SAP customers may struggle to escape ECC before support shutters if they don't start now

User group warns of systems integrator and consultant shortage to make herculean shift to S4/HANA

Global ERP giant SAP has set a deadline of 2027 to get off its ECC ERP system before mainstream support ends. But representatives of German-speaking users fear a significant number will fail to meet the 2030 cut-off when extended support ends.

Speaking to The Register, DSAG chairman Jens Hungershausen said there was concern that there would not be enough time to make the complex and time-consuming technical and business process migration in the remaining timeframe if companies have not yet started.

SAP provides ERP systems for some of the world's largest businesses including Walmart, Airbus, and the VW Group. Since the launch of its in-memory database platform, S/4HANA, in 2015, it has been trying to persuade customers to upgrade. It claims to be making strong progress, announcing last week that 6,000 customers had signed up for its RISE with SAP cloud transformation program at its Sapphire conference in Orlando, Florida.

But other metrics cast doubt on its ability to move all customers to the new platform by the end of 2027, when mainstream support ends. Research by DSAG, which represents users in the Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, found 68 percent of members still use the ECC/Business Suite platform. At the same time, 22 percent said ECC/Business Suite was relevant to the SAP investment strategy in 2024.

Some customers have proved reluctant to upgrade because they have customized ECC with their own code to fit their specific business processes. These customizations must be stripped out to create what SAP calls a "clean core" before they begin a transformation. If the customer decides not to adopt standard processes, it can create extensions in SAP's cloud-based Business Technology Platform (BTP) when it migrates to S/4HANA.

"Every SAP customer who's not on S/HANA, they should really start on the transformation journey," Hungershausen said.

"The main strategy of keeping the core clean and trying to build the extensions around the core … It is much easier to maintain your processes and it's easier to extend your processes. The BTP as an extensibility platform, with low-code and AI capabilities, that is a good way forward."

However, for users who had not already started, time is running out to finish the transformation before the end of the mainstream support deadline.

Last autumn, Gartner found that only 33 percent of SAP users relying on ECC had bought or subscribed to licenses to start their transition to S/4HANA.

However, Hungershausen said that a shortage of consultants and systems integrators, who were booked months and in some cases years in advance, might make it difficult to get the capacity to progress with a project soon.

SAP ERP customers have the option to use extended support to keep their ECC systems secure and stable, at a two percent premium, after 2027, but even that will be withdrawn by the end of 2030, according to SAP's plans.

Hungershausen said some ECC users would struggle to make the 2030 deadline. The user group chairman praised SAP's AI strategy, which has seen the vendor form partnerships with cloud giants AWS and Microsoft.

"It's a good way forward forward not to create their own language models but to integrate existing ones," he said.

However, DSAG issued a strong response to SAP's public statements about only providing innovations such as AI in cloud versions of S/4HANA, rather than on-prem versions of the same platform. Some users felt this reneged on a commitment to make S/4HANA the platform of the future, regardless of the deployment model.

Hungershausen said users still felt that coupling the business strategy around AI with the technical deployment was unjustified.

"The business AI strategy is fine, and there are lots of things which can be used, but on the questions about the coupling of major innovations with RISE contracts, we're still opposed," he said.

Speaking at a DSAG conference last year, SAP CEO Christian Klein promised to continue to invest in functions and features for on-premises S/4HANA customers, including more than 200 ERP versions in more than 130 countries. But so-called "strategic" innovation, such as the introduction of generative AI into enterprise systems, could only be achieved in the cloud, he said. ®

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