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Case Study

 

Advance Planning Proves the Right Call as Bouygues Telecom Migrates to SAP ERP 6.0

insiderPROFILES

November 9, 2009

A strong upfront effort can lead to a faster, more efficient upgrade. See how Tim Batty, Project Manager at cellular services company, Bouygues Telecom, and his team upgraded to SAP ERP 6.0 in under five months — and became production-ready in just four days. This success is due to the care the company put into its study phase, building the project team, testing, and training.
 

Every company knows that time is of the essence when upgrading a major technology platform such as an ERP system: By completing its upgrade swiftly — migrating and customizing its legacy systems with the least amount of strain — a company can meet its business objectives more quickly, minimize interruptions in customer service, and maximize user acceptance of new technology.

While striving for this efficiency, a French cellular telecommunications company, Bouygues Telecom, did something remarkable: It implemented an SAP ERP 6.0 upgrade in four-and-a-half months and brought the production system online in only four days. What made this achievement possible — and unique & ;mdash; is the upfront time that the company put into studying the requirements for the upgrade, planning the customization and development involved, building the project team, testing the system, and preparing the roughly 1,600 users who would be affected.

With any major ERP upgrade, user acceptance is an issue that is top of mind to the project team. Commonly, users will express concerns that their daily work would change dramatically due to the technology changes. But in this case, according to the upgrade project leader, Tim Batty, IT Project Manager at Bouygues Telecom, these fears haven’t materialized. The screens and toolbars that users had with their previous SAP technology are, basically, still in use today.

 However, the upgraded system supports important innovations that the company believes will enable more effective collaboration and drive increased revenue in the near future. Among these innovations is an SAP Real Estate Management application in SAP ERP 6.0 that manages far more efficiently the leasing and provisioning of antennas for cellular telephone service. This creates a major financial opportunity for the company, which already serves nearly 10 million customers, making it France’s third largest mobile phone operator with annual revenue of more than $5.1 billion in 2008.

Tim Batty
  Tim Batty, IT Project Manager
Bouygues Telecom team
  Several members of the Bouygues Telecom upgrade team

 

Studying the Problem

Bouygues Telecom has been using SAP ERP since 1995 — upgrading from SAP R/3 to SAP ERP 4.0, 4.5, and 4.7 — so the company has kept abreast of changes in the basic technology. Approximately 1,600 internal users work in at least one of two SAP platform instances: the logistics platform and the accounting and HR platform. The logistics platform is currently scheduled for an upgrade from SAP ERP 4.7 to SAP ERP 6.0 in 2011.

The accounting and HR platform — the target for the most recent upgrade — is the company’s back-end platform that supports the financial side of the business, including controlling, materials management, human resources, and other software for performing specific business processes. Approximately 40 other systems are integrated with the accounting and HR platform, including document and data archiving applications. All of the company’s 8,650 employees can use a variety of these systems without accessing SAP ERP directly, whether to schedule vacation time, follow or approve purchase requisitions, or — like Batty — manage operational functions. 

The screenshots below display an application that all Bouygues Telecom employees use for managing their work presence and absences, as well as sharing this information with the HR staff, their managers, and other members of their team. This .NET application is the front-end interface that serves to connect its users to back-end SAP ERP data — all the while, this data exchange is invisible to the users’ eyes.

 

screenshot 1

An example front-end application that exchanges HR data with SAP ERP; all Bouygues Telecom employees use this application to manage their work presence and absence

 

 

screenshot 2

An example screen where employees can plan and record their presence and absence in full or half days

 

 Given the complexity of this system landscape and the need to cost-justify the upgrade budget, Bouygues Telecom put a great deal of emphasis on the initial planning and evaluation in its study phase. In this phase, which lasted from September to November 2008, Batty’s project team recruited managers from both HR and finance to explain the goals of the upgrade to users and collect feedback. The overall message was that it would be easier and more efficient to upgrade the SAP platform than to build specific independent systems to support targeted business goals, such as improving the management of antenna leasing. Furthermore, users were informed, creating isolated solutions in-house wouldn’t provide the benefits of a Web services–based architecture. The message caught on with users, and their acceptance paid dividends later during development and testing.

“The study phase was a very important part of the project for us,” says Batty. “During that phase, you don’t have the same pressure, and you can get the pieces of the project sorted out. The planning we set up enabled us to communicate and bring people up to speed on what we were doing.”

David Wache, SAP and Applications Development Team Manager at Bouygues Telecom, says, “At the beginning of the project, the construction was done around motivated individuals having a nimble and communicative spirit and, especially, having a common goal,” noting that the team follows the motto, “Know yourself and you will win all battles.” According to Wache, “Bouygues Telecom’s IT department encourages that mantra.”

