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Methodology & Solution Delivery

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ERP implementation is a collection of practices and workflows intended to design, build and tune an ERP landscape. ERP landscapes are all unique, so ERP implementations are seldom the same. Each has its own organization-specific requirements based on distinctive ERP configurations, customizations and combinations of ERP and third-party modules. Unique adaptations aside, an ERP implementation is always about taking a vision for ERP in the business and turning it into a reality. It’s a multi-step process, with distinct phases.

A poor ERP implementation can result in brand damage, loss of revenue, negative customer experience, excessive IT and business operational expenses and frustrated employees. 

Any ERP implementation has five basic steps:

  1. Project preparation
  2. Business blueprint
  3. Realization
  4. Final preparation
  5. Go Live support

In Project Preparation, you get ready to implement by identifying objectives, priorities and scope. During this initial planning phase, you work on gaining stakeholder support while lining up resources. Business Blueprinting is about defining the business processes your landscape will address. Realization is where the implementation team takes the business blueprint as the starting point to build, test and refine the landscape. Up until this point, the process has been headed up by the functional team, who are primarily concerned with what the system does. In realization, the technical team starts to take a bigger role. In Final Preparation, your team prepares for migration and go-live. Go Live Support means flipping the switch and then looking after the newly implemented ERP landscape.

The phases of an ERP implementation occur in parallel with the steps described above. They include Onsite Initiation, which is an initial kick-off with the technical team and key stakeholders. Data Centre and Network Setup involves provisioning and then configuring whatever on-premises infrastructure is needed, including Disaster Recovery (DR).  ERP General Activities cover other preliminaries and getting ready for implementation by downloading software, etc. Sandbox Migration is where you migrate the ERP landscape incrementally in advance of production migration. Development Migration comprises working out issues that inevitably arise in the implementation process. The Production Migration itself is the final phase.

The project manager of an SAP S/4HANA Implementation/Conversion project can be compared to the captain of a ship. Although the crew members in the ship have their own designated jobs, one person must take control of all the things in order to manage and have a bird’s eye view of how things are proceeding in order to reach the destination safely. Similarly, the consultants of an SAP S/4HANA project have their own well-defined tasks prescribed by SAP Activate, but the project manager must ensure that the project duration and cost estimates are met at each time interval (sprints/releases).

Role of our Project Manager during:

1. AS-IS study

  • The project manager will enable the project team to analyze the existing SAP ECC landscape. The project team shall convince to the customers regarding the various benefits of SAP S/4HANA.
  • A proper strategical decision on SAP S/4HANA transition scenario and a comprehensive implementation strategy shall be created by the project manager with the help of S/4HANA solution architects and the LoB consultants.
  • This phase is completely reliant on the project team and business end users interaction. The project manager will ensure that proper communication strategy and regular feedback from both the customer and project team members is received and the relevant follow-ups are done regularly.

2. Project Team Enablement

  • The project manager shall provide access to the SAP support portal and thereby the best practices documentation to his team.
  • The SAP Activate methodology is based on agile implementation approach, principles and techniques. It is the project manager’s responsibility to ensure that the project team is enabled on agile project delivery approach.

3. Quality factors Enablement

The Project Manager shall also ensure the following moral and quality-based roles.

  • Set project expectations and delta design deliverables
  • Provide guidance for delta design workshops
  • Improve quality assurance and its acceptance criteria
  • Foster teamwork within the project team

4. Project Scoping

  • A PM shall work along with the project’s solution architect and consultants to arrive at the clear scope definition and objectives document.

5. Cutover Approach

  • Using the knowledge gained, the project manager shall work along with the solution architect and customer’s project manager to arrive at an optimal cutover approach recommended by the SAP regional implementation group (RIG).
  • The project manager shall also ensure that the custom code adaptation has been clarified with the customer’s project team.

6. Project Initiation

  • The project delivery platform as per the SAP Activate methodology is the Solution Manager. The project manager will ensure that all the SAP Solution Manager licenses are procured before initiating the project.
  • The project manager shall efficiently hand over the project from the sales team to delivery team through Sales Handover Meeting.
  • The project manager shall prepare and review the order form with the customer (signed SAP contract, order form, confirm scope, RACI matrix, resources and budget, customer staffing etc.,)
  • A PM is also responsible for identifying the stakeholders of the project, requirements, expectations and acceptance criteria.
  • The main role is to prepare the project charter containing the business needs and to get confirmation for the same from the Stakeholders.

