SAP Activate is SAP’s current methodology for deploying, upgrading or migrating to a HANA or S/4HANA landscape.
Activate draws on SAP’s accumulated experience to provide a detailed roadmap to S/4HANA, from scoping the project to post go-live. Activate also guides your team through integration with third-party software offerings and cloud solutions, training, project management and other needs associated with a migration.
What is SAP Activate? More Than a Methodology
We used the word “methodology” to describe Activate, but the term isn’t quite sufficient. SAP Activate is more like a kit to build an S/4HANA landscape.
It guides project managers, technical, and functional teams through a six phase process to deploy and run any S/4HANA landscape on premise, in the cloud or in a hybrid hosting environment. An assortment of SAP and optional third-party tools simplify the process, save time and limit the risk of human error.
Each phase has individual deliverables, which are linked into work streams, making tracking the project straightforward. There are also quality checks throughout the process, and extensive resources linked to each deliverable (“accelerators” in SAP terminology).
SAP Activate Phases
As we mentioned earlier, SAP Activate is divided into six phases: Discover, Prepare, Explore, Realize, Deploy and Run.
- Discover: The Discover phase is where you define the broad goals and context of the project. You assess where your company is on its SAP journey and what you want the project to accomplish. This should be grounded in an overall framework of digital transformation — considering where your company wants to be in 5-10 years, not just 5-10 months. Your partner should help you connect your goals with the available technology. The goal shouldn’t be just to get to S/4HANA, but to utilize its technology (possibly combined with third-party offerings) to provide a competitive advantage. In some cases, it may be appropriate to provision a trial system to preview the capabilities of HANA. The Discover phase doesn’t have any quality gates in SAP Activate, which we believe is unfortunate. This phase involves a significant amount of technical research, which in turn informs the decisions your company makes. If your partner isn’t able to provide an accurate assessment of your current system and the costs associated with various options, your ability to make the correct strategic decision can be impacted.
- Prepare: In this phase, you take the initial work you did in the discover phase and turn it into a plan. As such, the requirements of the Prepare phase are highly dependent on the previous phase. Decisions like your migration strategy, hosting destination and IT management approach will determine the scope and structure of the project. The Prepare phase also involves a lot of preliminary work to get your team ready to go. For example, Project Team Enablement will require you to provision access to various resources as well as train your project team on both Agile methodology and the various tools they’ll need to conduct a successful project. Bringing in an experienced team can accelerate this phase considerably.
- Explore: Now that you have the basic preparations taken care of, it’s time to get ready for the actual implementation or system conversion. That means spelling out and documenting every detail of the SAP S/4HANA solution. This requires a coordinated effort across multiple teams. On the functional end, you need to identify functional gaps, carry out UX activation and design, analyze custom code, conduct security preparations and take other steps to prepare the system. The technical work is just as elaborate — the team needs to configure a Sandbox and Development system, build out the IT infrastructure, size and refine the solution. One important technical step that’s often overlooked is Operations Impact Evaluation. A new SAP S/4HANA system will usually change the way IT support is structured. What skills and training the IT team require will depend on where the solution is hosted, what vendors are selected and the support model you choose. If your solution is hosted on-premise or managed in-house, you’ll need to start preparing a team to takeover once the system goes live. Whether or not you decide to outsource SAP management, it’s a good idea to work with a migration partner who provides those services. If your technical partner is only concerned with getting the job done and moving on to the next project, they don’t have the same incentive to ensure a smooth transition — as long as everything works at go live, they’ve succeeded. On the other hand, if your technical partner offers SAP managed services, it’s in their interest to make sure your transition is smooth, because they want your ongoing business. Additionally, an SAP MSP will have a better understanding of what it takes to ensure a smooth post go-live and can provide invaluable training and assistance if you do opt to manage the SAP yourself.
- Realize: SAP projects are recursive. At each stage, you test, refine and add to the work done in the previous stage until you’ve built a software solution. Realize is the phase where you more or less finish this process — your team will now move forward and set up the infrastructure and supporting systems. They refine custom code and implement all the applications and analytics you’ll need in your new solution. Any remaining problems with the system, such as performance problems, are ironed out and the solution is tested. The team then tests the migration process itself, ensuring that data can be migrated quickly and smoothly when it’s time to go live. However, the Realize phase is not the migration — it’s not even the dress rehearsal. To make sure everything goes exactly according to plan, your team will retest their solution before migrating in the Deploy phase.
- Deploy: In Deploy, you test everything again — the migration process, the IT infrastructure and even the stakeholders. Your partner will need to make sure everyone, from your IT admin to entry level workers, understands how to do their job on the new system, and provide training to anyone that needs it. The goal of all this testing and preparation is to minimize disruption as much as possible. If the migration is planned and executed well, it will have very little impact on productivity. Your team can migrate during off hours, and have everyone back to work by the next morning. At the end of the Deploy phase it’s time for the main event: the production cutover. There’s not a lot to say about it — if your team has done their work, they’ll know every stage of the process, and have the whole procedure timed almost to the second. In 20 years as an SAP managed services provider, Protera has never breached an SLA — let alone had a failed migration. Make sure you choose a migration partner who can say the same.
- Run: In moving your organization to a new software suite, there will always be adjustments you need to make. Your admins may have to configure new tools, and adjust system settings to deal with, say, demand that’s a bit higher than expected. The run phase is where you handle this needed tweaking and tuning and prepare your organization for steady-state running. Run is also the phase where you setup your team for success. Your landscape will continue to grow, the software will keep changing, and your admins will have to make daily tweaks to keep the system running. The goal of your migration team is to make sure your SAP Basis admin is doing their jobs well enough that end users are never disrupted by these tweaks. Finally, you should start planning future projects. In the Discover phase, you created an overall IT strategy for the next several years. Once you’ve had a few weeks on your new system, you should revisit that strategy, refine it, and take whatever steps are necessary to accomplish those goals. That doesn’t mean you have to start planning your next project right away. But you don’t want to put off planning until “maybe in a year or two” either. It’s important to stay on track for your next transformation goal, whether that’s in five months or five years.