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what is sap implementation

SAP implementation is the process of putting into place an SAP ERP solution, such as SAP S/4HANA®. There are three kinds of SAP Implementations: installation services, upgrade services, and migration. A major SAP implementation process often requires multiple services. For example, an ECC to Suite On HANA migration will usually require an upgrade to the current version before migration.

Expert Insight — Dave Hall, Director of Professional Services

Implementing SAP products isn’t like installing or upgrading software on your laptop or phone. Business processes are extremely complex, and depend on an array of interconnected applications. Each SAP implementation project must be tailor-made to support the processes, data, performance needs and application stack of the business.

Getting everything right the first time is paramount. Nearly every aspect of your business depends on a sound SAP implementation project. When SAP implementations fail, they can cost hundreds of millions in poor performance, unplanned slowdowns and outages, and costly remediation projects.


SAP installation services install a new SAP product, such as SAP S/4HANA. This isn’t just for customers new to SAP — if you have an outdated or extensively-customized SAP or multi-platform system, it’s often easier to build something from scratch.

An SAP installation is rarely a blank slate, however. You’ll need to clean up old data to fit within SAP’s paradigm. However, because it’s not constrained by existing resources, a new SAP installation often gives you more freedom than other solutions. This can be a boon for cutting-edge SAP HANA companies, which can build nimble, highly-scalable systems from scratch.


SAP migration, narrowly speaking, is the process of moving an SAP product from one hosting environment, and/or database, and/or OS to another. A migration may consist of moving to the cloud, for example, or moving from ECC on SQL to SAP Suite On HANA.

SAP migrations are complex, multi-phase projects. Businesses need to move, test, deploy and tune all the pieces of the organization to a new system while controlling cost, and minimizing disruption and risk.


An SAP upgrade is an implementation project that advances the system to a new version or enhancement pack, or adds new functionality. SAP upgrades can be every bit as complicated as migrations. SAP landscapes contain a lot of moving pieces which interact in complex ways. Without careful planning, testing and tweaking, an SAP upgrade can break mission-critical applications, expose the system to security and compliance risks, or even crash the SAP landscape.

Technical and Functional Partners

An SAP implementation needs to be designed to meet the needs of the business as effectively as possible. A functional partner helps a business develop a use case for the SAP implementation, and choose and develop solutions that meet that use case effectively.

The technical partner builds (and in many cases, hosts and provides SAP Basis support for) the infrastructure of the SAP landscape. They’re responsible for everything on the backend — sizing the system, configuring SAP Basis, ensuring the system meets availability and disaster recovery goals, creating an effective SAP security model and more.

Functional providers typically have great business expertise, but usually don’t know the backend well. Some in the cloud integrator space may offer free technical services in order to get your business during a complex SAP implementation. Don’t buy it. It’s in the functional partner’s interest to get the project done, but a technical partner is looking for your ongoing business — which means it’s in their interest to put in the extra work to make sure your system performs flawlessly from day one.

To learn more, download our white paper: Separating the Technical from Functional: The Business Case Against Single-Sourcing Your SAP Implementation.

Dave Hall, Director of Professional Services

Dave Hall is the Director of Professional Services at Symmetry where he is responsible for on-boarding and managing many of Symmetry’s key and most complex Clients. Dave has been in the information technology business for over 30 years - managing teams responsible for everything from international systems implementations, SAP data center migrations and Basis managed services. Dave leverages his diverse experience to provide superior customer service to Symmetry Clients from the initial on-boarding process through ongoing steady state managed services.