The First 10 Steps: Are You Ready to Dive into the SAP S/4HANA Project

ELENA PASKANNA
Customer Success Manager
e.paskannaya@ageless.com.ua

SAP S/4HANA is one of the key products of SAP, the implementation of which radically changes the essence of business management. This is not just the automation of processes in the enterprise, but a new philosophy of management, approach to doing business. As a result – qualitatively different financial results and efficiency indicators. 

However, before immersing yourself in the SAP S/4HANA project, you should conduct a detailed readiness check to implement the solution. After all, the life of the company changes forever. This was stated by Corporate Finance and Risk Management Advisor Pedro Arturo Sandoval (Mexico) in the article “Implementing SAP S/4HANA?”. 

The expert has experience in implementing the solution in several companies. It identifies 10 key points that should be considered before implementing a project lasting 10-12 months. Before starting, you need to get ready for serious work and get the reliable support of a partner company to make the project successful. 

1. QUALITY & THE PROJECT’S SACRED TRILOGY: SCOPE, TIME AND BUDGET

Before you start implementing SAP S/4HANA, you need to make sure that you spend enough time analyzing the reality, needs, goals and expectations of your company. Where to start: 

  • collecting sufficient information,
  • identification of key players,
  • answers to the question: what do we need? what are we waiting for?

No one knows the needs of your company better than you. The first result you will get is an understanding of the scale of the project. Despite the obvious, neglecting this factor leads to failures due to unexpected changes in scale and expectations. 

It is also necessary to clearly define when exactly the system is needed to work. Keep in mind that implementing SAP S/4HANA is not about saving or throwing money away. It’s about realism in everything from detailed budgeting to achieving a goal. 

2. SAP IS NOT YOUR FRIEND, THEY ARE YOUR PROVIDER

During the project you will deal with the sellers of the solution. It is necessary to consider the modules that will be needed in the main structure: 

  • finance (FI),
  • salesand distribution (SD), 
  • purchases and inventories (MM),
  • plantmaintenance (PM), etc. 

Examine in detail their functionality and attachment to your operations. 

At the same time, consider other SAP systems outside the main structure: 

  • Concur for travel expenses.
  • Success Factor for human capital management processes.
  • Treasury and Risk Management for financial riskoperations.
  • Innovative SAP products, such as FIORI.

This is the time to discuss all issues directly with the SAP partner line manager and tailor the information to your industry and urgent needs. Listen to the consultant’s advice so that no unanswered questions remain. 

Be prepared that any new requests can increase the time and resources for the project. Therefore, each step must be correlated with the analysis, awareness of opportunities and the ultimate goal. 

3. DON’T SKIMP IN YOUR CONSULTING PARTNER

The next key point is to invest in a relationship with a consulting partner with whom you will work for 10-12 months (perhaps less, it all depends on the scale of the project). 

Relieve yourself of the hassle and make sure your consulting partner has the authority, experience and connections to achieve the project goal. 

Evaluate the submitted applications, the experience of the examination, as well as forecasting the results. Be sure to pay attention to what is printed in small print and discuss these points. This is where the pitfalls lie, definitions and suggestions that we often overlook. 

4. A GOOD AND EXPERIENCED PM, IS ALWAYS A GOOD ALLY

good project manager is like having a good architect when you want to build a house.  

When determining who will manage the implementation – the most important points to look for in a project manager are: 

  • Previous SAP experience as a project manager. 
  • Fundamentals in IT. 
  • Leadership and attitude. 
  • That he/she have previously worked with the consulting team. 

The criteria may seem obvious, but you may be surprised at how often the rules for choosing a leader are violated. 

Immediately after choosing a PM, hold a meeting during which you discuss in detail the project management methodology to achieve the goal. It is necessary to set at once dynamics of the project, to define its way, structure, stages, the basic actions in each task, terms. 

Reach inviolable agreements and clearly control the progress. 

5. SPONSORSHIP IS KEY

Any company has limited human resources. The same can be said about time and money. It is likely that you will have to share resources with other projects, to ensure current activities. That is why a correct level of sponsorship sets the priority that the project will have in the routine activities of the company. 

