Is your SAP S/4HANA implementation harder than ECC?

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Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “All is a riddle, and the key to a riddle … is another riddle.” With several larger companies rapidly replacing their incumbent ECC systems with SAP S/4HANA, approaching it with the traditional approach of waterfall, build-a-template, and rollout will be yet another more complex riddle!

For me, the main perk of being the head of the European SAP Center of Excellence at Capgemini is my responsibility for three key initiatives: SAP S/4HANA Transformations, Intelligent Technologies, and Architectures. With over 100 SAP S/4HANA projects now post-go-live, I have seen a strange trend emerge. The new greenfield implementations (not SAP ECC replacements) and technical migrations were fairly straightforward, with few or no real barriers (we’ve had migrations done and dusted in a couple of weeks for simpler landscapes, to less than six months in fairly complex global scenarios). But clients that choose to build a greenfield SAP S/4HANA replacement for an ECC, or, who have had multiple ECC environments, seem to be encountering delays, changing approaches, and going back to requirements and blueprints, and so forth. It’s no surprise, therefore, that close to one-fifth of our S/4HANA implementations are with customers who have decided to switch from our competitors with whom they originally started. While I admit some of our early implementations three or four years ago weren’t a cakewalk, over time we have made immense progress – and we’re not losing our customers!

So, I wondered why this was happening? Was it sheer luck, or was I perhaps having a John Nash moment (by which I mean seeing things differently, as Russell Crowe demonstrated in “A Beautiful Mind”)?

I went back to asking some fundamental questions on the why and the what of this phenomenon. The answers were rather simple. A template and roll-out approach takes too long, and does not give fast-enough time to value. In this day and age, completing the change in five or more years seems like a lifetime! It’s a timeframe that takes you back to 15 years ago, when actually going digital was expensive and difficult. The logical impact of this is that while you roll out, everything goes sequentially, and everything else goes on hold, which is neither affordable nor feasible.

Inherently, SAP S/4HANA impacts everyone much more than ECC. It can be accessed by so many varied stakeholders – clients, staff, suppliers, and others. You’re most likely changing the ways of going to market, of trading, of interacting with staff, of asset management, of new service journeys, and more. These areas are often not within your control, and this change brings other issues during rollout. In other words, the sponsors for the first deployment (be it finance, supply chain, IT, or another leader) will have other issues to address simultaneously.

When I look back 20 or 30 years, the first SAP rollouts were replacing something nonexistent, broken, or fragmented. There was a clear need to change areas such as general ledgers and manufacturing systems; but now you are replacing something that is very complex, integrated, and actually working (even if not highly efficient). You have an existing global supply chain, and you need real-time tax efficiency dashboards. Change is faster than ever, and you are probably hitting a moving target with the drivers/business case changing faster than you can realize the global template. The mindset of millennials is possibly another factor. I’m not sure that any of them will want “Implementing one SAP system for 10 years” on their CVs.

What can be done about this? This is a blog post, so I’m not going to give you the complete and perfect answer. But, depending on the needs of the organization, and in light of the three- to four-week SAP S/4HANA assessments and weeklong Intelligent Enterprise workshops we run with our clients, here’s what we’ve been doing well over the last two to three years:

  • Do it faster and in parallel, thanks to our multi-pillar SAP S/4HANA Solution Architecture – and even go big-bang where needed.
  • Migrate the system, and then sort out new-builds on top of it – or build the intelligence first, and then move to the new ways of working and business models.
  • Find a business case sponsored by the CEO, not by the IT department.
  • Strip out the complexity of the old system, and build all the bespoke elements as micro-services and new service journeys to the new/existing SAP system.

Capgemini’s Renewable Enterprise opens new, complete solutions that are quicker, significantly more adaptable to business changes, and that allow several tangible proof-points along the way. What’s more, it helps to maintain momentum.

Do you want to increase your ambition and pace, with more punch and impact? Contact me, and let’s move from “riddles within riddles” to “build your own renewable enterprise.”

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