How to master an SAP S/4HANA transformation and overcome obstacles

The introduction of SAP S/4HANA is far more than just an IT implementation. It means a profound change for companies on an economic, cultural and individual level. This transformation process harbours numerous opportunities, but also potential hurdles that need to be overcome.

Short & concise

  • The SAP S/4HANA transformation goes far beyond a pure IT implementation.
  • It requires a holistic approach that takes economic, cultural and individual aspects into account.
  • Early preparation, strategy customisation and the involvement of stakeholders are crucial for success.

In this article, we highlight the most common obstacles that organisations encounter in SAP S/4HANA transformation projects and show how these can be successfully overcome. After all, only those who recognise the challenges early on and respond appropriately can fully exploit the benefits of an S/4HANA implementation.

Economic obstacles in SAP S/4HANA transformations

An SAP S/4HANA transformation requires considerable financial investment and resources. Companies must be prepared to accept higher costs and temporary productivity losses in the short term in order to benefit from the advantages of process optimisation and recapitalisation in the long term. Smaller companies in particular are often faced with the challenge of raising the necessary funds for a strategically effective transformation. The pressure to achieve quick results can lead to a purely technical implementation being prioritised instead. In addition, a lack of consensus among management about the strategic direction can result in a delayed introduction of S/4HANA.

Solutions for economic obstacles:

  • Early clarification of the opportunities and risks of an S/4HANA implementation for your own company
  • Adaptation of the corporate and digitalisation strategy to the new possibilities
  • Consideration of potential conflicts between affected areas in change planning
  • Securing sufficient financial means and resources for the transformation
  • Involving and coordinating management to create agreement on the strategic direction

Cultural obstacles in SAP S/4HANA transformations

In addition to technical system changes, the introduction of SAP S/4HANA is accompanied by a profound cultural change for the entire organisation. This change requires a move away from rigid silo structures towards a cross-company, flexible and data-driven way of working. Employees need to adapt to new opportunities for automation, optimisation and decision-making and develop a mindset of continuous learning.

The transition from routine-based, recurring activities to an agile way of working made possible by S/4HANA is like a step into a new cultural landscape. This change often encounters resistance, as the existing corporate culture is a stabilising element. Like a rubber band, it always pulls the organisation back to its original state. Enormous efforts are required to sustainably integrate new habits and management practices into everyday working life.

Solutions for cultural obstacles:

  • Early team building of decision-makers from IT and specialist departments
  • Analysis of the organisational culture’s willingness and ability to change
  • Continuous training and further education to promote a learning culture
  • Active communication of the benefits and necessities of change
  • Involving and motivating employees as advocates of change

Individual obstacles in SAP S/4HANA transformations

Individual obsacles to an SAP S/4HANA transformation can be based on the personal attitudes and negative experiences of decision-makers. Due to failed change processes in the past, some find it difficult to be convinced of a comprehensive transformation, even if there are economic arguments in favour of it. This “cognitive dissonance” can lead to a distorted perception – the opportunities are devalued, while the risks are overrated.

In addition, general change fatigue in the workforce and management after numerous restructuring programmes in the industry can be an obstacle. The complexity and uncertainties of such a far-reaching transformation process are also a deterrent.

An early learning process, especially for managers, is recommended to overcome individual obstacles. Our concept of the “S/4HANA learning journey” includes all phases and challenges in order to gain insights and build knowledge for a well-founded decision. This gives decision-makers confidence in view of the far-reaching strategic implications for the next decade.

Solutions for individual obstacles:

  • Targeted involvement and empowerment of managers from the outset, e.g. through an “S/4HANA learning journey”
  • Gaining insights and knowledge to reduce individual doubts
  • Working through negative experiences from failed change processes
  • Actively communicating opportunities to correct distorted risk perceptions
  • Creating a culture of error to overcome fears of change


The SAP S/4HANA transformation goes far beyond a pure IT implementation. It requires a holistic approach that takes economic, cultural and individual aspects into account. Early preparation, strategy customisation and the involvement of stakeholders are crucial for success.

Would you like to find out more about our consulting services for S/4HANA transformations? Get in touch with us!

Business transformation with S/4HANA
Practical knowledge for decision-makers

With their transformation framework developed from practical experience, the authors provide an integrated process model for the implementation of SAP S/4HANA in particular.

The software implementation is considered together with the interacting challenges in business, IT and organisation. The guidelines and framework provide company decision-makers and project managers with comprehensive orientation in a complex ERP transformation.

To the book Business Transformation with S/4HANA