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The On-going Planning Activities of SAP
By Richard Hillebrecht, SVP–CIO & CISO, Riverbed Technology
Facts that CIOs should know about SAP implementation
Facts that CIOs should know about SAP implementation
Don’t overlook the importance of end-user experience at the launch of new application. You only have one opportunity to make a good first impression. This can be a challenge with any global solution (single instance of an application used by global workforce). To avoid surprises at roll out, ensure your implementation plan includes measuring end user performance from all locations. The focus of process workshops is largely intended to align cross-functional teams on workflows. Take care to ensure those same workflows will perform well and are instrumented for ongoing management in production for all stakeholders. You don’t want to learn post-launch that user experience in your customer base is a ‘detractor’ from success of the project.
Before and After the Advent of SAP
From a business outcomes perspective, efficiency gains and movement towards industry best practices are primary drivers for implementation of global ERP solutions such as SAP. Disparate local or regional systems can be an inhibitor to enabling business outcomes in multiple functional units. The application implementation project is a forcing function to address those challenges. From an IT management perspective, supporting multiple regional or local solutions for common business process areas creates management complexity and higher associated costs structures. It also makes it more challenging to address enterprise goals for business intelligence and management reporting. Having multiple transaction systems for business processes makes getting to a single system of truth much more challenging.
Values Derived from SAP Implementations –
From my initial experience with implementing of SAP at Apple and seen thereafter, a key lesson learned is that the shift from multiple, disparate local or regional systems to a common, global integrated solution can be a major change management challenge. Alignment on process and ways of working as part of the implementation strategy is vital. The value coming from the implementation of an integrated solution—shaped by a mindset of best practices adoption - produces tremendous value from an efficiency and productivity perspective. Variations in common processes are often the result of differing definition of terms or workflows. So the implementation of a global solution also enables greater insights to business performance through normalization of definition of terms and corresponding Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
"Efficiency gains and movement towards industry best practices are primary drivers for implementation of global ERP solutions such as SAP"
Value from SAP Lifecycle Management
Clearly initial adoption of complex and powerful enterprise systems like SAP is not the end of the story—but rather more of a beginning. Considering SAP as a core platform, for instance, drives a change in dialogue on how and when to leverage that investment vs. considering alternative bolt-on’ solutions. Arguing why you can’t use features available from or planned to be delivered in your core platform rather than arguing why a boutique solution is a sensible addition to the portfolio can be a mindset change. On-going planning activities that incorporate product feature roadmaps, business capability needs and underlying technology is important. Integrated road mapping activities with business partners is key to the Lifecycle management model in order to set expectations and guide investment strategies. Combining technical upgrades’ with process improvement efforts and introduction of new business capabilities as a package is much more palatable than having to undertake a technical upgrade in “a lift and shift mode”. Many industries going through some form of disruption either through emergence of new competitors or opportunities created from mega trends such as the Internet of Things. Understanding how your application platforms can and will support fundamental changes to business models and go to market strategies is critical and understanding where enterprise application platform providers are taking their solutions is key.
Also, if you are not ‘planful’ in managing lifecycle you will find yourself in a corner of having to undertake versions upgrade without capacity to execute on adding capabilities in the same release window. Having a set of architectural guideposts to facilitate long term planning and decision making regarding solutions is helpful. Guideposts to evaluate solutions bring clarity on how options move you towards your future state goals–whether that be risk reduction, simplifying your landscape for manageability or leveraging skill sets.
Implementing SAP or ERP Systems Successfully
Again looking at the impact on ways of working and change management is critical. If you underestimate initial impacts on ways of work, your early deployment efforts can be in trouble from the outset. Cross-functional working teams representing various regions and business teams bear a large burden here. They need to come together to assess differences between ‘as is’ and ‘to be’ processes, align on future state and then help lead their teams through the adoption phase.
Scope management has paramount importance. With the magnitude of the initial implementation, it is often the case that not all needs or ideas are incorporated into initial deployment. A good governance strategy that starts with clear executive sponsorship, definition of what success looks like as a guidepost for decision-making and program management structure that keeps teams aligned is key. The larger the enterprise, the larger the challenge associated with delivering a successful first release while migrating from legacy solutions. As is in any program, scope management and trade off-decision making is the key. As it is a major investment of coin and time, having a successful ‘technical’ deployment is not very gratifying if the key business goals are not clearly met. Starting a planning cycle to deliver deferred features in time certain manner helps establish confidence in all teams that unmet needs will in fact be met.
One other point to keep in mind is integration with the rest of your application landscape. From a business process architecture perspective, SAP can cover a lot of space. There are still going to be up-stream or downstream systems that application workflows touch and data passes to and from. Having a comprehensive management view of the entire landscape—whether self-hosted, via SaaS or running with IaaS/PaaS providers— is key for IT leadership to maintain a proper view of the company’s critical nervous system.