However, in the case of conversion projects, the ship is not a normal ship. It is a ship that has to be shipwrecked. The older version of ERP was not designed for digital disruption that has evolved after the advent of new-gen technologies such as Machine Learning, Internet of Things, Blockchain, Digital Twins, Reality Applications, Decentralized Software Components, and hence the ship (ECC System) cannot fulfil all the requirements of a Digital Native Enterprise. In order to migrate the crew members (existing business processes of the ECC) and travellers (existing custom code and data) safely from the older version (ECC) to the new version (S/4HANA), we need a rescue craft (Project Management tool).

Hence, the value of effective project management can be realized only when unpredictable risks occur during project execution. In an implementation project, the team works in a newly configured SAP S/4HANA system. But, in conversion projects, the team will face twists and turns from the beginning till the very end as they must work in both ECC and S/4HANA systems. The existing and scoped business processes must be migrated from ECC to S/4HANA system by having a proper fit gap analysis which is very new for any SAP S/4HANA consultant. In this article, let us discuss in detail on the roles and responsibilities of an SAP S/4HANA conversion project manager.

Sometimes a blind faith in the SAP Activate methodology is what has led to SAP failures at Revlon, Lidl, and other organizations in recent years.

Some challenges that we see a lot of organizations run into includes:

  • Rushing into implementation with no clear vision or plan, delegating the entire transformation to your partner/system integrator without addressing their deficiencies, and having unrealistic expectations. This first challenge of implementation occurs when your organization dives into a project without really knowing what they want. This is problematic because at this point the SAP partner/system integrator may take over and you’ll be stuck trying to make decisions while the meter is running.
  • Never let your technology run your company; know what you want out of it and don’t just hop on board new software expecting it to solve all your problems. When you just jump into your project unhinged you also will be spending too much time and money on it that could have been avoided if you had planned earlier. This may lead to some organization frustration down the road as your team members/employees may wonder why you’re even trying to implement something if you don’t have a plan for it. That’s why it’s important to outline what you want and what you expect before you start your digital transformation project. This should all be part of your SAP S/4HANA transformation readiness plan.

Challenging areas of SAP S/4HANA Activate methodology

  1. Organizational design: There’s no workstream here that’s focused on making standardized or common business processes. The Activate Methodology doesn’t exactly pinpoint what your organization should do to alter its design to better handle S/4 HANA.
  2. Standardized/common business processes: While you may want to do a specific business process to be done a certain way, the methodology doesn’t exactly outline how exactly the business processes will be done on the other end. Model Company is not a one size fits all solution.
  3. Change impact analysis: How do we want our jobs to change? How will this methodology change the way we do our jobs? These and other key questions should be addressed in your SAP organizational change management strategy.
  4. Build skills and competencies (non-technical): How can we make sure that we understand what the methodology will bring to our organization? How can we leverage this methodology so that it helps us in the future?
  5. Communications Plan and Materials: Communication of the plan is absolutely important for the success of the project. If nobody understands what’s going on, then the plan won’t go anywhere and may delay the project.

SAP Activate Methodology in detail

Since the official announcement of the deadline for SAP R/3 (2025), most of the IT leaders started migrating to the next generation business suite –SAP S/4HANA and most of those businesses, who are using SAP ‘s Enterprise Resource Planning software are already in the process of upgrading. The new suite is built on in-memory platform SAP HANA & designed with the SAP Fiori user interface. The new sap product (SAP S/4HANA) deployed on On-Premise, Cloud and Hybrid configuration.

With the advent of enhanced business functions, faster deployment, exceptional in-memory platform SAP HANA, SAP Activate is the preferred implementation methodology (Agile method) rather than the ASAP methodology (waterfall method) of software implementation.

SAP Activate is an implementation methodology used in SAP S/4HANA and unique combination of 3 core pillars,

  • SAP Guided configuration,
  • SAP Best Practices &
  • Methodology

 It is the quickest way till date, to simplify and streamline your business operations with SAP S/4HANA.This methodology enables customers to build smart, run and start faster in their respective landscape. It is a successor to Accelerated SAP (ASAP) and SAP launch methodology. It also provides complete content and guidance to each team of your project.

There are 2 variants of SAP Activate Implementation Methodology

  • SAP Activate Methodology for On-Premise solutions: The methodology for On-Premise solutions is designed to support the new sap implementation in on-premise configurations for each and every team of your project.
  • SAP Activate Methodology for Cloud solution: The methodology for Cloud solutions provides Software as a Services, where the new system installation & management occur outside of the project.

3 Core Pillars of SAP Activate: SAP Activate Methodology is a combination of SAP Best Practices, Guided configurations, and Methodology optimized for S/4HANA.

