Your Business Blueprint Should Dictate Your SAP S/4HANA Implementation – Not the Other Way Around

Written By: Eric Kimberling
Date: March 27, 2019

At the moment, our team is helping about half a dozen larger organizations manage their SAP S/4HANA implementations. The biggest lesson so far? Your business needs should dictate how S/4HANA gets deployed – not the other way around.

Myths and propaganda from SAP S/4HANA system integrators

If you talk to a sales rep from SAP or a system integrator such as Deloitte, Accenture, or Capgemini, they will tell you the opposite. They will say that SAP “best practices” should define your business and that your people should just change to adopt to software functionality. They will also push you to implement SAP as quickly as possible – not because it’s best for your business, but because it’s best for SAP and the system integrator.

As a jaded former Big 5 SAP consultant and current SAP S/4HANA expert witness who has seen too many clients get “Accentured” or “Deloitted” over the years, I would like nothing more than for each and every SAP customer to do one simple thing: take control of your SAP implementation and let your business set the tone for your transformation. Don’t get steamrolled in the process simply because you’re outnumbered and outgunned by the “experts.”

Here are the best ways to define a real business blueprint for your business rather than an SAP blueprint that is too focused on the technology:

Don’t do a thing until you complete the SAP S/4HANA transformation readiness component of your initiative

This is the single most important thing you can do to ensure a successful SAP S/4HANA transformation. Rather than cliff diving straight into your SAP project, you need to make sure you have the right project governance, strategic alignment, technology-agnostic business process definition, and organizational change strategy in place.

Your system integrator may be telling you otherwise, but this readiness phase is absolutely critical to provide the business blueprint you need to be successful. And, the time and resources spent in this phase will save exponential time and money later on.

Below is the framework we use to help clients through their SAP transformation readiness initiatives prior to brining on the army of consultants from their system integrator:

Take control of your SAP system integrator

Don’t wait until things get so bad that you need to fire your SAP system integrator. Instead manage them with a “trust but verify” approach. If they suggest that you need an army of 100+ consultants on your project, then ask why. If they insist on staffing recent college grads to be glorified notetakers at $200 per hour, then push back.

One of the best ways to ensure or regain control of your system integrator is to leverage assistance from independent third-party SAP project managers. More specifically, an independent SAP quality assurance framework such as the one outlined below will help ensure that your project stays on track, risks are transparently identified, and problems are course-corrected before they spiral out of control:

There is no reason to lose control of your SAP system integrator – so don’t. Independent consultants that are not in cahoots with SAP are your best option, such as our team here at Third Stage Consulting.

Don’t let yours become an SAP failure

Too many SAP S/4HANA implementations have run into trouble over the years. Recent SAP failures at Lidl, Haribo, National Grid, and others are just a few examples of how not to manage your transformation. There are plenty of lessons to be learned from these implementations, so be sure that you’re following the track of the more successful SAP implementations instead.

If you are struggling with how to get your SAP S/4HANA transformation started on the right foot – or if you’re struggling to get yours back on track – then feel free to contact me to bounce around ideas. I’m happy to be a sounding board as you continue your transformation!

Eric Kimberling
Eric is known globally as a thought leader in the ERP consulting space. He has helped hundreds of high-profile enterprises worldwide with their technology initiatives, including Nucor Steel, Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, Kodak, Coors, Boeing, and Duke Energy. He has helped manage ERP implementations and reengineer global supply chains across the world.
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