BlackLine Blog

December 20, 2023

How to Streamline Your Move to SAP S/4HANA

Modern Accounting
4 Minute Read

BlackLine Magazine

Share Article

Finance and accounting teams know they must prepare their systems for migration to SAP S4/HANA, but where to start? Many have been making do with legacy systems that are overly complex and require time-consuming, manual processes. So, prepping the current financial system for such a challenging move might seem like navigating a jungle without a map or compass.

Here’s how finance and accounting teams can prepare for and enable their migration to SAP S/4HANA with steps they can take to make the move as streamlined and seamless as possible.

The Challenges That Lay Ahead

The challenges that finance and accounting teams face in preparing to move their systems to SAP S/4HANA are no secret. In fact, they largely mirror difficulties teams run up against every day as they attempt to manage complex financial activities—a lack of standardization and centralization in managing data and a reliance on disconnected ERPs that require many touch points, to name just a couple—that waste time and drive up costs.

The difference is that these problems have an exponentially negative impact during the migration process that comes with all the additional challenges of adopting a new, unfamiliar system, including:

  • Not enough expertise at the table. Due to limited resources, organizations rely too heavily on IT to make business-process decisions, leaving out specialized user input.

  • Legacy processes persist. The current, unoptimized system is migrated to the new environment, adding a huge workload on the backend and inviting errors during transition.

  • Elevated financial risk. The enterprise is put at financial risk due to disruption to compliance processes and limited visibility across entities and geographies.

  • Decreased employee engagement. When teams must slog through myriad manual tasks, unreconciled transactions, and conflicts, it’s more difficult to recruit and retain talent.


Envisioning a Migration-Ready Solution

Just as a hiker might be clear on where they need to end up when confronting a challenging trail, finance and accounting teams can envision where they need to get to: a unified, automated solution whose foundation is based on five key pillars.

A system that’s truly migration-ready must include a solution with the following attributes:

  • Automates financial processes. The system enables the most efficient financial processes, thereby migrating smartly with SAP S/4HANA and accelerating the close.

  • Client-owned. The solution is owned and operated by the business to reduce cost and friction points.

  • Embedded controls. These controls are designed to reduce risk during migration, especially when a business is migrating in phases or working with different ERPs.

  • Monitor tasks and highlight exceptions. View completion levels directly within the SAP ERP with traffic-light status indicators to highlight completion levels, issues, and objections in real-time.

  • Fully embedded and purpose-built. The system can streamline and automate the close directly in SAP, allowing teams to automate task and job scheduling, verify the correctness of closing transactions, and take such actions as raising alerts, making corrections, or pushing the closing process to the next step with powerful job scheduling.

  • Standardized close activities. Define closing tasks, identify dependencies, map workflows, and embed internal controls from inside the SAP ERP, as well as deploy standard templates with the flexibility to choose which closing tasks are run at each location.

  • Manage more within SAP. Access directly from a standard, single, sign-on SAP interface, leveraging existing SAP user roles and authorizations, and managing activities and workflows.


The Time to Implement a New Solution Is Now

One of the biggest mistakes that businesses make is to wait until they’re on the cusp of migration to implement a new solution. Many assume they’ll be able to make leaps and bounds once they begin working with a new ERP, but this wastes valuable time and can jeopardize a team’s ability to report and perform optimally.

The best way to ensure a streamlined migration is to schedule and implement an optimized solution as ahead of or alongside an ERP migration process. Consider the fact that the legacy system a business has been using can be decades old, bringing along baggage in the form of manual processes that create bottlenecks and friction points. Meanwhile, S/4 migration can take many years, during which time the business must manage two very different, disparate systems simultaneously.

Some organizations put too much faith in the new ERP versions. While there’s no question that SAP S/4HANA comes with many powerful built-in features, it doesn’t automate all the processes a complex or specialized organization requires. Without a supplemental solution, businesses will be left struggling with manual processes on top of the challenges that result from migration.

The Smart Close Solution

Businesses looking to speed their financial close should consider BlackLine’s Smart Close, an out-of-the-box solution that simplifies, standardizes, centralizes, and automates the financial close directly in SAP and offers all the capabilities listed above.

Armed with role-based workflows and an ability to access insights on demand, Smart Close can fully automate hundreds of manual steps, adding efficiencies that allow finance and accounting teams to be able to:

  • Automate 400+ manual SAP steps

  • Reduce close time by 60%

  • Automate 70% of closing activities

  • Automate at least 80 percent of more than 3,500 tasks performed by shared service centers


For organizations that manage complex close schedules, Smart Close is a must-have solution in advance of migrating to SAP S/4HANA. Large enterprises have seen improved business outcomes once they made the move to SAP S4/HANA using Smart Close (download the Smart Close data sheet).

Smart Close drives a standard framework, automates manual work during the close in both systems, and alleviates clean up and reorganizing close during implementation. At the same time, it frees up resources so that teams can spend more time on migration instead of close management. Risk is reduced since organizations have an established closing checklist with controls in place to ensure that all processes are completely transferred. 

Implementing Smart Close early can open up ideas on how to close faster, and by the time the organization is ready to migrate, teams are already familiar with the solution and its capabilities, so no additional training is usually required.

Streamlined Migration for Business Success

Businesses looking to migrate to SAP S/4HANA must seek finance solutions that make the move efficiently with as little disruption to operations as possible, creating a standard process that will more easily migrate into S4. The key, however, is to implement this solution as soon as possible and not wait until migrating to the newest system. Implementing these types of solutions in advance of migration will enable a business to seamlessly migrate to SAP S4/HANA, and along the way, continually enjoy a faster, more efficient financial operations.

About the Author


BlackLine Magazine