IT leaders face a major decision this year.

For over 15 years, SAP ECC has formed the backbone of enterprise IT, powering core business processes from finance and human resources to supply chains and procurement.  

In the mid 2010s, SAP put customers on notice that SAP will sundown supporting that service, and that customers need to switch to the cloud-based S/4 HANA.  

Currently, SAP will stop supporting ECC 6 after 2027. Estimates suggest many enterprises will need at least two years to make the transition, which makes 2024 a key year for internal ERP decision-makers.  

In this article, we’ll help you evaluate your options for the best path forward. By planning ahead, you can prevent disruption and lead a smooth transition to the post-ECC world. And with EPI-USE, an international leader in designing, building and implementing cloud-based, hybrid and on-premises, you won't have to make the transition alone. 

What Does SAP ECC ‘End of Life’ Really Mean?  

When SAP ends support for ECC 6 in 2027, it means the product has reached “end of life” from an IT perspective. This carries serious implications for IT leaders across operations, infrastructure, and security. 

An unsupported ECC will have no new features. The software will no longer see any updates, patches, or fixes. Any emerging vulnerabilities or integration requirements will go unaddressed by SAP.  

In other words, software that includes vital corporate data about finance and personnel will have no security patches, and therefore become increasingly vulnerable to attack. Meanwhile, SAP will no longer provide troubleshooting, so IT staff will shoulder the burden of resolving any system failures, bugs or performance issues. 

From a broader IT process standpoint, staff will need to plan time-consuming workarounds to meet new compliance standards and to integrate with other solutions in the company tech stack. This accumulating technical debt will weigh down IT teams, reducing their ability to innovate. 

While abandoning a deeply embedded system like ECC presents challenges, the alternative of running an obsolete, vulnerable platform past 2027 poses even greater risks.  

Are There Benefits to Sticking With ECC?  

For some IT teams, the prospect of overhauling a deeply embedded ECC system may feel too disruptive. Shifting from an ECC 6 system to the cloud-based S/4 HANA is a lot of work, and can be costly.  

The move requires assessing current needs and usage, making process or technical changes, planning for emergencies and unknown contingencies, creating the new cloud structures, and then migrating everything. In some cases, leveraging AWS Cloud makes the most sense for this move, and that can also represent a new system for IT, and a company, to learn.  

SAP will offer extended support until 2030 for additional fees. That doesn’t mean building new services or building out the platform to service new releases from other software that supports the SAP offering. But it does mean IT teams can put off a change for longer, and teams that use ECC 6 don’t have to learn a new system immediately.  

But this short-term solution poses notable downsides. Specifically, IT departments will carry significant burden of time, manpower, and cost to support the slowly downgraded ECC 6, and the risk of security issues cannot be overstated.  

Key Considerations for IT Professionals 

Whether you choose to extend ECC support or move to S/4HANA, several critical factors are important to remember. 

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Put data security first.
Maintaining data security and integrity during any transition is paramount. Historical data must map cleanly to new systems, with sound protocols governing access and use. 

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Update IT workflows.
Teams need to evaluate workflow impacts for IT processes like system maintenance, change control, security patching, disaster recovery and more. Updated protocols and comprehensive training will smooth these transitions. 

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Consider IT infrastructure needs.
IT infrastructure must provide performance, availability and agility to support new solutions. Teams should assess needs like cloud hosting, networking and integration requirements. 

Address these considerations up front, and you'll lead a transition that meets strategic goals – instead of reacting to fires months down the road. 

With the up-leveled data analytics and simplified integration enabled by S/4HANA and SAP Cloud Platform, IT can start piloting high-impact innovations like IoT, machine learning, and robotic process automation. Machine learning algorithms can spot inefficiencies and predict outcomes to drive continuous improvement. 

How to Make the Move to SAP S/4HANA or RISE

For most IT organizations, migrating ECC environments to SAP’s next-generation S/4HANA is the best long-term strategy.  

The S/4HANA data model offers real-time analytics at scale, enabling enhanced reporting and insight into system performance. S/4HANA’s API-driven ecosystem facilitates integration with emerging technologies to future-proof IT infrastructure. The newer platform offers a simplified user interface and streamlined workflows. S/4HANA also allows IT to boost agility, security and innovation. 

