VINCI Energies — a growing professional services company in the construction and energy industry — employs 77,500 people across the globe in more than 55 countries with a global revenue of €12.6 billion in 2018. Following a strong acquisition strategy over the past five years, the business has grown to nearly 1,000 companies, which will soon all be operating on one single instance of SAP S/4HANA. The business has completed a successful technical migration from SAP Business Suite on SAP HANA to SAP S/4HANA in August 2018, while simultaneously deploying the system globally to get all business units running on the consolidated landscape. Currently, 30,000 SAP users are live on the system (as of January 2019).
Upon completing the 10-month project to get the business migrated to SAP S/4HANA, VINCI Energies set itself up for easy adoption of additional capabilities that the latest SAP technology provides. One such space where the company saw an opportunity to extend the SAP S/4HANA functionality was in application development — specifically using SAP Cloud Platform to create applications where capabilities currently don’t exist in SAP S/4HANA. Timesheet entry was one area where the business had been clamoring for improvements, and there was a strong request for a single application that could capture worker timesheets as well as project costs and activities.
“Because VINCI Energies does not produce energy nor any other product, the business is 100% project-based,” says CIO Dominique Tessaro. “Everything is a project in our company, therefore, every cost for the company has to go through a project so we know exactly if projects are earning or losing money for the business.”
In an effort to keep better track of project costs, the business decided to undergo a pilot project using SAP Cloud Platform to develop an application that could handle timesheet entry as well as other associated project costs. Development for the pilot app was performed in a parallel stream to the SAP S/4HANA migration. According to Tessaro, the business could have connected SAP Cloud Platform directly to its SAP ERP 6.0 system but preferred to wait for the migration to begin. “We wanted SAP Cloud Platform to connect to the migrated system because we thought it would be much easier to avoid another transition for the business.”
Complexities of Timesheet Entry
Every material used for a VINCI Energies project, the hours that workers spent, and any other associated costs all need to be applied to individual projects. If a worker rents a piece of equipment to use for a construction job at the beginning of one day and then rents a car to drive to another job site later that afternoon, all those hours and rental costs need to be attributed to each respective job. Employees and managers had long been asking for a new solution for timesheet entry to replace the manual, paper-based method that was in place, but the complexity of the process prevented an easy fix. The IT department saw SAP Cloud Platform as the answer to create more advanced capabilities for the business.
“When you talk about timesheets, it sounds at first like an easy process, but it’s not, and the SAP S/4HANA functionality alone does not offer the answer to the complex process,” says Tessaro. “If you look at the SAP Fiori user experience, the apps are very simple. They can work for people who need to do timesheet entry for one day on one project and that’s it. But employees working out in the field have various projects every day, and they might need to input two hours spent on one project and two hours and 15 minutes on another, and then they have to cost something else to put on one project.”
Another piece of complexity that came into play was the issue of connectivity. Employees who work outside the office have to wait until they get online to enter timesheet and project data into the SAP system. “We wanted to have clear security where anyone who could connect to the back-office SAP system could easily access an online application to see project data — the people, their hours, the previous history — with everything all there,” Tessaro says. “It would be easier to manage project costs for the week and the month in addition to the timesheet entry.”
Developing the Timesheet Application
When VINCI Energies decided to develop a specific app that would allow remote workers to put multiple costs for projects using one single application, a lot of thought and work went into the design. The complex process would need to be presented in a simple way because the application users are not typical business users. For the most part, these are workers who are not in the office but are travelling laborers, working outside, performing construction and maintenance in the field, according to Tessaro. “Many of these workers have never touched IT so when you put a tablet in their hand, you must have something very intuitive,” he says. “We tried to make it as simple as possible, while taking a part of the complexity of this process away, by integrating as much data from SAP S/4HANA and returning it to the solution. This is why we turned to SAP Cloud Platform, because it had the capabilities to meet the business users’ needs with an intuitive interface and simple ease of use.”
The development of the app was spaced out over seven months of easy effort. “We were able to build it fairly easily thanks to the simple development tools provided by SAP Cloud Platform. However, a lot of business process discussion and collaboration went on in advance between the business and the application users to make sure the functionality was correct, the design was acceptable, and they were comfortable using the application,” Tessaro says. “We followed the Agile methodology and worked with a resource from SAP to design and build a very specific app for timesheet entry using SAP Cloud Platform, and then we spent a few weeks reviewing the screen design.”
The application called MOBITIME (shown below) is presented to workers only online, but employees can easily take it into field with them on their tablets or mobile phones thanks to 4G connectivity — where they can perform time-sheet entry or other associated project costs all in one handy application. On the back end, the application transmits data to/from SAP S/4HANA where all the data users enter into the application is updated live on the SAP S/4HANA system.
MOBITIME has an easily navigable interface. “This application makes it easier for workers to input all the data in one place,” says Tessaro. “The project information is then transmitted live to the back office, and so project managers can keep better track of their costs on their projects.”
VINCI Energies’ workers can use the new MOBITIME app created with SAP Cloud Platform to enter time and other project costs right from the field on mobile devices
Successful Pilot, Ready to Go Global
MOBITIME has been successfully deployed now for six months on many pilots in two countries, and the results have been positive. Currently, the 670 legal entities of VINCI Energies that are running SAP S/4HANA are deploying the application. With the single-instance SAP S/4HANA environment, the IT team can duplicate this experience and roll out the successful pilot app in a fast, easy, and repeatable fashion throughout all VINCI Energies’ business units. “Thanks to our single-client approach, we can quickly get some value starting to come from deploying this new technology,” Tessaro says. “After the successful development of the pilot app, I feel very confident in developing either simple or more complex apps using SAP Cloud Platform and in delivering them afterward in a service-oriented method all over world.”