At the end of the day, business executives generally hold IT professionals accountable for innovation, execution, and growth. The SAP Services organization, which is involved in about 2,500 projects per year, can help SAP customers meet these demands. From my experience, the following three best practices will help you simplify your next SAP project and create a sustainable platform to promote growth and properly manage this type of innovation.
1. Think Big, Start Small, and Move Fast
The newly introduced SAP Rapid Deployment solutions create a brand new way of driving value for SAP customers by speeding time to implementation. What exactly are these solutions? SAP Rapid Deployment solutions represent the next generation of consumable software. In many ways, these solutions are as revolutionary as other major innovations like software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions. SAP Rapid Deployment solutions offer SAP customers a modular deployment approach that is based on simple and prescriptive best practices. This approach allows you to shift away from big projects to package services, with less customization and significantly faster time-to-value.
More specifically, SAP Rapid Deployment solutions encompass software, SAP best practices, predefined templates, and end-user enablement tools to educate users and ensure a smooth adoption. Traditionally, SAP transformation projects are viewed as huge undertakings. Our goal, however, is to transform the way our customers think about these deployments into a series of more tightly scoped implementations that can drive value quickly, for a greater return on investment — and we’re doing it every single day.
The following examples highlight customers that had success leveraging this rapid-deployment methodology:
- A large North American utilities company — and long-time SAP customer — took a leap of faith with SAP to roll out SAP Customer Relationship Management (SAP CRM). By leveraging an SAP Rapid Deployment solution, this business reduced project costs by 70% and implemented its SAP software in roughly a quarter of the time.
- An SAP customer, a leader in the custom blind and window covering industry, went live with SAP CRM in just eight weeks. This SAP Rapid Deployment solution is fully integrated with the business’s other SAP back-end systems, which is something other SaaS solutions in the CRM space can’t do today. This scalable solution also provides a platform for future add-on tier functionality.
- A world-class manufacturer of high-performance business aircraft needed a solution to get real-time customer information to a mobile workforce. SAP Services, with only five IT resources, implemented a mobile sales SAP Rapid Deployment solution on top of SAP CRM and rolled it out to the business’s entire sales force in less than 10 weeks.
“SAP has been helping companies drive value and be more effective for almost 40 years. But in many ways, we’re just getting started with innovation. Stay tuned for the power of mobility, big data, and SAP on demand. With these technologies, companies can leverage SAP innovations and extend value to their business.”
— Ross Wainwright, COO of North America and former EVP of North America Services, SAP
2. Pull More Levers with Fewer Hands
The prospect of implementing SAP technology can be intimidating due to the many stages of the project life cycle. This is the reality of managing a complex implementation. There is, however, an easier way to handle the complexity — with SAP’s Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) platform.
The ALM platform is an integrated suite of products based around SAP Solution Manager and a methodology that addresses quality and efficiency and drives operational sustainability. Every time you purchase SAP software or deploy an additional capability on software that you own today, you are in theory connecting dots on a roadmap. The ALM platform helps you automate the process of connecting the dots to ensure your applications are developing in a highly optimized manner, which not only reduces the implementation cost, but also the cost of ongoing operations. The bottom line is that you can absorb technology faster and, in doing so, accelerate the time-to-value for the business.
Different segments make up the ALM platform. There is software for visualization (by iRise), process modeling (by IDS Scheer), performance modeling (by Wily and CA Technologies), automated testing (by HP), and performance management (by Knoa), as well as transformation tools like SAP System Landscape Optimization, SAP Test Acceleration and Optimization, and SAP Test Data Migration Server — all with SAP Solution Manager at the center.
SAP Solution Manager is the heartbeat of every SAP deployment. It represents the single record of truth for that deployment and it’s the window for your communication with SAP. Through it, SAP customers are able to leverage the power of the integrated ALM platform and keep an ongoing collaborative dialogue with SAP. SAP wants all of its customers to excel with SAP technology and aims to deliver it right the first time, which means helping to mitigate risk and achieve a more predictable outcome — with no surprises. Here are a couple examples of satisfied SAP customers that have implemented ALM strategies:
- One of the largest electric utilities in the US has completed a very large SAP implementation and is focusing on driving adoption across its user community. To ensure successful adoption, the business needed to understand end-to-end business process transformation, which we all struggle with. This company selected iRise to help visualize the end-to-end business process. In turn, the visualization software helped the business jumpstart its SAP deployment.
- A global giant in the oil and gas industry has integrated almost every product within the ALM environment. The business needed to increase its capacity for testing while enabling developers to work independently within a tight timeframe. The result was a quality implementation that achieved significant savings with much less effort.
Whether you’re focused on visualization, end-to-end business processes, or automated testing, you can improve or drive processes effectively through ALM products. The integration of these products with SAP Solution Manager represents a competitive edge, enabling companies to do more with less cost, less risk, and less time.
"Traditionally, SAP transformation projects are viewed as huge undertakings. Our goal, however, is to transform the way our customers think about these deployments into a series of more tightly scoped implementations that can drive value quickly, for a greater return on investment — and we’re doing it every single day."
— Ross Wainwright, COO of North America and former EVP of North America Services, SAP
3. Embrace the Art of Governance
At SAP Services, we often see projects fail due to a lack of governance. Effective governance requires a different type of approach to drive success and avoid project failures. It’s all about risk management, accountability, and empowering those people closest to the project who actually drive decisions. Here are the critical prerequisites:
- The project needs to be business led. And the program manager is the most important leadership role. This person needs to have the authority to drive and execute decisions, or else issues escalate.
- Together with a systems integrator and SAP involvement, your organization’s internal team must build an integrated work plan. You have to define the work upfront to ensure you identify the swim lanes between all the players.
- You must have the best people working on the project, especially when you’re building a next-generation process. The test that I like to share with executives is that if it doesn’t really hurt to give up that individual, then the business isn’t assigning the right person. There has to be push back.
One role we see in successful projects is that of the benevolent dictator. Implementing an SAP project is not a democratic process. In other words, consensus-driven cultures consume budgets and undermine successful projects. Without a benevolent dictator, the result is frustration and project overruns. And we’ve seen this happen many times before.
On the flip side, world-class governance can truly impact successful projects. For example, a multibillion-dollar food services company in the wholesale distribution business was looking to drive the shared-services model (including finance and inventory optimization) and in turn, drive growth. Governance became the foundation of the organization’s culture, and the fact that the company had an incredibly strong program manager and a fully engaged CEO was a true differentiator. After completing an SAP rollout using effective governance, the business dramatically improved its market valuation. Strong governance is about empowerment, accountability, and paying attention to the details.
Putting It All Together
SAP has been helping companies drive value and be more effective for almost 40 years. But in many ways, we’re just getting started with innovation. Stay tuned for the power of mobility, big data, and SAP on demand. With these technologies, companies can leverage SAP innovations and extend value to their business.
The recommendations outlined in this article provide a roadmap for conversations with company CEOs and SAP business sponsors. Remember, these three best practices will help drive successful execution of SAP projects: Speed and predictability drive outcomes through the SAP Rapid Deployment solutions platform; an ALM strategy drives greater automation and reduces risk; and true and effective governance is the foundation for success. Leveraging these best practices will arm companies with everything they need to win big with SAP software.