However, what enterprises will do with their SAP systems in 2021 is open for debate. Here are a few predictions we feel confident about.
A wave of SAP cloud migrations
Many IT staff found themselves ill-equipped to support their end users during the events of 2020. A lot of the scaling, agility, and elasticity issues the IT departments faced could have been alleviated if they had full advantage of the cloud and its capabilities. Migrating SAP to the cloud is not a new trend by any means, but there will be an acceleration of ‘lift and shift’ migrations driven by current global events. In addition to lift and shift, many customers will migrate from AnyDB to Hana in preparation for their S/4 Hana transformation. This technical migration is easier and faster than a functional migration to S/4 so they may opt to do it sooner rather than later. With either option, there is much more flexibility when the core systems live in the cloud, and 2020 really drove that reality home.
Speculation on S/4 Hana implementation
The events of the past year had an interesting effect on SAP customers globally in that many enterprises found it a requirement to cut costs by any means necessary. A large portion of customers put some of their non-critical projects on hold. There have been predictions in years past that 2021 would be the year of the S/4 migration, but now some are saying that the current business climate may impact this. This may be due to the cost reduction imperatives as well as the fact that SAP’s 2027 deadline for non-S/4 maintenance expiration is still outside of a five-year plan. In addition, some application leaders may be tempted to ignore S/4 Hana for now because understanding its impact can be complex and difficult to articulate in terms of value and cost. This could be the wrong approach, though, because any additional investments made in current SAP deployments will be impacted by future adoption of S/4. Business leaders should still have a strategic plan for their S/4 implementation before making investments in their current SAP ERP landscape to ensure they do not make the adoption of S/4 more complex and possibly more costly if they wait.
A push towards self-healing SAP with AIOps
Automating IT operations has been a hot topic for years. The massive scale of some enterprise applications requires a level of operation automation that only cloud-native architectures can truly enable. Traditional SAP architecture is monolithic in nature and requires a considerable amount of care and feeding. It is not surprising that implementing AIOps in a monolithic architecture is also much more complicated. As new tools are adopted and new APIs are exposed, AIOps for SAP is quickly becoming a reality. Expect automation of operations to continue to evolve in 2021 as traditional SAP landscapes lean towards being more self-sufficient. It will take some time to fully automate all Day 2 activities, but the groundwork has already been laid. Expect various flavors from simple ‘automate to orchestrate’ to full E2E embedded hyper-automate to really make traction across all layers of the stack.
Protecting the crown jewels
Ransomware attacks are becoming a regular occurrence and there are many more attacks happening than what is reported in the media. Small government entities, hospitals, and utilities are targeted with alarming regularity. The only option some of these organizations have when they are attacked is to pay the ransom. SAP is the lifeblood of many organizations and holds a wide range of data. This includes customer data, partner data, PII, employee HR information, intellectual property, and other mission-critical data. Even with solid security measures in place, many organizations have fallen victim to these nefarious activities. In 2021, enterprises will focus on how to recover from such attacks. Disasters will be less about infrastructure failure and more about account compromise and ransomware recovery. Most business continuity and disaster recovery plans today do not even account for a ransomware attack. Look for these types of cyber recovery solutions to make their way into enterprise BC/DR recovery plans.
Complex cloud migrations get more complicated
Enabling a remote workforce has become a requirement for all organizations. As a result, companies now find themselves trying to run complex migration projects with a fully remote team. Traditionally, SAP projects require a large contingent of onsite consultants working closely with the enterprise core team to ensure effective communication and alignment. Consultancies will need to become competent on how to successfully run and deliver complex projects with a fully remote group. In addition, traveling to and from customer sites will most likely not be an option for at least the first half of 2021. Even then, some customers may not be comfortable having consultants in their offices for a longer period of time, so remote work on even the most complex of projects will be more prevalent.
SAP DevOps goes mainstream
DevOps and digital transformation are no longer just flashy buzzwords. We are now starting to see a real drive and desire across global enterprises for a self-sustained framework of accelerated and stable SAP development lifecycles. SAP enterprise customers want to bridge the gaps of technology and innovation to realize an automated framework that reduces the workload and disruption significantly, introduces and simplifies the heavy lifting, and provides a continuous stream of stable and deployable content.