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How can customers stay on SAP ECC and continue to innovate?

Many SAP customers are reluctant to move to S/4HANA just yet -- or maybe ever. Here are some ways companies can optimize the SAP ERP Central Component and find ways to innovate.

Despite the push to switch to SAP S/4HANA, many companies prefer to stay on SAP ECC. The important question, however, is how to get the best value from a system that will be losing support in fewer than 10 years.

For several years now, SAP has been encouraging customers to upgrade to S/4 HANA, promising better performance, increased functionality and a more robust platform for digital transformation. For many customers, however, those enticements have not provided enough justification for the high costs and inevitable headaches associated with a major version upgrade.

When SAP announced that support for the existing ECC product would end in 2025, it prompted many customers to take a second look at S/4. After numerous complaints, the company extended that deadline through 2027 and, for an additional cost, offered an extension to 2030.

As ECC customers breathe a sigh of relief, many are exploring ways to extract more value from their existing SAP systems and postpone a major upgrade for as long as possible. Here are some of the options those customers are exploring.

Internal innovation

Today's business applications provide stronger integration capabilities than ever before. This presents an opportunity for organizations to develop innovations in-house, extending and enhancing their core SAP systems.

Internal development can be especially valuable in the context of highly differentiated business processes that serve a company's unique value proposition. By focusing on their most differentiated processes, SAP customers can extend the value of their ERP systems in ways that will serve them well over the long term, even when they eventually upgrade to a new version of SAP.

Best-of-breed applications and extensions

For customers seeking a limited set of new functions, but who don't want to take the leap into a full-blown ERP upgrade, there are plenty of third-party extensions and integrated applications that will run side-by-side with an existing SAP system.

Many of these features are available as cloud extensions, requiring relatively little modification to current IT infrastructure. A hybrid cloud approach naturally lends itself to a granular microservices model in which ECC can be easily extended, with minimal disruption to existing processes.

Focus on analytics

As the volume of data continues to grow exponentially, business analytics are getting a lot of attention. Processing speeds continue to increase, the cost of storage has plummeted and a new breed of cloud analytics tools has emerged. Businesses that invest in analytics now can get more value for their money than ever before.

Better utilization of existing functions

Most companies running SAP systems only use a portion of the functionality available. As businesses explore the costs and benefits of various enhancements, they may find it worthwhile to take advantage of some of the unused features of the product they already own. When compared to the cost of an upgrade project, overhauling processes and deploying new functionality within an existing ECC system can provide a lot of value for the money.

While it's advisable to plan with the long term in mind, business leaders should have a range of strategies to extract more value from ECC right now.

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