Pillar#1 - SAP Best Practices: SAP Activate contains complete and consistent pre-configured best practice scenarios and functionalities, which speed up the migration path.

The Best Practices includes the following Business process Structure with technical steps.

  1. Accelerates your project implementation.
  2. Integrated Information with other Cloud solutions, such as Ariba Network, SuccessFactors Employee Central.
  3. Migration documents, which help to migrate your SAP or Non-SAP systems.
  4. Graphical representation of all the business process.
  5. Test Automation process in SAP S/4HANA.
  6. Pre-defined test scripts.

Pillar#2 - Guided Configuration: It is a set of tools, accelerators, and assets, which helps the implementation of SAP S/4HANA. Depending upon your landscape (On-Premise or Cloud), there are a different set of tools.

  1. Cloud Edition: Self-service configuration user interface’s & expert configuration allows best practice processes to be altered, while expert configuration allows new process to add to the existing set.
  2. On-Premise Edition: SAP implementation guide and Solution Manager provides configuration activities to do in-depth custom configuration. SAP best practices provide a set of rules and best practices for the efficient and effective data migration and integration to SAP S/4HANA along with many other best ways to configure your own sap standard processes. The approach fills the gap between IT group and business for successful S/4HANA implementation.
  • SAP Activate Methodology: Above two elements provide real value to your business. Methodology is the key component for initiating any SAP S/4HANA implementation.

Pillar#3 - Activate Methodology: Activate is the successors of all variants of ASAP and SAP launch methodology
For On-Premise Edition: The ASAP 8 methodology is replaced with the new SAP Activate methodology & supported for SAP Business suite & S/4HANA.
For Cloud Edition: The SAP Launch methodology is replaced with the new SAP Activate methodology for both cloud edition and project services edition. It supports implementation in SAP S/4HANA, Cloud editions.
Compared to ASAP & SAP Launch, SAP Activate has the following improvements in the following areas.

  • Based on the use of SAP Best Practices.
  • Only-4 phases – Reduced project lifecycle.
  • Not more than 10 key deliverables per phase.
  • Replace Blueprint activities with solution validation.
  • Agile as a default implementation methodology.

Moving forward there will be no further content enhancements made to Accelerated SAP 8 as all the new implementation assets will be made available through SAP Activate framework.

According to different IT leaders and businesses, the roadmap to get to SAP S/4HANA varies in order to maximize benefits. For example, the client may be new to SAP, or already using SAP legacy system, or may have a mature SAP landscape that you have to plan to simplify and transform.
There are 3 main adoption roadmaps at these different starting points:

  1. New Implementation: In this situation, you are installing a completely new S/4HANA system and migrate your data. Most of the clients will benefit from the new implementation of Industry-leading Business Suite and process simplification based on ready-to-run business processes.
  2. System Conversion: In this situation, you may already use SAP Business Suite on in-memory platform SAP HANA and wants to convert your existing system into a S/4HANA system. Clients can leverage Rapid Deployment Solution and benefit from migration without any disruption and reimplementation for existing business processes, re-evaluation of existing business process and customization over time.
  3. Landscape Transformation: In this situation, we may want to use S/4HANA as your central finance system or move an application to S/4HANA, or you might want to simplify your existing system landscape by integrating multiple business processes into one new S/4HANA instance. Based on your SAP Landscape Transformation Replication Server, upgrading to latest enhancement package and the migration to SAP HANA are supported by services. It has many other advantages as they would gradually move to S/4HANA with the existing business processes, can also carve out of single entities of the company to S/4HANA & simplifies the process.

SAP Activate for your SAP S/4HANA Roadmap
For each of the above situation, we will take 4 phases of the project lifecycle

  • Prepare: Start with SAP Best Practices.
  • Explore: Move into preassembly, solution validation workshops, rapid prototyping, and delta backlog.
  • Realize: Iterate delta scope implementation & E2E integration testing.
  • Deploy: Finally phase of project lifecycle where the rollout is done.

Content for SAP Activate Methodology - Tools, Assets, and Accelerators are freely accessible, which are linked to different phases of the implementation methodology.
SAP Best Practices assets and accelerators are directly accessible through Fiori application of SAP S/4HANA. Additionally, they are also accessible through online and solution manager templates on SAP Service Marketplace.

Methodology assets are available through standard documentation of the implementation methodologies. In addition to these assets, SAP Activate Methodology project management accelerators are made available through SAP JAM.

