Inside the S/4HANA conversion factory

PASàPAS’ Conversion Factory Manager Loic Montignac shows us inside the Conversion Factory that has industrialized the process of moving SAP ECC systems to S/4HANA.

For many businesses, converting to S/4HANA is more of a requirement than a need. With support for ECC coming to an end, the advantages of S/4HANA can be overshadowed by the cost and disruption of converting.

So, to improve the speed and reduce the disruption of moving, PASàPAS has industrialized the process. The S/4 HANA conversion factory helps more businesses access and unlock the advantages of S/4HANA, including data analysis and machine learning — while minimizing the disruption and cost of moving.

We spoke to Loic to understand how businesses can ease the transition — and why they should want to.

Hi, Loic! Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you came to be part of the S/4HANA conversion factory?

Sure! I’m Loic, I started working with SAP 20 years ago.

Before that, I worked in industry, building machines, and my job was to manage the electrical systems within the equipment.

I got started on SAP at Disneyland Paris — not in the Mickey Mouse costume! As I had a more technical background, I worked on the plant maintenance module. At some point I discovered the IT side and truly fell in love with SAP.

From there, I tried to dig into the software to learn more than just my role and became a key user and trainer. 5 years later, I felt I had the experience and knowledge to become a consultant.

So, I joined an IT company and became a functional consultant. I wanted to broaden my scope, so I did some training and started as a developer / consultant on the Finance module before evolving to become a project manager.
On the way I realized that what I really enjoyed was helping clients resolve their problems, so I joined PASàPAS in 2012and I focused on my role as a functional consultant on the Sale and Delivery module.

I specialized in upgrade projects. These projects bring together many tasks from my previous roles, development, authorizations, functional issues to manage. As I had gained this broad experience, upgrade projects allowed me to do a bit of everything.

Then SAP launched S/4HANA, and the type of projects required moved up one level.

I took part in one S/4HANA conversion project as a consultant, and then became a project manager for this kind of work. PASàPAS set up a dedicated unit to manage these projects, called ‘Conversion Factory’ and I took responsibility for this unit and this team!

Since its launch, and the sun-setting of ECC, has there been a rush of companies wanting to move to S/4HANA for you to manage?

I would say that the rush is coming. We made the first conversion (the first ever conversion in France) in 2017. After this, we thought that the real rush would happen around 2020, but COVID arrived, and many companies held their budgets for this kind of project.

As it was proving difficult for companies to commit to move projects, SAP pushed back the end of maintenance deadline for ECC, which made it easier for companies to delay.

However, at the end of 2021, we see that this rush is now coming. More and more companies are asking us for cost estimates and project plans. It’s coming!

The scope of moving to S/4HANA varies from business to business. Is there a ‘standard’ approach you take?

There are 3 ways to move to S/4HANA, greenfield projects, conversions, and hybrid (which are a mix of the previous two types). Greenfield projects mean that you have to re-implement everything, and for example if you want to keep your historical data, you must migrate them, which can require 10 times more effort than a simple conversion project.

We assumed that our target clients would be more suited to conversion projects and invested in that process.

Now we are starting to see more companies move, and 80% of projects are conversions. Greenfield projects are usually only done if the enterprise has a real need for it.

Conversions can take between 6 and 12 months, depending on the size of the project and the level of customization. We keep the bespoke developments, the software customizations, and the data.

What advantages do businesses gain from moving to S/4HANA?

My point of view is that conversion projects will allow some review of business processes. But it’s not the foundation for this kind of project. The foundation is to adopt a new technological platform that is built to analyze data.

When I ask businesses why they want to move, some will say ’innovation in business processes’, and I see it as a sign that they have not measured the true extent of the change enabled by S/4HANA’s technological platform.

In fact, ECC6 was already very complete in business process and there is not much to revolutionize in this area. On the other hand, this century has seen the emergence of major subjects such as big data, machine learning, robotic process automation. And that’s where S/4HANA comes in.

As the true potential of the software is not fully known by many businesses, we approach conversion as a lean, 2-phase process. We simplify the project as much as possible: first you build the technological platform, then you innovate upon it.

