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Standardize Your IT Transformation Projects with a Software-Based Approach

by Dr. Andreas Schneider-Neureither | insiderPROFILES

April 1, 2010

Surveyed executives indicate that IT transformation projects are here to stay — so how can you make sure these projects run smoothly? SNP AG has developed a standardized, software-based approach, as well as software supporting the four phases of an IT transformation project, to help companies decrease downtime and save money.
 

According to executives surveyed after completing an IT transformation project...

  • 94% say that IT transformations will continue to play an important role in the future
  • 85% say that globalization is the reason for the continued importance of IT transformations

In the current economy — where enterprise-wide cost reduction remains a top business priority — most companies still have to get along with tight IT budgets. However, budget constraints do not equate to a decrease in the strategic importance of IT. On the contrary, CIOs now must focus on new techniques to prosper in an economy that’s marked by constant changes, including:

  • Corporate restructurings, mergers, splits, and carve outs
  • Technology progress, which results in regular release updates
  • Data and system consolidations to ensure transparency and all-encompassing reporting

Major changes such as these have major implications on the IT side. To stay competitive globally, businesses need to take into equal account business demands and technical requirements. They must be flexible and transform their software, including their SAP systems, according to these changes — an essential process that is highly complex and sensitive.

IT transformations — such as merging or splitting clients, plants, and company codes; harmonizing master data; or upgrading — have historically been expensive, time consuming, and error prone. The conventional transformation method is a manual process that requires highly qualified and experienced technical specialists to operate and control software tools.

To manage transformations quickly, painlessly, securely, and cost-effectively, companies need a standardized, automated transformation approach — one that allows IT departments to use software-based tools to independently implement IT transformations. The need for such tools is especially timely now because, according to the ERP life cycle, the huge wave of recent SAP ERP implementations will soon lead to a transformation wave, in which companies will focus on restructuring and reorganizing their SAP systems.

About 99% of IT transformations are carried out according to conventional manual methods and the market share of software-based tools is tiny, according to a 2007 Boston Consulting Group study.

IT Transformation Projects Are Here to Stay — How Can You Make Sure They Run Smoothly?

At SNP AG, we recommend taking a software-based approach to IT transformation. Currently, however, most companies are not dedicating any budget dollars to tools that would enable such an approach (see the sidebar below). But I’d argue that many companies would better be able to reach their goals with such tools.

SNP commissioned a study of companies in the ERP market with the infas Institute for Applied Social Research in Bonn, Germany. Top executives (CEOs, CFOs, and CIOs) at large enterprises (5,000+ employees) were asked about their satisfaction with the results of their IT transformation projects necessitated by system harmonization and consolidations and/or corporate reorganization.

The table below summarizes some of the study’s findings.

Executive Survey Results

Furthermore, according to the study, respondents were deeply dissatisfied with the long project time and its associated high cost. The biggest problem areas named in the study were:

  • Cost
  • Time
  • Transparency
  • External and internal monitoring

In addition, other problem areas identified were:

  • Compliance guidelines
  • Certainty of outcome
  • Performance
  • Assessment of project costs

When asked about how they would improve future IT change projects, top managers consistently expressed the desire for greater commitment and professionalism in the communication and implementation of IT transformation. It’s clear that IT transformation projects will continue to grow in importance — overcoming the problem areas we uncovered should be a top priority.

SNP Gives Executives What They Want: A Standardized Approach

Based on the study results, as well as our field experience, we at SNP developed a tool-based approach that is based on standardized tasks. We call this approach the SNP Business Landscape Transformation (SNP BLT). Companies have used this standardized approach to successfully carry out their IT transformation projects in over 1,000 projects worldwide since SNP’s foundation in 1994. We have a number of SNP BLT and related software-based tools — all of which have been thoroughly tested and certified by experts — to fit the varying tasks of different transformation scenarios.

In contrast to the conventional migration method, the SNP BLT method lets companies transform their SAP systems automatically using software. Thus, the error rate decreases and the quality of the transformation process increases.

Introducing SNP T-Bone

To meet the needs of the transformation market, we also developed SNP Transformation Backbone (SNP T-Bone), standardized and formalized software that comprehensively and automatically supports SAP transformations according to the SNP BLT. The user interface is Web-based and enables IT departments of large companies to implement transformations independently.

For companies, this advancement brings a unique advantage.

SNP T-Bone controls, directs, and implements the SAP transformation (see graphic below). This enables transparency at all levels of the process, reducing project duration and costs, promoting project safety, increasing security, and ensuring project compliance. In addition, with its analytical and strategic functions, SNP T-Bone makes accurate predictions about transformation projects, allowing companies to make a detailed plan of the business scenario with a more exact cost estimate.

SNP T-Bone

The SNP Transformation Backbone (SNP T-Bone)

This standardized software takes a comprehensive and automated approach to transformation, taking into account both technical and business requirements. In addition, SNP T-Bone acquires the data history of your existing solution landscape. A high level of automation facilitates the transformation with high migration speed and minimal downtime, so this means that the data conversion minimally affects end users and the business.

How SNP T-Bone Automates IT Transformations

Let’s take a closer look at how the various software tools of SNP T-Bone support the four phases of an IT transformation project — from planning to execution.

Phase 1: Pre-Analysis

The first step in an IT transformation process is to analyze the SAP system landscape. The SNP T-Bone System Scan supports this step by automatically performing a detailed analysis of the SAP-supported business requirements. This way, companies can be sure that they obtain all relevant information about the transformation needs. SNP simply emails the customer this information as an executable file; the customer can then install and execute the program on system G01 and send the results to SNP, which will then evaluate the outcome.

Phase 2: Strategic Planning

SNP T-Bone Wizard supports the strategic planning project phase by guiding the customer through a simple questionnaire produced using the results of the SNP T-Bone System Scan. This questionnaire will help define and organize a project plan and clarify the necessary technical frameworks by determining how the company plans to use a new or updated system landscape.

Also, companies can use the Wizard to see a graphical representation of the existing system landscape. Using drag and drop, customers can then simulate different transformation scenarios, providing information on feasibility and expected costs.

Phase 3: Analysis

Following the strategic planning phase, SNP T-Bone executes further, more in-depth, analysis, during which the software automatically generates task lists and transformation rules. For example, to meet the requirements of a Unicode conversion, the software analyzes all custom, in-house developments and installed add-ons to check for Unicode compatibility. Thus, SNP T-Bone measures the impact of the Unicode conversion.

Phase 4: Implementation

The SNP T-Bone Cockpit stores the extensive knowledge about implementing a transformation project and controls the implementation. The Cockpit also contains standardized procedures for planning, organizing, managing, monitoring, and documenting SAP transformations and displays all activities and documents, giving users a consolidated view of the complete transformation process. Furthermore, extensive testing, risk management, and compliance capabilities are integrated into the Cockpit. The self-explanatory and easy-to-use interface allows users to navigate through the various phases of a project, running the appropriate transformation tools when necessary.

Depending on the type of transformation, companies can also install scenario-specific and industry-specific units into SNP T-Bone. These units include software tools that are specialized for certain transformation scenarios — for example, a spin-off bundled with an upgrade and a Unicode conversion (see the sidebar below for a real-world scenario). In addition, a unit contains pre-defined content for the Cockpit (including schedules and inspections) along with defined sets of rules for the transformation implementation.

Reducing Downtime, Saving Money

During an IT transformation, a company’s management is always going to push for an implementation with as little downtime as possible to maintain business process continuity. With SNP T-Bone, companies can use standardized software to transform their core business processes and reduce their system downtime to a matter of hours. To learn more, visit snp.de/en.

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