Accenture’s global IT organization approached the technical upgrade with the same rigor and levels of collaboration with the business that it would typically apply to a major functional release—with the aim of having no unplanned business disruption while laying the foundation for business transformation by leveraging new digital capabilities delivered in SAP S/4HANA version 1809.
The upgrade journey was a collaboration between Accenture’s Finance and HR business units, global IT, Accenture Consulting, and SAP. The team leveraged Accenture methodology, deep business process knowledge, and extensive SAP S/4HANA upgrade experience with Accenture clients to quickly confirm business operational requirements and upstream/downstream application impacts.
The team developed a comprehensive plan to ensure that the SAP S/4HANA solution, vendor systems, custom applications, business processes, security, and training were optimized for the newest version of the software. The plan addressed Accenture’s entire financial ecosystem, which includes all of Accenture’s SAP RICEFs (reports, interfaces, conversions, extensions and forms), 360 internal applications, 35 vendor systems, 2,600 business procedures, 600 security roles, and more than 1,600 automated test scripts.
As with the initial SAP S/4HANA implementation, the team leveraged a “fail-fast” approach that included early conversion and functional and performance testing to identify remediation items, understand the risks, and prioritize scope appropriately in order to provide sufficient runway to address potential issues. Leveraging the Microsoft Azure cloud enabled the team to spin up environments quickly to support conversions, development, as well as functional and performance testing.
In addition to early functional testing, a dedicated conversion team focused on tuning the cutover and addressing potential data-related issues. The conversion team executed 11 mock cutovers with production-like data volume to optimize the conversion plan, cutting the technical execution by 50 percent in order to fit into a standard weekend downtime window. The mock conversions were also essential inputs into the creation of the detailed plan that included contingency measures to improve decision making in the face of unforeseen problems.
During the cutover weekend, the Finance organization was given read-only access to a mirrored SAP environment to continue to have access to production information, if needed, to support operational requests. The cutover plan included detailed conversion steps along with planned communications to business stakeholders upon completion of key milestones. The preparation of a rigorous cutover plan and execution of numerous practice mocks enabled Accenture to execute as planned during the production cutover weekend, restoring the system to end users slightly ahead of schedule.
The program leveraged best-practice release management methodology to mitigate risk and address unanticipated issues after go-live. The approach involved setting up a command center consisting of a combination of leadership and development support from both Accenture and SAP. On a daily basis, the command center participants reviewed open issues, communicated business impact, escalated issues when appropriate, and facilitated expedient resolutions.
After the system was restored, the command center team was on high alert, monitoring processing, performance, and usage of the updated applications. The command center team identified and addressed minor issues quickly, achieving stability prior to the financial month-end close.
Quality testing, a strong partnership amongst the business, Accenture Consulting, global IT, and SAP, as well as the command center approach for production stabilization, enabled Finance to experience a smooth month-end with no new high-priority incidents.
Accenture’s experience demonstrates that an upgrade can effectively balance value, cost, and risk. Based on its experience delivering enterprise system projects and insight into the risks and challenges that organizations face during upgrades, Accenture Consulting has created and maintains a complementary set of methodologies and resources. These assets offer organizations a reliable, cost-effective approach to deliver upgrades.