Accenture, Microsoft and SAP innovate
Accenture is among the first enterprises to run its production SAP S/4HANA® system on Microsoft Azure's next-generation virtualized architecture at scale
Several years ago, Accenture’s business was changing as our company was transforming into a digital enterprise and growing organically and inorganically. These changes made clear the need for Accenture to operate with more insight, agility, efficiency and compliance across multiple business units and with a growing federation of unique businesses.
This outlook meant that both business processes and IT capabilities would need to address a faster pace of change and growth. All these reasons drove the business imperative to evolve our SAP® enterprise system to be ready to support an array of different and unique needs. Accenture runs its business on a single global SAP instance, using it for core business functions, including Finance, Human Resources, Forecasting, and Governance, Risk and Compliance. Our Global IT organization put a multi-phased strategic road map in place to evolve Accenture’s ERP to be ready for the future.
Accenture historically ran its core financial processing on a single global instance of SAP Business Suite on Microsoft SQL in an on-premise data center. Our goal was to ultimately migrate that instance to SAP S/4HANA® to support business process flexibility and to run in the cloud to support growth and flexibility. The final outcome presented 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, gaining the flexibility to address future business requirements and being able to respond with agility to a very dynamic business environment.
The journey took place over four main phases:
Moving to SAP HANA®
The journey began with the migration of Accenture’s Finance and HR 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. Accenture leadership chose this opportunity to lead in the “New” and 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.
Implementing SAP S/4HANA
The next phase was to implement SAP S/4HANA—an SAP S/4HANA 1610 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. Accenture chose to do a brownfield conversion to leverage our highly optimized existing platform and standardized business processes. Ultimately, Accenture achieved our vision and migrated to SAP S/4HANA. Accenture has since upgraded to SAP S/4HANA 1809. 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 to 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, Accenture leadership had the confidence to move our most business-critical platform, SAP S/4HANA, to the Microsoft Azure cloud.
This direction is also 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. This set of moves completed the transition of our collection of SAP applications, positioning us to close the data center. Most importantly, the move to Microsoft Azure achieved the business imperative, providing the ability to scale with agility.
Once again, Accenture led in the New with Microsoft to innovate on developing an enterprise-ready operations architecture to support the criticality of Accenture’s SAP S/4HANA system. Drawing on our strong relationship, teams from both companies collaborated on this effort—from workshops to requirements definition, engineering sessions, proof of concepts, helping with development, providing feedback on system capabilities and performance, testing, certification with SAP, and finally, to 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.”
The move to Microsoft Azure was executed in three main technical steps:
“While costs are lower, the compelling reasons for going to the cloud by far are the gains in agility, new capabilities and ability to respond to evolving business needs.”
At this point in our journey, we have 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 and leading in the New, we are well positioned to respond to growth of Accenture and changes to our operating model.
“We were extremely pleased with the smooth implementation of SAP S/4HANA into Microsoft Azure hosting and look forward to future agility.”
Moving to Microsoft Azure is projected to deliver numerous benefits, including:
Can scale up our production environment when needed. Can also quickly create new environments to support the business in exploring new capabilities.
Performance improvement on key business processing increases 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 environment management.
A reduction in total cost of ownership is anticipated over time, including savings from the closure of a data center.