Make sure that at each stage of the project your key sponsors are informed and encourage them to make the required decisions. They are the force that will make things move in your project, especially when things seem stuck. 

Pay special attention to this point, it is very difficult to get full attention from the sponsors and key players in a company, but it is extremely easy to lose this advantage and your project will suffer the loss. 

6. ACCOUNTABILITY IS OWNERSHIP

During the planning phase, you should have identified all the people who will be involved in the project. Once listed, each must have a profile, role and responsibility. Make sure each person knows their activities, goals, and expectations that they will need to meet. 

Assign roles: 

  • Functional. Performed by business owners, process managers, internal beneficiaries of the implementation of the solution.
  • Technical. Performed by employees responsible for the system environment within the company, familiar with the technological architecture, software, tasks, interfaces, etc. Finally, they see the big picture of the changes that will occur after the introduction of SAP products.
  • Management. Performed by managers responsible for the interaction between the first two groups and the consulting partner. This applies to bosses, regional managers and business project managers.

Therefore, it is important to clearly distribute and speak the roles, tasks, motivate everyone involved. 

7. DATA, DATA, DATA AND DATA… PREPARE YOURSELF

Do you know the saying “trash inside / trash outside”? Well, this is where this saying comes true. The project may have an excellent configuration and implementation, but if the information uploaded is not clean and ready, everything else will not be relevant since you will not be able to use the system as it should be. 

This is another important milestone in the implementation project that requires a data transfer strategy. It is developed jointly by consultants and responsible persons within the company. 

The strategy begins with the definition of actions and their coordination with the objectives of the project plan. It is important to consider the key activities – closing financial transactions and open transactions. 

Before completing the determination phase, consultants must submit master data layouts. If this does not happen, you need to have a serious conversation with the project manager. 

Once you have received the data, schedule meetings with each process manager and IT team member so that consultants can explain the structure, design, concepts, criteria, and rules for completion. This allows you to start working on them immediately, which is very important in terms of time. 

Depending on the modules to be implemented, you will have to work with 10-15 data layouts, which include suppliers, customers, materials, services, accounting, payment centers, budgets, assets, banks and bank accounts, and more. 

This is a huge layer of work: 

  • download current databases,
  • detection and filtering of duplicate elements,
  • detection and elimination of errors,
  • search and fill in missing information,
  • identification of open transactions,
  • data quality guarantee.

For this task you must have your internal IT area support, don’t try to do it without them. 

8. PRIORITIZE YOUR NEEDS. YOU ARE UNIQUE, BUT NOT ALL AT ONCE

In the old days, process and system implementation projects started with an As-Is walk-through, this phase would allow the business and the consulting partner to know the business policies and procedures, being the ground floor for the definition of the To-Be or solution proposal. 

Today it is very common to hear and adopt the so-called “rapid implementation” projects where the company aligns its processes with the standard system workflow. 

9.  TESTING: BE SERIOUS ABOUT THEM!

Once the business processes and scenarios are approved, the consulting team will begin to configure the system, and at the same time, process owners should begin to define their testing scenarios.

Important tasks in the project are: 

  • Unit tests 
  • Comprehensive tests 
  • The development of user manuals, and 
  • As supporting information for the development of training materials. 

So be sure you have this information delivered before this tasks. 

10.  PLAN YOUR TRAININGS, CHANGES ARE COMING

The training strategy begins when 85-90% of the project is completed. Usually fixed in the contract that consultants provide training key people involved in the drafting and implementation. 

However, at the training stage it turns out that new knowledge and skills are needed by more users. Therefore, it is important to anticipate such a probability in the learning strategy. You also need to determine the effectiveness of training before training sessions.  

BONUS! 11. TRAIN YOURSELF, YOU’LL NEED IT!

Finally, the last step in the implementation of SAP – to be trained. Try to predict the start date of a series of training sessions. But even if this is not possible throughout the project, read and learn as much as possible. You will need this, especially if you are new to SAP implementation. 

Prepared by AGELESS based on the material «Implementing SAP S/4Hana?»