Do you help businesses with using the new capabilities?

In the end, businesses may have the platform, but they need to change their thinking to analyze and exploit their data. If businesses don’t know how to use it, they won’t truly benefit from S/4HANA – they even have the option to continue working as before! You cannot innovate without changing, so we prepare clients for this.

Most clients convert because of the end of maintenance for ECC. They often don’t have specific expectations. We insist that the client will have to make some change, and to manage the people side of change to facilitate the adoption of S/4HANA. We try to adjust how we present the project to help companies innovate after they convert.

We have a Change Management team that helps our clients with the transition. This team is outside of the Conversion Factory, and it is completely up to the client to use it or not.

What does ’Industrializing the conversion process’ mean?

One thing that we took into consideration was that there were about 10,000 companies on SAP ECC6. With a deadline of 2025 to move to S/4HANA, there was a problem in the market of being able to convert everyone.

To facilitate this process, we had to make it easier, so we thought of this project as a process we had to ‘industrialize’ to be able to increase throughput.

We do this by having a dedicated conversion team which transfers the process to our other consultants. To make this as efficient as possible, we ask our teams to bring multiple conversion projects to the factory.

We apply a reverse-shadow technique to share our knowledge and oversee new projects. We have a lot of processes to ensure accuracy. We developed software tools to analyze data and we automate changes wherever possible.

The result is that we combine processes, automation, with people that are specialists in conversions and can oversee multiple projects.

What are the steps involved in the PASàPAS conversion factory process?

Businesses are often surprised by how simple it can be to convert. We bring a planning and a list of tasks to execute, and we’re able to give deadlines for the tests (especially interfaces) the client will need to perform.

Usually, we complete the project in 5 runs:

  • Proof of Concept conversion
  • Development system conversion
  • Quality system conversion
  • Dry run
  • Production system conversion and cutover

For each run, the methodology involves 4 steps:

  • Prepare the data for conversion
  • A technical conversion to change the database and upgrade the software
  • Finalize the conversion
  • Deploy Fiori applications


For each system, we complete these 4 steps, making the project 20 steps in total. Although, in certain cases, we can do a shorter conversion, using only 3 runs, removing the proof of concept and dry run, but we don’t advise it for most clients.

We use tools and break the project down into weekly, managed groups of tasks. We lead the client through the move, so they learn as we go.

If there is a lot of customization, bespoke developments, or large data volume that will extend the project, we reinforce our teams to ensure delivery. The project structure is adjusted so that we meet our deadlines.

The PASàPAS Conversion Factory won an SAP Pinnacle award?

Yes! We were delighted to win this award, in recognition of all the conversion projects we made, especially with small and mid-size customers.

We are very proud of this. For a smaller company, winning a global pinnacle award was, for us, like winning the world cup!

What are the eventual positive outcomes for businesses using the capabilities of S/4HAHA?

I think there are a lot of possibilities. To take one example, there is the possibility to see KPIs in real-time.

Even Business Warehouse does not offer this: it takes a snapshot of the data at a single time to calculate the KPI. As time passes, this KPI loses accuracy.

With S/4HANA and Fiori, you have real-time, operational KPIs. It’s a totally new user interface. You can create a dashboard to see the KPIs that interest you on your home screen. It makes decisions faster and more accurate.

In a production process, you can see shortages the moment they occur. Before S/4HANA, you would have to launch reports manually. This process meant it took a long time to make a decision which can have major impacts on the production process down the line.

There is a lot of value in this, and with machine learning, the system can use predictive analysis of real delivery dates, considering unforeseen events in a way that was not possible before. You don’t just see how things are, you can anticipate how things will be!

The need to move to S/4HANA is coming to businesses with support eventually being ended for ECC in 2027. Moving earlier will help businesses adapt to the new systems and start to leverage data analysis and machine learning.

The PASàPAS conversion factory enables companies to move quickly and easily, and our expertise and change management services helps our clients leverage the power of S/4HANA from the moment they convert.

Click here to speak to one of our team about your move to S/4HANA and what you can hope to achieve in the future.