Five tips for successful and speedy SAP S/4HANA implementation

In 2017, new trends emerged around how to approach SAP S/4HANA transformations successfully. More implementations were launched than many people had predicted, the technology is now proven, client attitudes shifted, and companies have started to realize real benefits with new solutions. What makes it even more interesting and exciting as we look forward is that only a fraction of the SAP install base has started on their journey to SAP S/4HANA.

Like many others at IBM, I understand the confusion that constant change has brought to the marketplace and the pressure it places on those who are responsible for the smooth and uninterrupted operation of technology. I’ve noted some learnings from our 100+ active or live SAP S/4HANA projects to think about as you consider embarking on your journey.

Here are five things to consider as you think about migrating to SAP S/4HANA.

1. Be clear on what you want this SAP S/4HANA journey to be

If you want to help your organization create the most efficient approach to your SAP S/4HANA transformation, define what you want it to be. Evolutionally versus revolutionary. Technical versus transformational. Slower paced versus accelerated. The options are endless but until you can define your goals, you’ll likely get varied and conflicting advice on the optimal approach. If you don’t know what your implementation goals are, then engage with the right folks to help you define them early so you don’t swim in circles.

2. Define the business case

Before you embark on any implementation, you need to consider what business benefits you expect to achieve from the initiative. Make the investment to create and define your business case — it will pay huge dividends throughout your implementation lifecycle. Your organization is much more likely to support the initiative, hard design decisions will become easier and it can help you get the support required to see the transformation through. Depending on your implementation goals, there are multiple benefit levers that can be pulled to make financial sense out of a digital SAP S/4HANA transformation.

3. Leverage preconfigured solutions

Today’s SAP S/4HANA implementations are often executed 30 to 40 percent faster and cheaper than the ECC implementations I was first exposed to in the mid 2000’s. We’re able to drive savings in time and cost by using preconfigured solutions. In addition to increasing the adoption of standard SAP functionalities, preconfigured solutions are the heart of agile enablement in SAP programs. Without them, two week development sprints can be impossible, testing doesn’t get shifted left and your development list grows too long. We’ve done a lot of great work recently integrating our preconfigured IBM S/4HANA IMPACT solutions with SAP Model Company. Wherever possible, you should ensure your program leverages a strong preconfigured solution.

4. Execute with an agile method

In my opinion, agile might have been the most overused word in the SAP space in 2017, but it was fun to watch the evolution of capabilities. It was exciting to see the monumental shift in our execution approach and improvements in output quality with agile methodology adoption. Two to three week sprints became real and shifted the entire project workload forward on the timeline. I have yet to hear a client say we should have executed in another manner. While many organizations are claiming an agile approach, make sure you vet it out. An experienced team that lacks a strong coach can inflict a lot of pain on an implementation.

5. It’s 2018 — Take the opportunity to leverage digital technology

If you don’t leverage this transformational event as an opportunity to bring digital technology and process improvement into your organization, when will you? Your SAP S/4HANA journey is the right time to create some truly differentiated processes, automate functions, unleash artificial intelligence and create agility within your organization. You don’t need to digitize and enhance everything. But at a minimum, pick two to three key areas that you can optimize to prove the value, increase your capability and serve as a foundation for future transformations.

While I believe these five attributes are foundational, every situation is unique. I am incredibly excited about the SAP S/4HANA marketplace in 2018, the journeys ahead and the benefit wave coming.

Get started on your journey today. Request an SAP S/4HANA IMPACT Assessment.