I’ve just read an interesting blog from my saviour on my first SAP project - David Lowson.
Dave heads up Packaged Solutions at Capgemini now, but in 1997 he was an SAP Logistics guru at Team 121 - a niche SAP consultancy who were eventually consumed by Logica.
He probably doesn’t remember, but he saved my consulting blushes once by talking me thorough LIS config the evening before I had a major client demo. At the time, he may not have been sober, but he was right.
The thrust of Dave’s blog is good. Grounded in fact, logic and experience.
"In most cases there needs to be a compelling business event to push the business case for S4"
The most compelling take away - sometimes a business case for a new Enterprise IT solution is as much about survival as it is about a detailed bottom-up commercial benefits model.
I’m sure others agree too.
Especially the former execs at Blockbuster, Polaroid, Toys R Us, and Borders. They’d agree that the rules of corporate survival have changed significantly in the past 5 years and that innovation of business model and agility of action is fundamental.
However, I think Dave’s blog is answering the wrong question.
People shouldn’t be trying to create a business case to move to S4.
They should be creating a strategy for business survival. That might include a business case for some new technology - and that technology might be S4.
But it might not.
Is there always a business case for S/4HANA?
Writing a business case for S4 is kind of like searching for a house with a living room the right shape for your sofa.
It’s like devouring the bun first and eating the greasy, ketchup and mustard sodden hotdog second, juggling onions as you go. It's the same meal, but not the best way to eat it.
It’s retrofitting a technology sales pitch to a corporate need.
It’s a solution looking for a problem.
It's a supply-side rather than a demand-side view.
And, it's wrong.
The handful of SAP customers we’ve worked with on their S4 Business Case are finding the same thing. They're really struggling with a compelling business case for the solution because it’s not different enough to make a fundamental impact on their business strategy or immediate business imperatives.
Simple as that.
I’ve had 6 BMWs in succession. I like them a lot.
They’re well engineered, reasonably economical, comfortable, stylish and nippy.
I bought my 2nd BMW in 2008 - the year Tesla was founded.
If you’d have shown me Tesla's Lotus Elise styled debut car and told me that 10 years on, they’d be a viable alternative to a BMW 5 Series, I’d have laughed you out of the car dealership. But in the same way that it has taken 10 short years for Tesla to disrupt executive cars, Netflix has outflanked Blockbuster and Amazon has outflanked Borders, Toys R Us and pretty much every other high street store.
Maybe SAP is next.
Maybe the alternatives that are snapping at SAP’s heels are the next Tesla or Amazon of the software world.
Maybe in 2024, the majority of enterprises will use a completely different flavour of software.
But I doubt it.
Instead, they’ll probably gradually migrate away from their existing SAP ECC systems at a pace that suits them and not at the pace that suits somebody else's sales targets or market hype.
Stop worrying about your business case for S/4HANA
If you’re an SAP customer, stop worrying about your S4 Business Case. It’s somebody else’s hallucination.
Instead, worry about your business strategy. Worry about how you’ll survive and thrive in a fast-moving world. And worry about the technology roadmap your business needs to achieve this.
And if S4 plays a part in that, cool.
But don’t worry about how you justify spending your hard earned cash on achieving somebody else’s sales target.
You’ll wind up being one of those early Tesla adopters who’ve paid over the odds for 1st generation technology with limited support infrastructure. In fact, there are more Electric Car charging stations than experienced S4 consultants.
And while you can afford to get it wrong with a car that you’ll lease for the next 3 years, you can’t afford get it wrong with Enterprise software that will be the heartbeat of your business for the next 30 years.
So hang fire.
Watch, wait and be patient.