Challenge

Accenture runs its core financial processing on a single global instance of SAP S/4HANA®. As Accenture becomes a more diverse business, it needs to operate with more insight, agility, efficiency and compliance across multiple business units, business processes and applications. This means that both the business processes and IT capabilities must contend with a faster pace of change, growth, larger volumes and diverse businesses—all driving the need to evolve Accenture’s ERP to be ready for future needs.

What Accenture did

The journey began when our global IT organization migrated Accenture’s Finance and HR system from SAP Business Suite on Microsoft SQL to SAP Business Suite on HANA. The effort involved migrating Accenture’s enterprise database to SAP HANA, installing new SAP HANA hardware devices and then working through the complexities of how to build, host and operate an SAP HANA physical environment for Accenture’s scale. The team went live with SAP Business Suite on HANA and in production on time and without business disruption, delivering the scale, agility and performance benefits expected. Since then, Accenture has also migrated its Finance and HR systems to SAP S/4HANA.

For the next stage of the journey, global IT needed to similarly migrate Accenture’s SAP Business Warehouse (BW) system from Microsoft SQL to SAP HANA. SAP BW is a mission-critical system that supports statutory and management financial reporting, consolidations and business forecasting. To prepare, the team performed two application upgrades, one to SAP BW 7.5 and the other to SAP Business Planning and Consolidations (BPC) 10.1, in order to stay current with the SAP product road map and to support continued application security. Additionally, Accenture leadership chose this opportunity to lead in the “New” and migrate its first major SAP application to the public cloud, to achieve greater scalability and environment efficiency.

Assessing public cloud feasibility

The effort began with an SAP program team from Accenture’s Consulting and global IT organizations assessing the feasibility of moving to the public cloud. The team conducted a proof of concept in the cloud and a vendor assessment, ultimately selecting Microsoft Azure for its capability to handle enterprise-scale requirements and its cost-effective pricing. This decision also aligned with Accenture IT’s cloud-first strategy for new applications and Accenture leadership direction to lead in the New. The challenge was heightened because no BW instance the scale of Accenture’s had previously moved to Microsoft Azure.

The full project kicked off with the initial global IT team expanding to include Accenture’s Global Delivery Network and teams from Microsoft and SAP, as well as input from subject matter experts from the Accenture SAP Cloud Center of Excellence. From the business side, teams were assembled from Internal Business Operations, Finance, Global Controllership and Human Resources.

Innovating a new solution

With no precedent, every aspect of an entirely new solution required innovation. Accenture, Microsoft and SAP engaged in extensive workshopping and designing. All parties needed to understand the different layers of the solution and how to enable each piece of the architecture to create the most optimal architecture for Accenture. This platform can now be used as a template for future Microsoft and Accenture customers.

Working from a blank slate, the combined team jointly designed and implemented the three primary pillars required to deploy the solution: Execution Architecture, Operations Architecture and the Operations Framework. The work included addressing critical items such as disaster recovery, high availability, data encryption, ticket management, scalability and network performance. The result was a highly tuned platform that supports Accenture’s business needs.

Testing, migration and stabilization

The team performed iterative test cycles, simulating two full business month-end close cycles. In the process, they continued to tune the environment to resolve issues until the close of testing. For production—the actual production migration to SAP HANA in Microsoft Azure—the team executed a carefully orchestrated set of activities in a 24/7 fashion by teams across the globe. The cross-team, complex cutover finished according to plan and the system was released to the full Accenture business on schedule without business disruption.

A high-priority support team from Accenture global IT Operations, Microsoft and SAP was put in place for the first quarter of operations to ensure business continuity through stabilization. As a precaution leading up to cutover, each key Accenture business constituent had developed extensive contingency plans, approved by business leadership, that were ready to be enabled in the case of a catastrophic event. The new solution, however, performed well and met all the business service level agreements (SLAs) and experienced no major issues.

“Our combined team, working virtually, knew we were breaking new ground. First, we were undertaking a move of Accenture’s entire 7 TB BW landscape and architecture from on-premise to a public cloud solution that had never been proven at our scale. Second, once in the cloud, we needed to do a database migration from Microsoft SQL to SAP HANA.“

— Steve Collins, Managing Director – Global IT, Enterprise Data, Finance and Geo Services Portfolios

Value delivered

Collaborative innovation and intense focus enabled the team to successfully deliver the migration of Accenture’s first major SAP application, SAP BW on SAP HANA, to Microsoft Azure in a span of only six months. It represented the first, large-scale instance of SAP BW HANA in Microsoft Azure and the art of the possible.

Moving to the public cloud delivered on the business benefits of scale, agility and performance. These capabilities are needed to support Accenture’s projected growth. In addition, the move to SAP HANA enabled better, leading-edge reporting and analytics capabilities for business users not possible pre-SAP HANA—a powerful shift in capability for Accenture. Moreover, the new SAP HANA platform is crucial within Accenture’s analytics ecosystem, helping to propel Accenture even farther forward as an intelligent enterprise with cross-enterprise advanced analytics capabilities.

Accenture continues to collaborate with Microsoft and has also now moved its test BW environments to Microsoft’s new virtualized HANA technology.

Highlights of benefits gained include:

Agility

New agile delivery for faster response to business changes; reduced effort on major releases environment build

User experience

70% faster management, forecasting and consolidation reporting over world-class optimized BW system

Close headroom

38% performance improvement on the month-end close processing, creating headroom for 50% growth; 70% faster data broadcasting to downstream applications

Security

Further fortified Accenture’s ERP security; enabled secure SAP HANA agile delivery governance

Production scale

Enhanced scale to mitigate peak usage

Road map

Foundation for SAP S/4HANA and BW/SAP S/4HANA strategic movements; enable digital integration with future Accenture IT and ecosystem platforms

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