Myth-Busting: The world is NOT running out of S/4 Consultants

by Michael Pearson

For the past few years we've been reading about how SAP customers have to hurry up and migrate to S/4HANA and not wait for the ECC end-of-support deadline of 2027. One of the primary motivators to act now, not later, is that there will be an acute shortage of S/4 migration experts as the rush to beat the deadline accelerates.

This is a myth. The world is not running out of consultants and, even if this was the case, then it wouldn't have much impact on customers' ability to migrate to S/4.

Going it alone

The large consulting firms would like you to believe that if you're running ECC you can't possibly consider migrating to S/4 without hiring an army of consultants. Simply not true. Of the customers that we have spoken with, approximately half are either doing their migration project with internal resources or some minimal outside help.

Others are backfilling support and break/fix with external ECC consultants to free up their internal team members to work on the migration to S/4.

The Chicken or The Egg?

The second part of the myth is that you must have S/4 migration experience in order to be able to do an S/4 migration. So how did the first S/4 customer migrate? Or the second, third, fourth... and so on.

CONTAX worked on one of the first large-scale ECC to S/4HANA migrations in North America. We had no S/4 migration experience, neither did our customer (or anyone else for that matter). Yes, it was a painful experience, but mainly because we were going into uncharted territory. There wasn't much information available online, and we were finding issues that SAP themselves weren't aware of. Things are different now. The migration tools are better, the migration processes more robust, and if you have an issue you'll probably find a solution by Googling it.

Basis is a key area of a migration project, and it really helps to have done an ECC to S/4 migration before, but not essential. You can learn on the job, but it just takes a bit longer. All of the Basis specialists with S/4 experience must have, at some point, worked on their first project, and presumably did so by just figuring it out.

The most important resources on an S/4 migration project are the business process experts who can validate, test and identify functionality issues. You can't hire these from outside. They have to come from inside - the people who really understand how the business works, how the existing system works, and how to test the processes.

The Bottomless Well

When was the last time you asked a large consulting company if they could take on a project and they said "No, sorry, we're too busy.". It doesn't happen. They simply scale up by hiring more people, putting them on a 10-week crash training course, and billing them out at $350 /hour as "experts". It might sound cynical, but it's pretty close to the truth.

Not to mention the seemingly bottomless well of offshore resources.

The Flip Side

It's always been hard to find good people in this industry. We know, because we're hiring all the time and it ain't easy. Recently this has been harder than usual, but that has nothing to do with S/4 migration experience. Low unemployment, rising wages and more competition are the major contributors.

Finding, hiring and keeping good people is hard. It's especially hard right now, but it's not a new issue so we're accustomed to dealing with it.

Busting The Myth

If there is no truth to the myth that the world running out of S/4 consultants, then where did it come from in the first place?

The origins seem to be articles and blogs posted by the large consulting companies within a year or two of S/4HANA being announced in 2014. The volume grew louder as the (original) 2025 ECC end-of-support drew closer.

These opinions about the so-called "S/4HANA skills shortage" was echoed by industry analysts, commentators, bloggers and even ASUG (who still talks about it today).

It's a thinly-veiled plot to drive more revenue for global SI's and justify higher consulting rates. There is simply no truth to it.

Customers not already on or migrating to S/4 should not delay to avoid a mad scramble leading up to 2027. Many factors may need to be considered when planning an S/4 migration, but availability of consultants is not one of them.

Myth busted!

About the author: Michael Pearson

Michael is President of CONTAX and claims to be one of the few people in the western world who understands SAP licensing.