Why SAP ECC customers need to upgrade before 2027

Calculations in a spreadsheet-based planning model have demonstrated the skills crisis that could occur if IT leaders delay migrating from SAP Enterprise Core Components to the latest S/4Hana enterprise resource planning product.

While mainstream support for ECC runs until 2027 and those customers who commit to a S/4Hana upgrade can purchase extended support, the model shows how a skills crisis could unfold if more organisations seek out S/4Hana skills as the 2027 deadline draws near.

The model brings together a number of variables and predicts how they interact. Within this, S/4Hana adoption rate, project durations, upgrade cadence and resource requirements are all modelled to give a view of the ECC and S/4Hana landscape over the coming decade. 

David Lees, chief technology officer at Basis Technologies, developed the model. He previously worked at Procter & Gamble on the implementations, upgrades and support of the company’s SAP system, and said there are different end-of-support dates IT leaders need to consider. Lees urged them to keep track of the enhancement pack their SAP ECC system is on, as each version has different end-of-mainstream-support dates. “We’re reaching the first big kind of precipice at the end of 2025, and it’s only the enhancement packs 6 to 8 that get the 2027 deadline,” he said. “Anyone running ECC on enhancement pack 5 or below has about a year before support ends.”  

Lees said the model is there to help those organisations who may be running SAP to understand the ramifications of a new greenfield implementation or whether going brownfield, building on the existing setup, is more suitable for their specific needs. It assesses whether it’s worth using SAP Rise and whether it makes sense to achieve a clean core system with no customisations.  

For instance, he said, “If you have built huge amounts of custom development and you’re on a lower release, your choices might be more limited, or they might be different compared with someone who has only been running on ECC for five years and has built everything in a very clean core-friendly way already. With a clean core, you might be approaching the implementation as a brownfield.”

If IT leaders are able to move their SAP ECC system beyond enhancement pack 5, Lees said they not only get two years of mainstream maintenance until 2027, but they also have the option to purchase three additional years of extended maintenance. 

Even if IT leaders are prepared to do the additional work required to move onto a more recent enhancement pack, Lees said: “They’ve still got their S4/Hana transformation to do at some point after 2027.”

He warned that there are already versions of S/4Hana that have gone out of support because SAP originally set the lifespan to five years when it was first introduced.

In some cases, a smaller organisation may take six months to implement the enhancement pack, while a few organisations may require two to five years.

The model can be used to help IT decision-makers understand where they are in terms of their S/4Hana transformation. If an organisation assumes the project will take two years, Lees said, they should also consider how demand for S/4Hana skills is likely to change in that time. These skills will be needed to support an S/4Hana transformation project. At the same time as ECC customers are upgrading to S/4Hana, he warned there will be customers on S/4Hana who need to update to the latest version of the software.

“Once a customer is on S4/Hana, how frequently are they upgrading? Are they upgrading every time SAP releases a new version, or is it every few years, or in some cases are they just running on the S4/Hana version that they first implemented and they haven’t done an upgrade, and maybe they aren’t currently planning to do an upgrade.”

All of these scenarios are likely to lead to demand for more S/4Hana skills. “IT leaders should not continue to kick the can down the road,” he warned.

According to Lees, a Y2K-style skills crisis will ensue unless IT leaders consider the implications of delaying a migration project, as ECC support ends and there is a ramp-up of organisations running S/4Hana transformations.


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