of SAP Certification books available with SAP PRESS such as this one and this one.
2. Gain access to free demo/trial S/4HANA cloud and on-premises versions, explore and practice as much as you can.
3. SAP Learning Hub for S/4HANA courses and access to live/demo S/4HANA system
4. Register for free courses at Open SAP Courses.
5. SAP S/4HANA Community Network Blog.
6. SAP S/4HANA (and even SAP HANA) – At a Glance.
7. If you work with an SAP Partner, then SAP Partner Edge offers several valuable resources on S/4HANA.
8. SAP TechEd Online for (free) videos replays and blogs.

Author: Jawad Akhtar – Author of four SAP PRESS books and a prolific SearchSAP Contributor

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