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Nick Coburn14-Mar-2022 11:32:585 min read

The Lost SAP S/4HANA Business Case

The last vestige of daylight was fading fast and I had lost my bearings. I was trying to make my way back to the road but in the swirling autumnal mist, I could barely see my hands as I held them out in front of me. Beneath my feet, I felt the smoothness of stone and looking down, I saw a series of stepping stones. Though I knew not why, I was compelled to follow his path. It had to lead somewhere.

I was poorly prepared for the conditions. The air was chilly and damp and I was without a coat. I followed the path, staring intently at the stepping stones as they guided my way through the fields and the enveloping mist. I stopped. I was sure I could hear footsteps behind me. As I turned to see who was following me, I was startled by the rattle and caw of a crow’s call, unseen but unerringly close. There was nothing behind me. I continued forwards, following the steps as each was revealed before me as if drawn hurriedly, like an outline, rudimentary sketch in an animated short story. With each step forward, the stepping stones behind me disappeared leaving no trace of the path or my progress.

The swirling mists began to lift and a sliver of moonlight provided brief respite from the cloying, claustrophobia of darkness. Ahead, I began to see the faint outline of branches stripped of all their leaves. Stripped of all colour. Black gnarly branches framed against a leaden sky. Then the call of the crow, still unseen yet closer and louder ‘Caw, Caw’.

The steps led to an old, wooden gate set in an ancient stone wall. The mists continued to swirl around me as I approached the gate. I was hesitant. But something was dragging me forward. Calling me. Calling. Calling me to pass through the gate though I knew terror lay ahead.

My heart thumped in my chest as I pushed the gate, which creaked loudly as the rusted hinges succumbed to force. The gate opened only partially. It was enough and I slipped through beyond the stone wall.

I was in a churchyard. Row upon row of graves stretched out before me, illuminated by an eerily pale wash of light from the full moon. Many of the graves seemed to have been forgotten years ago. Unkempt, overgrown, dark and unloved. No longer tended. But others looked new as if their occupants were recently deceased. They were neat and tidy with fresh flowers in pots by the headstone. Someone still remembered the dearly departed occupants of these graves. Someone still cared for them. They were not forgotten. At least not yet. 

As I made my silent progress through the churchyard, I began to read the inscriptions on each of the headstones. My heart pounding. Beating faster and faster. I was struggling to breathe. I wanted to scream. I wanted to shout out. But I couldn’t. I felt trapped within myself and powerless. But I continued forward, reading the epitaphs on the headstones. To my horror, I realised that on each and every one, the same words were inscribed.

In Loving Memory

Dearly departed SAP Enabled Business Transformation Business Case

You promised so much but never had the chance to flourish.

The same words repeated, over and over on every headstone. Hundreds and hundreds of business cases. Lost. Dead and buried.

The S/4HANA business case failure pandemic

I awoke with a start. I was dreaming. A truly terrifying nightmare. Millions of pounds wasted. Millions of pounds of missed opportunity. Millions promised and never realised. Not once but countless times on programmes all over the world. Like a pandemic with an identified antidote but a reluctance to prescribe it.

But why? Why was this happening? Why wasn’t this prevented?

I leaned back on the pillow and my restless, fretful sleep resumed. And my nightmare continued. 

I was now seated at a huge table in a boardroom. Around the table were the executives of a large, global organisation. I couldn’t make out their faces. All were blurred. But I could hear their voices. As I tuned in to the conversation, I wanted to cover my ears and close my eyes. I knew what was happening. I knew what was coming next. Like watching a horror movie, where you're willing the main character, "Don't go in the cellar!"

“And how are we progressing against the business case for transformation?” asked the CEO. A stony silence. Nothing. No response from around the room.

“You promised £3 million in operational savings by the end of FY19. How much of that has been realised? How are we tracking the savings against our metrics and KPIs?”

Nothing. No response. Just the sound of silence as a freezing darkness filled the room.

I’m back in the graveyard. The swirling mists have returned but in the gloomy light, I can see the outline of a figure, dressed in black from head to toe. The mysterious figure is digging a hole in the ground. I can hear the spade striking the soil with rhythmic, repetitive strokes. I am drawn forward until I am stood beside them. They continue to dig, seemingly unaware of my presence. They stop, put down the spade before unzipping a black leather holdall on the floor. I want to cover my eyes but I am forced to look as the figure reaches into the bag. A pristine document is retrieved. White pages with black text. My ghostly companion thumbs through the pages before staring intently at the cover page. I watch in silence as the figure leans forward and places the document carefully in the freshly dug grave. They step back and turn their head towards me. The featureless face is blurred but then I hear a recognisable voice speaking now familiar words from an unseen mouth.

“In Loving Memory.

Dearly departed SAP Enabled Business Transformation Business Case

You promised so much but never had the chance to flourish.”