Dos and don’ts when migrating to SAP HANA

Sep 06, 2016

Faster applications, real-time analytics on transactional data and an improved user experience… These are some of the promises of the SAP HANA in-memory database technology. How alluring these benefits may sound, the fear of going through a complex migration path is still holding back quite a lot of companies. An unfounded fear in many cases, as the database migration, as such, causes very few challenges. Complexity often arises when technical system upgrades are planned at the same time. 

So be aware of these 5 common pitfalls:

1. Make it a business thing

Moving to SAP HANA is all too often considered a technical migration exercise, whereas early involvement of the business has proven to be a critical success factor. A first step in gaining the business’ trust is indicating the quick wins. For example, real-time, on-demand reporting and the Fiori approval app are likely to be powerful arguments to convince both business users and Management of the benefits of HANA. The capability of unlocking operational analytics via out-of-the-box content on the core modules, with the ability to extend to own scenarios, is an eye-opener. The ability of having embedded analytics via Fiori brings together physically the world of data entry with analytics for business users. It enables easy access to KPIs and on-the-spot decision taking.

Also, emphasize how HANA will serve them in their day-to-day job. For example, by demonstrating what the impact will be on the performance of their top 10 most important transactions. Last but not least, introduce some of the new features that SAP HANA offers. If you show a warehouse manager how (s)he can easily look up materials – using a Google-like search function – without having to spell out the precise product name, you’re bound to get his attention.

At the same time, avoid overselling the benefits of HANA. Create realistic expectations and set a realistic timeline for the migration.

2. Good project management pays off

Before you launch into a SAP HANA migration, make sure you weigh all your options. Will you migrate all systems at once, limiting the testing effort and the disturbance for the business? Or do you prefer a step-by-step approach, reducing risk but forcing the business to test integrations multiple times? In many cases, cost will be the decisive factor. But migrating multiple systems at once is, nevertheless, worth considering. It allows of better planning and assigning of resources. At the same time, make sure that roles and responsibilities are clearly defined and that decisions about testing and sizing are consciously taken.

3. Testing, testing, testing

Testing should be thoroughly prepared, executed and measured. In order to do that, you need both experienced business users and specialized tools for test management, such as SAP Solution Manager or Panaya. They pave the way to a structured testing process – avoiding isolated tests of one particular flow –, allow of automation and provide better insights into test results. The migration to HANA, in itself, may be relatively straightforward; it is often combined with technical upgrades. If not tested properly, these may introduce additional challenges. To tackle challenges as they come, rely on experienced partners.

4. Choose the latest HANA release

For a productive HANA system, customers should stay on an older version and apply maintenance revisions until the next SAP HANA Datacenter Service Point (DSP) is reached. Only then will the product be supported for datacenter use and for productive environments.

5. Involve the internal SAP team

The sooner you involve the internal SAP team in the HANA migration, the more they will learn and the sooner they will review current projects and initiate new ones with a SAP HANA mindset.
Whatever the underlying motive for your SAP HANA migration is – be it cost cutting, a simplified IT landscape, the development of a future-proof IT-environment or performance issues – don’t let the fear of complexity hold you back. The technology runs stable, the initial cost is dropping and the return is proven. But a good start is half the battle. Do your homework and then navigate smoothly through the transition.
Author: Tim Leys. You can follow Tim on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn.