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Preparation is vital for a successful SAP S/4HANA migration, and understanding how employees use the system is a key part of that. When energy company AES Corp. migrated its environment to S/4HANA, it turned to the Knoa Software user experience analysis tool to uncover usage patterns to help prioritize the move.
AES, an energy production company in Arlington, Va., is undergoing a shift in its business as it transitions from traditional energy sources to renewables. The company has global operations, but in the past few years, it has divested most of its facilities in Europe and Asia and concentrated on the Americas.
To meet the new demands of the business, AES determined it needed to change its ERP landscape, going from several instances of legacy SAP ERP Central Component (ECC) 6 systems to a more consolidated, modern approach. AES ultimately decided on a migration to S/4HANA, according to Guillermo Elizeche, IT global delivery portfolio manager at AES.
UX analysis helps before, during and after migrations
Migrating meant Elizeche and his team first had to consolidate several different ERP systems running in the company's operations around the world onto SAP S/4HANA. Most of the systems were SAP ECC 6 running on an Oracle database foundation, and AES ran the migration in two phases. First, Elizeche and his team migrated the underlying Oracle database to an SAP HANA database; second, they implemented SAP S/4HANA 1610.
The project took about 10 months in total, and the process was helped greatly by the Knoa UX analysis tool, according to Elizeche. Knoa can be embedded in an SAP environment and collect data on how employees are using SAP transactions. AES analyzed the data to determine what transactions were most important to migrate and what transactions weren't mission-critical.
The Knoa UX analysis tool can be used before a migration starts, during the migration or after it has been completed, according to Bogdan Nica, vice president of products and services at Knoa. Companies like AES that are just getting started moving from ECC 6 to S/4HANA can use the tool to uncover patterns of use in their legacy system environments, particularly any customizations. Doing so can help to prioritize the most important transactions to migrate and the ones that can be left behind.
"Many customers have used it to carve out an entire section of their landscape that they don't need to worry about because the level of usage is below the economically justified level of ongoing support," Nica said. "This drastically reduces the risk and cost of the overall project."
AES used Knoa's UX analysis tool to determine the number of transactions conducted in the SAP ECC 6 environment in each location and how the transactions were used. For example, by determining usage patterns, AES unearthed transactions that had errors and could investigate the root causes.
"We started by measuring the different errors [and trying to determine] why those errors were happening," Elizeche said. "By running a series of reports, and after some data crunching, we [started] a series of mini-projects in the procurement area and plant and logistics maintenance area. We wanted to find out why these errors were happening again and again."
For example, if employees experienced consistent errors when creating purchase orders, it was usually because the master data wasn't set up correctly or because there were specific tax errors for particular countries.
Prioritizing custom code testing
The migration from ECC 6 on an Oracle database to HANA and S/4HANA introduces a different data model that requires testing to make sure all the transactions work properly. However, before testing, it makes sense to find any transactions you don't need to migrate.
AES used Knoa to analyze over 1,000 custom ABAP code programs and categorized them as either very high, high, medium or low priority based on their use. Transactions were migrated based on how they were categorized, Elizeche said.
"Because we had to achieve deadlines, we had to cover up to the medium priority custom code programs," he said. "We even detected a big chunk of transactions -- after 10 years some transactions are no longer in use because of the dynamics of the businesses -- so we discarded those transactions."
The Knoa UX analysis tool also proved useful to AES after implementing the HANA database and S/4HANA, according to Elizeche.
"We were able to compare the performance on the transaction standards and custom code used in ECC 6 compared to HANA and, finally, S/4HANA," he said. "You can clearly see the gains, and even some losses in some rare cases. In general, we detected a significant improvement in our performance with the replacement of the database from Oracle to HANA."
Elizeche pointed out that Knoa is only one of several tools that AES used to aid in the migrations.
"We were using the standard tools offered by SAP for this migration, and we also used Panaya [a testing and code analysis application], and we used Knoa as a compliment to these set of tools, not as a replacement," he said.
In the end, Knoa had a direct effect on the bottom line for the HANA and S/4HANA migration projects.
"The benefit is saving money and saving time, which is, in the end, saving money," Elizeche said. "It allows you to not go in blind and remediate the custom code programs randomly, which would cost a lot of money and effort."