This three-part blog series explores the advantages of a modern ERP solution for apparel companies. Part 1 examined industry trends. Part 2 described the features of SAP S/4HANA® Fashion. In Part 3, we offer guidance on ERP implementation. A version of the series originally appeared in Apparel Magazine.
SAP’s new ERP suite for the apparel industry, SAP S/4HANA Fashion, can propel fashion brands into the digital future. But migrating to a new ERP system is far from trivial. Successful ERP implementations require a business case, careful planning, and smart execution that minimizes risk, drives user adoption, and achieves quick wins.
Few apparel companies have the IT resources to manage the process themselves. They’d be wise to seek out a consulting partner that can apply proven methodologies based on past experience. Consider working with a systems integrator that can be impartial in recommending the best solutions and approaches for your business. Collaborate with your consulting partner to:
- Establish a vision – Don’t start with the technology. Start by clearly articulating what you want to achieve as a business. Then identify the technology that will help you get there.
- Make a business case – ERP migrations and implementations can involve a significant investment in time, focus, and cost. You need a solid business case for every capability you invest in.
- Create a road map – You might start with the fundamentals and then add innovative features. Or you might first go for quick wins and do the heavy lifting later. Either way, you need a road map to get you from Point A to Point B.
- Execute – Establish clear milestones and metrics to chart your progress and accurately measure whether you’re fulfilling your vision.
- Continually assess – Even a big-bang ERP implementation isn’t “one and done.” A key benefit of a new digital core is the ability to continually improve and achieve new competitive advantages.
Assess, optimize, repeat
If you’re migrating from a non-SAP platform, bear in mind that SAP S/4HANA Fashion involves a large set of applications, business functions, and business processes. A big-bang approach will likely overwhelm your IT staff and your users. Start with the basics to achieve a solid foundation and build in meaningful iterations. Most companies should start with financials, merchandising, and store integration, and then add procurement and supply chain.
If you’re moving from an earlier SAP platform to SAP S/4HANA Fashion, keep in mind the transition might involve a complete reimplementation, not just a technical upgrade. Start with an assessment of your existing applications and processes, because your processes might be suboptimal, you might want to include additional applications in your solution footprint, and existing custom-developed applications might not run properly on SAP S/4HANA Fashion. Work with a consulting partner that has proven tools for assessing and remediating custom code.
Look to the cloud
Regardless of your starting point, you’ll need to decide whether to run SAP S/4HANA Fashion on-premises or in the cloud. In the past, many apparel companies chose to maintain their ERP solutions on-premises, because they believed they could achieve better control or security. Today most recognize that the cloud can deliver compelling advantages:
- Lower capital investments
- More predictable ongoing costs
- The ability to quickly scale up and down with changing business models
- Data protections that keep up with evolving threat and regulatory landscapes
Keep in mind that some cloud-native ERP offerings – such as SAP S/4HANA Cloud – are intended to be more of a one-size-fits-all solution, with limited apparel-specific capabilities or customizability. SAP S/4HANA Fashion not only is specifically optimized for the apparel industry – it also lets you decide on the on-premises, cloud-based, or hybrid deployment option that best meets your unique needs.
But most important, don’t delay. Start taking steps today. Establish a vision for what you want your company to achieve. Then talk to a consulting partner about how SAP S/4HANA Fashion can make that vision a reality. Ask for a solution demo. And find out how SAP S/4HANA Fashion can transform today’s most pressing business challenges into tomorrow’s greatest business opportunities.