How a collaboration among Accenture, Microsoft and SAP to evolve our enterprise system is helping to drive insight, agility and efficiency
Change is part of Accenture’s DNA. As our business transforms into a digital enterprise and grows, organically and inorganically, we have changed how we run our enterprise, inside and out. Accenture needed to operate with more insight, agility, efficiency and compliance across multiple business units and we applied technology and human ingenuity to do so.
Updating both business processes and IT capabilities to address a faster pace of change and growth meant that we needed to evolve our SAP® enterprise system to tailor the right support for different demands. Accenture runs its business on a single global SAP instance, using it for core business functions, including Finance, Forecasting, and Governance, Risk and Compliance. Our global IT organization put in place a multi-phased strategic road map to evolve our enterprise resource planning (ERP) to be ready for the future.
A strong relationship and close collaboration with Microsoft and SAP has helped us innovate to achieve our strategic goals. Now, Accenture is among the first enterprises to run its production SAP S/4HANA® system on Microsoft Azure's next-generation virtualized architecture at scale.
“Our digital platform of SAP S/4HANA on Microsoft Azure was a key enabler for us to roll out our new global organization model with a laser focus on our evolving business needs.”
Historically, Accenture ran its core financial processing on a single global instance of SAP Business Suite on Microsoft SQL in an on-premise data center. Ultimately, our goal was to migrate that instance to SAP S/4HANA to support business process flexibility and to run in the cloud for growth and flexibility. The end result offered us an opportunity to deliver value to the business by enabling a strong foundation for new digital capabilities via SAP S/4HANA running on Microsoft Azure. In this way, we could gain the flexibility to address future business requirements and be able to respond with agility to a dynamic business environment.
The technology migration took place in four main phases:
Moving to SAP HANA
We began with the migration of our Finance system from SAP Business Suite on Microsoft SQL to SAP Business Suite on HANA. The team went live with SAP Business Suite on HANA in production as planned and without business disruption, delivering the scale, agility and performance benefits expected.
During this time, we implemented SAP HANA as a data mart in the public cloud as an analytics platform. We integrated it with our SAP Business Suite on HANA and existing SAP Business Warehouse (BW) platform. The aim was to take advantage of the new ability to access real-time data and deliver analytics capabilities that were previously not possible, starting with the finance domain.
SAP BW migration to SAP HANA
During this phase, we migrated Accenture’s BW system from Microsoft SQL to SAP HANA for analytics capabilities. SAP BW is a mission-critical system that supports statutory and management financial reporting, consolidations and business forecasting. We chose to migrate our first major production SAP application to the public cloud, Microsoft Azure, to achieve greater scalability and environment efficiency.
Breaking new ground at the time, a collaborative effort among Accenture, Microsoft and SAP enabled the team to successfully transition SAP BW from Microsoft SQL Server to SAP HANA and from on-premise to Microsoft Azure as a single, six-month project, achieving the expected performance, size and systems stability improvements. The positive results of these implementations onto Microsoft Azure led us to move other supporting SAP applications to Microsoft Azure, including SAP Fiori® and SAP Solution Manager.
“We were extremely pleased with the smooth implementation of SAP S/4HANA on Azure and are already benefiting from the enhanced agility supporting our Finance journey.”
Implementing SAP S/4HANA
The next phase was to implement SAP S/4HANA—an SAP S/4HANA v1610 brownfield conversion at scale. In determining the implementation approach to SAP S/4HANA there were two key options—a new “greenfield” implementation or a “brownfield” conversion upgrade. We chose to do a brownfield conversion to use our highly optimized existing platform and standardized business processes. Accenture migrated to SAP S/4HANA and has since upgraded to SAP S/4HANA v1809. The SAP S/4HANA platform positions Accenture for faster responsiveness to business change.
Moving SAP S/4HANA to Microsoft Azure
In support of Accenture’s growing business, our existing on-premise SAP S/4HANA hardware was reaching its capacity. A decision was required: either invest millions of dollars in on-premise hardware or move to a cloud environment. Building on the success and stability of the previous SAP BW on SAP HANA move to Microsoft Azure, we felt confident in moving our most business-critical platform, SAP S/4HANA, to the Microsoft Azure cloud—a move that is in line with Accenture’s cloud-first strategy.
Accenture moved SAP S/4HANA along with two critical supporting functions, SAP Portal and archiving, to Microsoft Azure. These actions completed the transition of our collection of SAP applications, putting us in a position where we were able to close the data center. Most important, the move to Microsoft Azure met the business priority—being able to scale with agility.
Once again, we teamed with Microsoft to innovate by developing an enterprise-ready operations architecture to support the critical SAP S/4HANA system. We collaborated at every stage, ranging from workshops, requirements definition, engineering sessions and proof of concepts, to helping with development, providing feedback on system capabilities and performance, testing, certification with SAP—and finally, implementation.
“A good relationship and close collaboration between Accenture and Microsoft throughout our journey to Azure were key reasons this effort in innovation achieved our strategic goals.”
– ELI LAMBERT, Managing Director – Global IT, Finance Applications, Accenture
The move to Microsoft Azure was executed in three main technical steps:
“While costs are lower, the scalability of the cloud allowed us to double our production size seamlessly with no impact to our business. This has been the true benefit of this migration of SAP S/4HANA to Microsoft Azure.“
We have now moved all of our SAP applications to the latest versions, driven by the latest database technology and the latest cloud-hosted offerings. By staying current, we are well positioned to respond to growth and changes to our operating model.
Moving to Microsoft Azure is projected to deliver numerous benefits, but while costs are lower, the compelling reasons for cloud are the gains in agility, new capabilities and an ability to respond to evolving business needs.
Accenture is now able to:
We can scale up our production environment when needed.
We can quickly create new environments to support the business in exploring new capabilities.
We’ve gained performance improvements on key business processing that increases the headroom for future growth.
Public cloud meets or exceeds the highest levels of security standards and certifications.
The cloud environment provides advanced tools to streamline operations and enhance environment management.
A reduction in total cost of ownership is anticipated over time, including savings from the closure of a data center facility.