Scoping and Budgeting

Accurately scoping and budgeting a major upgrade project felt at first like aiming at a moving target because a project like this involves more than just software changes. “We constantly deploy new functionality in SAP software, but people change too, with developers leaving and new ones coming in,” says Batty. “You can’t just sit down with the documentation and say, ‘All right, here’s the situation.’” Because of the upfront study phase built into the project, the  team could search the software market for tools and partners that could help them fine-tune and partially automate project blueprinting, identify risks, and establish costs. 

The team chose software utilities from Panaya and IBIS Prof. Thome AG to analyze the company’s current SAP systems. Panaya’s Upgrade Automation tool went as far as to drill down into the code for specific data objects. The IBIS tool provided the capability to load the results directly into the blueprint repository in SAP Solution Manager. The team thus avoided weeks of intensive manual analysis and data entry that would have strained company resources even before the project was approved. “Panaya utilizes a supercomputer to simulate the entire SAP upgrade and finds all the errors while eliminating complete testing cycles,” explains Amit Bendov, Panaya’s Chief Marketing Officer.

"The study phase was a very important part of the project for us. The planning we set up enabled us to communicate and bring people up to speed on what we were doing."

Tim Batty, Bouygues Telecom

At the same time, the team was able to identify specific non-SAP systems that might not function once the migration occurred, and to help the developers of these systems create workarounds to prevent such problems. Batty says that the Panaya utility alerted the team to programs and products that were at risk for the upgrade. “The tool highlighted two products installed in our SAP platform that wouldn’t go through the migration,” he says. “That enabled us to contact these companies very early on in the project to understand how we could deal with it.”

As a result of this upfront effort, the team successfully presented senior management with a concrete plan and cost estimate, and explained how the upgrade would support leasing and other projects in the company’s development pipeline. The study phase also included a request-for-quotation process that resulted in a partnership with systems integrator CapGemini. By the end of November, Bouygues Telecom had scoped the project, completed the RFQ , locked in its budget, and in early January 2009 was ready to start the actual development and implementation.

panaya screenshot

The Upgrade Automation tool from Panaya

Building the Team

Along with the study phase, another key ingredient in Bouygues Telecom’s success was effective team building.  “Setting up a good team that is willing to work together, that’s primary,” says Batty. “You can throw a lot of money at things, but if you don’t have the right skills and excellent people who can do the job, then you won’t get the project in place correctly.”  In this case, the overall project team comprised the following groups:

  • Twenty internal consultants directly involved with the implementation and testing, plus 10 more involved in coordinating testing with the end users
  • CapGemini consultants who focused primarily on the technical upgrade procedure and all SAP-specific issues resulting from the upgrade
  • Nine “super users,” backed up by teams of regular users

“A very important part of the project was coordinating and anticipating problems early,” says Batty. “Everything was fluid, and we didn’t have any breakdown in communication or organization.”  To make this possible, team members worked from the same office and scheduled weekly technical reviews where technicians and administrators could discuss potential problems and decide on technical adjustments and workarounds.

“I would encourage people to take a step back, have a look at the market, and see what’s out there in terms of tools — rather than just launching into the upgrade or project.”

Tim Batty, Bouygues Telecom

The in-house developers concentrated on the roughly 40 internal systems integrated with the SAP software, while outside consultants focused on the more generic SAP applications. That way, everyone worked on the technology with which they were most familiar.  Because the internal systems were specific to Bouygues Telecom, the in-house staff already knew them intimately, so there was little or no learning curve.

Running the Process

Development and customization for the SAP ERP 6.0 upgrade began on January 5, 2009, and production use of the system started on schedule on May 25 — just 20 weeks later.  Information gathered during the study phase helped the project team anticipate and resolve any migration issues with the SAP Real Estate Management application that was so important to the success of the upgrade.

The testing phase took place over seven weeks and was organized into two parts. First, the project team members built a testing platform and used it themselves to make sure the processes were running properly. Only then were users brought in to run their own testing programs. “Of course, they found problems,” says Batty. “But at least the system was running 80% to 90% correctly. The users were not frustrated by having transactions fail or the programs dump on them. They could do their work, and any issues could be handled quickly.”

Although it was necessary to shut the company’s SAP ERP system down on Friday, May 22, the project team worked through the weekend and managed to bring the system online in only four days. “If the team hadn’t established the go-live process in advance to take advantage of weekends and a bank holiday, the go-live date would have been delayed by several weeks or months,” says Batty.

“What was important was getting the users involved in October and November,” recalls Batty. “They knew what the implications of the project would be for them during deployment,” including a temporary freeze on new development. “The users already knew we were going to ask them to help test the system so everything just fell into place.”

Taking a Step Back

In every project, no matter what careful preparations are made, unexpected events can occur. According to Batty, Bouygues Telecom encountered a few issues but was able to master them because the team had already identified the big challenges during the planning of the project. “If you’re already aware of 90% of the problems, then you can organize, you can get in touch with people, you can set up needed resources, and then you can tackle the problems,” he says. “I would encourage people to take a step back, have a look at the market, and see what’s out there in terms of tools — rather than just launching into the upgrade or project.”

 

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