IBM Rapid Move: a path to S/4HANA while capitalizing on the existing SAP investment

For SAP ECC users, after years of investing and building on the SAP environment to accommodate changes and requirements as the organization developed, decoupling from this foundation in favor of SAP S/4HANA is no easy task. But do organizations really need to let go of their increasingly dated SAP estate through a Greenfield approach or can they capitalize on their initial investment?

IBM Rapid Move is the answer according to Big Blue. In other words, a harmonious approach blending existing data and processes, extracting value out of past SAP investments. In a nutshell, a hybrid migration approach to S/4HANA provides greater flexibility using the existing SAP estate while cleansing, transforming, merging, and consolidating full or partial historic data, followed by process standardization, and best practices.

To support the SAP transformation, IBM Rapid Move partners with Schneider-Neureither & Partner (SNP), a specialist in automated data migrations and data management in the SAP environment. IBM and SNP have created a joint Center of Excellence (CoE), creating a highly efficient and scalable “delivery engine” with global reach. The partnership further gives emphasis to Gen AI through IBM watsonx to enhance migration efficiencies and the development of tailored solutions leveraging IBM subsidiary TruQua, which specializes in optimizing financial processes in SAP systems.

In certain cases, however, the system is too old, and the hybrid/Bluefield approach does not make sense. For others, with a strong SAP foundation, it makes sense to opt for a partial redesign and standardization of selected SAP business processes with IBM Ascend, a framework used to deliver transitioning projects for SAP S/4HANA, blending SAP’s Activate methodology with IBM best practices, including change management and project management expertise.

SAP migrations at large organizations are often highly complex, impacting data models and data foundations, processes, and more. Collaborating with an IT partner with strong project management skills is key to managing expectations and morale to keep all stakeholders engaged. Moreover, only a select few IT providers are capable of delivering the project in a single go-live, keeping disruption and downtimes to a minimum.

While IBM’s Rapid Move approach covers…

  • Advisory Services - discovery services, stakeholder alignment, articulating the business case…
  • Intelligent Sustainable Transformation - selective data transformation, coupled with business value realization, continuous process optimization, sustainability and industry-specific solutions, and artificial intelligence and automation for intelligent workflows.
  • Application management – AMS for SAP, IBM Continuum for longer-term guidance, expertise access, and fast response.

…it is really about selective data migration with full/partial historical data retention to then enhance the UX with pre-defined SAP Fiori deployment models and improved collaboration. Improving data quality and transforming processes sets the scene for higher levels of automation while access to generative AI capabilities further elevates production, insights, decision-making, and cost optimization.

With a simplified S/4HANA data model, organizations will want to make sure to use S/4HANA as the opportunity to create a business platform for the future, adding new business processes with lower complexity.


Clearly define business objectives and communicate them to stakeholders, outlining expected outcomes. Foster collaboration and transparency among employees, business leaders, and chosen IT partners.

Establish comprehensive vendor evaluation criteria to aid in the selection process. IT partners should not only address technical challenges but also transfer knowledge and best practices. Collaborating and leveraging their experience will facilitate engagement and adoption of new workflows and experiences for Line of Business (LoB) leaders and the broader workforce. Moreover, selecting the right IT services partner is crucial for success, as challenges will inevitably arise, but a strong partner can help overcome them.

Once the bulk of the transformation has been completed, it is time to continuously improve business processes (e.g., process mining) and to make use of not only native cloud capabilities but also advanced analytics and AI/Gen AI features. For those having opted for RISE with SAP, this may lead to making use of CPEA credits for the available SAP Business Technology Platform, while others may choose to explore, for example, IBM Watsonx (generative AI and scientific data platform), or both. Regardless of the approach, the seed of continuous innovation has been planted. 

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