Taking The Sting Out Of Dealing With Outdated Custom Code

Carl Dubler

Part 2 in the “Journey to Intelligent ERP” series

It seems that many IT folks would rather have a tooth extracted than come to grips with their custom code.

This is understandable since they are often the custodians of an ERP system that’s been tweaked and adapted over the course of a decade or two. With no clear insight into the scale of the problem, dealing with custom code can seem daunting. Where to begin? Hence, they put off their ERP modernization projects. Meanwhile, the business suffers from its inability to increase agility, just as IT continues to be stuck with overly complex operations.

Adapting incompatible code doesn’t have to hurt

However, evaluating and adapting custom code can be less intimidating than it might seem. Here’s an example: One SAP customer, preparing to upgrade to a next-generation ERP solution, discovered tens of thousands of custom objects and source code items within its ERP system. IT staff were apprehensive about how much work would be involved. And when a readiness-check tool identified more than 4,000 objects incompatible with the new solution, this seemed like an impossible task.

However, using the tool, the team found that they could overcome about half of those problems with a simple fix to the material number field length. About a quarter of the issues were fixed with database views in the new ERP application that mimic the existing ERP structure. The rest required some changes to the code to account for new data models and performance improvements.

Making modernization a key strategic initiative

A key factor that helped motivate the IT team to deal with custom code adaption was the engagement of the CIO, who made the project a strategic priority. For this leading European manufacturer, a high-end brand with worldwide retail distribution, staying current with technology is intrinsic to its business model.

While the team was initially dismayed by the report of thousands of required adaptions, they actually finished this part of the project in a matter of weeks and quickly moved on to the main objective. Now, with a next-generation, intelligent ERP solution in place, the company is on its way toward streamlined processes, faster and better-informed decision-making, and improved business agility. It all began by taking a simple inventory of custom code.

Ensuring custom-code hygiene going forward

Like visiting the dentist, custom-code hygiene is less scary the more frequently you do it. By continually assessing custom code and avoiding it where possible, the next upgrade or innovation will be a lot easier.

A number of valuable tools are available to help you establish a healthy regimen. Most ERP solutions offer usage and procedure logging functionality that logs the use of custom code over time. Tools like these show you which custom code is critical for operations to help you make informed decisions about what needs to stay and where you should return to standard. Recent figures indicate that 65% of custom code objects are no longer in use and only 23% support critical business processes.*

What if standard functionality still isn’t enough?

When you do identify code that is no longer necessary, there are even custom code lifecycle management tools that help with decommissioning. However, if you still need custom development, consider doing that in a cloud development platform. This keeps future customizations out of the way when updates are done, makes them more useful across cloud and on-premise deployments, and allows you to take advantage of the latest technologies and commoditized infrastructure.

In the next blog, we’ll look at how the cloud can accelerate your journey to intelligent ERP. In the meantime, read more here about the SAP Readiness Check tool for SAP S/4HANA. You can also learn more by reading the SAP S/4HANA Journey Guide. 

* Based on continuous quality check data for solution transition assessment and custom code services

Carl Dubler

About Carl Dubler

Carl Dubler is a senior director of Product Marketing for SAP S/4HANA. With an IT career stretching back to the late 1980s, he has done nearly every role in the business. In his ten years at SAP, he also managed SAP’s first commercially available cloud product and first cloud product on SAP HANA.