EPI-USE offers methodologies, processes, tools, and expertise to facilitate smooth conversions and cloud migrations, helping clients unlock the benefits of advanced features, security and scalability.

There are three primary ways to move from ECC 6 to S/4HANA: 

Greenfield: A bottom-up rebuild. A complete build of your SAP systems and processes from the ground up with S/4HANA offers the chance to overhaul complex legacy environments not aligned to current best practices. Greenfield is ideal if your organization needs to re-engineer highly customized ECC deployments. While Greenfield enables full-scale transformation, it requires high upfront investments as even properly functioning components are reimplemented. 
Brownfield: A direct implementation. Convert your ECC system directly to S/4HANA with minimal disruption to current customizations, configurations, and users. This method focuses on technical upgrades over business process improvements. Brownfield offers the fastest timeline with the least change management needs, although there’s a risk that continual and deeper work will be necessary soon, as more workflows and other software configurations evolve. 
A hybrid approach. High-priority processes can be modernized first, with additional innovations rolled out incrementally based on resources and needs. A hybrid approach enables your team to balance business continuity with ongoing enhancement. 

Whichever approach you choose, IT departments will need to oversee technical details like data migration and system configuration to ensure a smooth transition. After the migration, IT will hold responsibility for ongoing optimization, support and unlocking S/4HANA’s capabilities. 

EPI-USE has a tried and tested SAP AWS migration methodology called SHIP (Safe Harbor, Inclusive of Passage) that can help with any of the above approaches, whether it be an upgrade, re-platform, or rehost using our SAP-certified tools and accelerators: 

+ Select and migrate only relevant SAP data to AWS through our SAP-certified Data Sync Manager (DSM) product
+ Reduce the size of non-production systems and dramatically save on runtime costs
+ Secure sensitive data in non-production environments and maintain compliance with privacy regulations like GDPR and CCPA with Data Secure
+ Save time and lower costs on your overall SAP AWS migration project

RISE: Speeding Up the Transition 

For enterprise organizations looking to simplify the move to S/4HANA, SAP offers RISE with SAP – a comprehensive cloud solution designed to accelerate the transition to cloud ERP systems.   

RISE with SAP is built around SAP S/4HANA Cloud as the digital ERP system – supplemented by access to SAP's business network for enhanced productivity and business process intelligence solutions. RISE with SAP is built on SAP Business Technology Platform (SAP BTP), enabling seamless integration and automation across the cloud environment. 

The advantages of RISE with SAP include cost-effectiveness, scalability, and robust security. For organizations seeking to optimize operations and harness new technologies, RISE with SAP consolidates essential migration components into a single streamlined package – enabling faster time to value and mitigating much of the pain of complex integration. 

Ease the Transition: Cloud Ready SAP Assessment & Trial Program

Retaining advisors intimately familiar with SAP ECC 6, S/4HANA, RISE, cloud migration, and corporate infrastructure demands can maximize the return on your teams’ time and budget to support this core business operational switch. With a global team of highly skilled S/4HANA professionals, EPI-USE brings extensive implementation experience guiding clients through successful SAP migrations to the cloud. 

To help businesses on the cloud journey, EPI-USE has developed the SHIP program and is offering the Cloud Ready SAP Assessment & Trial Program which includes an Assessment and Proof of Concept so you can test drive your SAP environment on AWS (and includes funding to offset the costs to your business): 

+ Assessment: A SAP on AWS discovery and landscape assessment can help by providing a detailed analysis of your current infrastructure platform, SAP platforms, processes, organizational structure, and future business objectives.  
+ Proof of Concept (POC):  A Proof of Concept (PoC) validates the business case for migrating SAP to AWS, assessing risks and opportunities. It includes an opportunity to test drive a full copy of a production system in the cloud to measure performance and do benchmarking compared to the on-premises production system. 

IT teams can feel confident they have a partner who can help them navigate the complexities of S/4HANA migration. Find out more about the Trial Program here.