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Nick Coburn21-Feb-2022 10:58:426 min read

S/4HANA Apocalypse Survival Guide For Architects, HR and Procurement

In the darkest depths of a University Lab a policeman and a nurse burst through the door to uncover the sick experiments of Herbert West.

“You’ve killed him” they cry.

“No” West replies - “I gave him life”.

It is only a matter of time before West’s reanimated zombies hammer at the door of your SAP project.

How will you survive?

SAP Apocalypse Threat 1 - Architect: Rebuild Legacy in SAP

One of the key benefits of SAP is that it offers a wealth of standard business processes, enabled by standard configuration. Many organisations aim for ‘vanilla SAP’ but it’s not as straightforward as you think. 

Simply replicating the legacy system leads to missed opportunities to standardise, simplify and drive efficiency. It is usually more costly to deliver, more costly to maintain and more complex to upgrade. 

SAP Zombie Survival Tip

The first step is to ensure there is a well-defined business process master list (BPML). Business processes can then be categorised in a number of ways including the degree to which a process is truly standard and commodities.

Commoditised processes are usually back office process and although they must be effective and efficient they do not add real business value. They are not differentiators. Highly commoditised processes should be based on standard SAP configurations.

However, where processes are more at the sharp end of the business and deemed to add real value and be a point of differentiation, then perhaps SAP standard isn’t always the answer. Your competitive advantage could be compromised by moving to a standard solution.

So, customisation can be acceptable and may be necessary. The key here is the ability to determine the value your processes bring to allow you to make informed decisions. Simply replicating the legacy solution is likely to lead to a more complex solution and missed opportunities with regard to process efficiency, cost savings and the protection of your competitive advantage.

SAP Apocalypse Threat 2 - Architect: Bad Solution Design

Inevitably, bad solution design makes process efficiency and transformation more difficult. In the worst case scenario, it can actually bring the business to a halt or introduce significant administrative overheads to manage what was previously a simple process.

The business will be more reluctant to embrace new technology if they don’t believe the solution and processes are fit for purpose. The solution may be more costly to support and more complex to upgrade. 

When this happens in large scale deployments, different sectors or regions may be reluctant to actually sign up to the new solution which may make the business case impossible to achieve.

Where business users do not feel the solution is fit for purpose, they will diverge from the standard process and look for more suitable, sometimes off-system alternative ways of working.

SAP Zombie Survival Tip

Firstly, you need the right resources who have the all important blend of functional SAP know-how coupled with a practical understanding of how business processes operate in the real world.

A strong, independent design authority is needed to review, validate and challenge proposed solutions.

Business process teams are required to ensure the potential process improvement opportunities are understood and to prevent sub-optimal but technically compliant processes from being designed.

SAP Apocalypse Threat 3 - Architect: Unclear reporting requirements = useless MI

Reporting requirements are frequently pushed to the back of design and are often determined separately without due consideration to the end to end process and the underlying controls.

It’s often one of those areas where ‘legacy’ is replicated in the new solution e.g. we have this complex highly customised report and we want it to be the same in the new system.

This may mean that opportunities to improve or streamline reports are missed. Can the same information be gathered at individual steps of the process for example.

Understanding key business metrics prior to defining reports is essential but in many cases these are not readily available.

The other challenge is accuracy of data. If the data isn’t correct then the report is meaningless.

SAP Zombie Survival Tip

Reporting is an integral part of process and control design. You need to understand the key business metrics and explore all options as to how they may be produced in SAP.

SAP is now rich in the area of business process management and monitoring with thousands of standard metrics and KPIs available ‘out of the box’. These can be tailored and adapted via thresholds and reporting dashboards prepared for senior execs.

Key metrics and KPIs should support the benefits case with a clearly defined mechanism to track their progress.

SAP Apocalypse Threat 4 - HR & Resourcing: Takes too long to stand up the team

Getting the right resources on board can be time consuming and cause delays but getting the wrong resources quickly can be even more damaging.

Most end user organisations do not specialise in SAP recruitment, so how do they know they are getting the right people at the right rate?

There is often the temptation to give more to the Systems Integrator which may be more expensive and may compromise your self-sufficiency.

SAP Zombie Survival Tip

A clear resourcing strategy and approach is required for any programme. This should include the location and sourcing strategy.

  • Where do resources need to be?
  • Can they be in lower cost locations?
  • Is proximity to the business important in the early days (design) but less so during build?
  • Is there competitive advantage in single sourcing or using multiple vendors?

A clearly articulated resourcing plan with well-defined role descriptions is absolutely crucial in ensuring the right resources can be found.

When hiring multiple resources, a recruitment campaign may be required to target and attract the right talent in specific locations.

Why is this organisation or programme more attractive than any other?

What are the softer elements, the culture and ways of working that may appeal to potential candidates?

SAP Apocalypse Threat 5 - Sourcing & Procurement: Partners operate a “Get Out the Door” Mindset

Programmes rarely succeed where the customer is at odds with the vendor.

Partnerships and relationships must be fostered and encouraged until trust is implicit.

Without this, the blame game ensues leading to a lack of accountability and an unwillingness to take ownership.

SAP Zombie Survival Tip

Vendors should be seen as partners.

If they don't buy-in to what you are doing and feel that they can share in your success but also take responsibility when things go wrong, then they are probably not the right type of vendor.

It’s about partnership. Working together, often as part of a complex vendor ecosystem with a common outcome in mind.

Your vendors should be committed to your long term success, sharing that with you but accepting risk along the way.

Vendors need to be open and transparent for the relationship to be healthy, but similarly if they are frequently ‘bashed’ by procurement, then it is unlikely they will be set up to succeed.

Good vendors will bring ideas and recommendations to the table and look for ways to improve and reduce cost, not simply highlight what is wrong but offer no solution.

What next for your SAP project?

These threats are all taken from our SAP Success Healthcheck - a unique online tool that helps you assess your level of SAP maturity by placing yourself on a spectrum against statements just like these.

The full Healthcheck looks at your entire SAP programme, from the exec team through to the business managers.

Contact us to find out more.

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