SAP Activate Methodology allows businesses to build smart and run simply through the 3 key elements (Best Practices, Guided Configuration, and Methodology). Its superseded ASAP and SAP Launch methodologies & is one methodology for any deployment option (On-Premise, Cloud & Hybrid) for SAP S/4HANA. It provides the freedom to run fast with SAP Fiori UX, with a lower TCO and built-in extensibility to fit unique needs.

Aptworks Advisory framework for development of a world class, fully integrated SAP IT and Center of Excellence Maturity

Properly formed and instituted your SAP steering committee is a key enabler for business to IT convergence. 

To achieve SAP IT Convergence Beyond Business to IT Alignment requires a senior leader change champion to make this a deliberate and accountable effort.  This is not intended to be a theoretical discussion but instead it is an action plan.  The entire initiative is as a project and needs a project plan, deliverables, key milestones, assigned resources, etc.   All of the structure and processes will need to be defined within your IT organization to move this forward.

SAP Center of Excellence Maturity Development Level 1 – Internal Focus on IT Operations (Service Provider)

Internal focus is an “all hands on deck” effort.  If internal focus, or basic IT service delivery is suffering then everyone within the IT organization must work to ensure your systems are meeting business needs.  You will not gain enough trust of the business community to become a partner or peer until the basic infrastructure works. Some of the key development in this phase includes:

  • All skills matrix
  • IT staff training and development plans
  • Clear SLA requirements
  • Consistent and regular feedback and coaching

Typical activities for service delivery include:

  • Help desk functions
  • Data maintenance
  • Security and authorizations
  • Technical infrastructure (servers, system performance, database maintenance, network, etc)
  • System access (desktop, remote, mobile, etc).
  • Hardware procurement
  • Knowledge (information) base development (Wikis, SharePoint, collaboration tools, etc.)
  • Knowledge transfer to the user community (formal and informal training)
  • Super user development

Skills development focuses on SAP or technical domain competence

  • Application module specialties (SD, MM, PP, SRM, CRM, FI, APO, BObj, etc)
  • Programming languages (ABAP, Java, PHP, etc.)
  • Infrastructure (Cisco, routers, VOIP, IPv6, DHCP, LDAP, etc.)
  • SAP Solution Manager use
  • Effective presentation skills

SAP Center of Excellence Maturity Development Level 2 – SAP IT Integration With the Broader Business Enterprise (Business Partner)

At this stage, depending on the size of your SAP or IT organization, there are 2 levels of leadership:

  • Delivery management, and
  • Process management while developing methodologies, tools, templates, and controls. 

A key part of the process management is the development of KPI indexes.  Typical activities for business (enterprise) integration include:

  • Requirements gathering
  • Blueprinting
  • System & solution architecture
  • Business case development (cost and value)
  • Knowledge transfer
  • Subject matter expert training
  • Super user training
  • KPI (key performance indicators) and PPI (process performance indicators) development with analytics
  • Project management
  • Team and project leadership
  • Basic PMO tasks
  • Mentoring, coaching, and staff development
  • Budget adherence
  • Sourcing and supplier management
  • SAP Solution Manager setup and maintenance for project delivery as well as BPM/RPA

Skills development focuses on project delivery and management:

  • Facilitation, meeting, and time management skills
  • Project management (training and certification)
  • Managing conflict
  • Supervisory & leadership
  • Negotiation skills
  • Organizational Change Management
  • Total Quality Management
  • Business Process modeling

SAP Center of Excellence Maturity Development Level 3 – Strategic Development Around the Marketplace and Competitors (Business Peer)

Split development track for leaders

  1. Product or service engineering support (i.e. the “innovation” track) or
  2. Sales and marketing (i.e. customer focus). 

Typical activities for value added strategic technology convergence include:

  • BPI (Business Process Intelligence) development and analytics
  • Marketplace analytics with solution proposals
  • Customer analytics with solution proposals
  • Value analysis – ROI assessment and benefit compliance
  • Cost analysis – TCO assessment and cost savings
  • Business case review for strategic fit
  • Technology roadmap for system & solution architecture
  • System architecture integration with business process management
  • Program management
  • Program & project budget development
  • Project audits / QA’s
  • Mentoring, coaching, and development of level 2 participants
  • Vendor management

Skills development focuses on business drivers, marketplace competitive pressures, sales, and senior leadership.

  • Advertising principles
  • Business statistics
  • Market research
  • Sales management
  • International marketing
  • Sales models
  • Organizational development
  • Coaching and leadership
  • Delegation
  • Strategic planning

Communication is One Key to Business and IT Integration

Developing an overall communication program and plans is a basic part of any change management initiative.

A systematic approach, including key milestones to measure progress against are important elements to success.