Call for change

Accenture runs its business on a single global instance of SAP, using it for internal business functions, including Finance, Human Resources, Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC), Forecasting and other capabilities. In 2015, Accenture’s business was changing as the company was transforming into a digital and more diverse enterprise.

Accenture recognized it needed to operate with more insight, agility, efficiency and compliance across multiple business units, business processes and applications. This meant both the business processes and IT capabilities would need to contend with a fast pace of change, growth, larger volumes and diverse businesses—all driving the need to evolve Accenture’s ERP to be ready for a post-digital era.

When tech meets human ingenuity

Accenture viewed a migration to SAP Business Suite on HANA as a key step on its digital road map—an opportunity to deliver value to the business and to ultimately enable a strong foundation for long-term performance and new capabilities via SAP S/4HANA.

For these reasons, Accenture embarked on the next step of its strategic road map—migrating its Finance and HR instance to SAP Business Suite on HANA. This suite is built on SAP’s advanced in-memory platform, SAP HANA. In determining the implementation approach to SAP S/4HANA, there were two key options—“migrate” or “greenfield.” Accenture chose to migrate considering its highly optimized existing platform and standardized business processes. When an organization’s current business processes and configuration cannot meet its future business needs and its current environment consists of diverse platforms, a “greenfield” or reimplementation approach may be better. Ultimately, Accenture completed its vision and migrated to SAP S/4HANA.

Business challenges and solutions
Accenture’s global IT organization teamed with Finance to define Accenture’s finance vision, needs and challenges and to assess how SAP S/4HANA can address them and provide business value. This initial assessment gave the team preliminary findings of the value of the migration that Finance and IT then proceeded to prove out.

Proof of concept
Using the initial findings, the Finance and IT team set up an SAP S/4HANA proof of concept. Three key objectives were set to: 1) determine whether the migrations would provide the desired value, 2) gain an understanding of the technical challenges and 3) determine the cost.

A team consisting of Accenture’s global IT and Finance organizations, Accenture Technology and Consulting, and SAP Services came together to perform the proof of concept. The team defined test business use cases based on key business value levers of speed, agility, analytics and future enterprise system capabilities. With the use cases prepared, conducting the proof of concept was next.

Working with a masked copy of Accenture’s production system, the team set up a proof of concept system in an Accenture Innovation Center for SAP Solutions, performed an upgrade to the latest enhancement package and migrated the database to SAP HANA. The team then ran the Accenture SAP HANA profiler toolset to identify and apply ABAP programming optimizations, and installed SAP S/4HANA. The final steps were to perform Accenture regression testing. The proof of concept was completed in three months, rapidly enabling Accenture to evaluate the results.

The proof of concept demonstrated significant value to Accenture and aligned with Accenture’s digital agenda. As expected, the migration to SAP S/4HANA did uncover challenges that needed to be remediated for the actual migration. The overall findings of the proof of concept were used to complete Accenture’s detailed planning for the business case and migration.

Business case
Using speed, agility, analytics and future enterprise system capabilities as the criteria for value, the team confirmed that SAP Business Suite on HANA with a future upgrade to SAP S/4HANA and a parallel implementation of SAP Business Warehouse (BW) on HANA was the best scenario for Accenture. The team developed a full business case that included strategic value levers, essential requirements and optional scope items. The business case also included the following implementation plan components:

  • An integrated program plan depicting timeline options with associated prerequisites and dependencies
  • Budget analysis, including one-time implementation and ongoing run costs for solution options
  • Resource/role and headcount projections
  • Major risks and mitigations

The implementation of SAP Business Suite on HANA took six months. Project governance was performed by a weekly operating committee and a steering committee that met monthly and included leaders from all the participating organizations. The team used Accenture’s methods, assets and tools to increase the reliability, quality, speed and predictability of the delivery work. Business disruption due to the SAP Business Suite on HANA migration was minimized by separating functional changes into a previous deployment.

Accenture’s dynamic business environment demands frequent delivery of incremental business capabilities. The program team needed to weigh incremental risk and value of delivering the upgrade against continued delivery of incremental business capability. Careful risk assessment, early go/no-go decisions, and contingency plans provided the supporting facts to perform a concurrent go-live of SAP HANA alongside business change. With enhanced stabilization and hypercare support, the overall solution was brought live on time and with full business continuity. In the first month, full business volume was executed ahead of schedule, and without major defects. Within the same quarter, the solution accelerated finance close processes by two days.

As SAP’s leading partner and largest implementer of SAP HANA-based solutions and applications globally, Accenture was able to leverage a range of unique, proprietary approaches and tools to accelerate migration to SAP HANA and reduce the risks, which have been added in the meantime to the Accenture myConcerto platform for driving enterprise transformation. The Accenture SAP HANA profiler, for example, significantly reduced manual effort to ensure a successful and more efficient migration. The team also used SAP’s ABAP test cockpit tools for remediation and automated testing capabilities to reduce project efforts. Applying tools, accelerators, lessons learned, best practices, a dedicated team and standardized processes through Accenture myConcerto in pre- and post-migration activities can significantly reduce the time and risk compared with a traditional migration approach.

A valuable difference

The SAP Business Suite on HANA and S/4HANA proof of concept confirmed the overall business value Accenture expected. SAP HANA moved Accenture from a SQL database to an in-memory database that provided the value of speed, agility, analytics and future enterprise system capabilities. The proof of concept ultimately positioned Accenture for a simpler migration to SAP S4/HANA, helping to evolve Accenture’s digital agenda.

Accenture’s experience demonstrated that a proof-of-concept migration can provide benefits with minimal risk. Helping to ensure the active involvement of the business and SAP at all levels through the proof-of-concept, planning, testing, migration and post-migration phases enabled a detailed road map to be developed for the actual implementation. In addition, taking a business value-driven approach by consulting extensively with Finance leaders to understand their priorities confirmed that the migration is strategically advantageous for Accenture—positioning us to take the necessary steps to establish an SAP HANA platform for delivering new capabilities and get the most value from our IT investments.

Disclosure note: Accenture and SAP have a co-development agreement to design, develop and jointly take to market SAP S/4HANA.

Proof of concept outcome highlights:

Future finance capability

Gained ability to leverage future capability and flexibility by SAP S/4HANA (SAP Central Finance, cash management, fixed assets, forecasting).

Analytics using real-time data

Delivering analytics on real-time transactional data versus the historic approach of using extracts and monthly roll-ups.

Performance improvement

Experienced on average a 25 percent to 50 percent improvement in performance across transactions, batch programs, distribution of data and report performance.


Performance improvements were achieved on an already highly optimized system; select transactions across same areas improving in speed by up to 98 percent.

Disk storage footprint reduction

Reduced disk storage footprint by almost 50 percent on an already highly optimized database.

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