Why leading an S/4HANA project is "same same but different"

August 19, 2020 Posted by: Veerle Van Waes

Let me first comfort all experienced SAP ERP Project Managers amongst us. Your proven track record is still applicable since a lot of the traditional SAP ERP project management key success factors remain valid for the move towards SAP S/4HANA. Nevertheless, I experienced that there are some specific attention points which contribute to the success of an S/4HANA project. Curious? I’m happy to share them with you in this blog.

Let’s start with a comparison between SAP S/4HANA and its older sister SAP ERP from a more product point of view. SAP S/4HANA is considered to be the digital core of the intelligent enterprise that brings ERP to a new era, let me explain why:

  • The Fiori interface is more intuitive than ever and provides apps with a delightful user experience. It supports tasks and processes that were not covered before with the old SAP GUI. What a difference that is to the past!
  • The Role-base frontend creates a clear workplace for the user and is based on its authorizations and access control. Another contribution to a fresh and optimal user experience.
  • Embedded analytics as the single source of truth that is now easily accessible by the user. It provides immediate and real-time information, extended reporting and analysis capabilities, statistics and reports.
  • Releasing a purchase order for example has never been easier. SAP S/4HANA is available anywhere, anytime in real time and thus accessible via any device and enables us to use complete functions remote.
  • Simulations now allows you the evaluation of alternative business strategies
  • And of course, SAP S/4HANA comes with a lot of new functional capabilities such as integrated transportation management and SAP BPC Optimized for S/4HANA for instance.

Every SAP Project Manager that once successfully delivered an SAP ERP project will be familiar with some well known key success factors. Whether you’ll go live with a classic SAP ERP or a state-of-the-art SAP S/4HANA, defining a dedicated project team and business organisations with accountabilities and responsibilities remains a must. As well as the fact that you’ll have to define integrated End-to-End business processes from the beginning, so that the solution can easily be provided and tested. The importance of a clearly defined governance structure remains a prerequisite to be able to monitor the project and take decisions on timing, costs and scope when needed. Other key success factors for both projects are amongst others risk identification and mitigation, defining multifunctional teams with business & IT that can work independently in defining the solution, training the organisation in the project methodology and the provision of templates.

In addition to the above-mentioned traditional key success factors, which attention point should we keep in mind in order to successfully deliver an SAP S/4HANA project?

  • SAP Activate is SAP’s recommended project framework which covers a methodology, best practices, guided configuration and a lot of accelerators such as templates and project plans. Using SAP Activate as an enabler for the project ensures a jump start as of the early beginnings.
  • Consider using the SAP Model Company or the activation of the SAP Best Practices accelerating the process and to be able to have a system available during the explore workshops. In case of a conversion, a running system with available data is beneficial for analysis and exploration of new functionalities.
  • Provide tools for project planning, requirement management, testing and project follow-up. SAP’s recommendation is SAP Solution Manager and its various functionalities of which you can benefit upfront, during and after your S/4HANA project.
  • Apply a hybrid approach with a flavour of agile and scrum elements mainly in the realization phase. In order to be able to introduce these agile elements, it is necessary to train the project team and organization before the start of the project to adapt to this new way of working.
  • When defining the roadmap and planning the milestones, the rollout of Fiori must be considered as a priority. A clear UX vision needs to be developed in order to support the users locally in the new user experience and value realization topics.
  • Do not underestimate governance risk control, as the setup of the authorizations are becoming more complex in the S/4HANA environment, as synchronisation between back-end and front-end need to be guaranteed and effort has to be put into providing a clear workplace for the different users via the display and grouping of the tiles.
  • Motivate business by focussing on business value. Thanks to the consistency in the use of the Fiori User Interface, the use of the system is more intuitive and leads to a more fluent acceptance of the system by the user community. In addition, the advanced Fiori apps, the drill-down functionalities, the embedded analytics and the possibility to use other devices contribute to the acceptance of the system.
  • Foresee change management from the start, as fit-to-standard means that there will be process changes, on top of the changes due to Fiori. Lack of change management leads to not acceptance of the system by the user community and can jeopardize the complete project.
  • By making a system available during the exploration phase, it is much easier to involve stakeholders and business from the beginning in order to have a faster outcome in terms of requirements. Define Business process owners and key users, which will participate in the project from the explore workshops, where demos are given based on preconfigured best practice scenarios. Iterative the solution will evolve to cover the identified GAPs. These business representatives will be responsible to write the test cases and execute the tests.


As an experienced traditional SAP ERP as well as SAP S/4HANA Project Manager I must conclude that many key success factors remain valid for both projects. As a second conclusion, SAP provides more than ever a lot of tools which can accelerate the implementation project of which the use should be considered upfront. To finalize, due to some major changes in SAP S/4HANA (such as Fiori as UX strategy) I recommend all Project Managers to take the additional attention points into account and wish you all a successful SAP S/4HANA implementation!

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Veerle Van Waes