We’ve all heard very rapid deployment S/4 Hana success stories. I, in fact, just came from a conference where there were 3 presentations dedicated to this exactly. I almost found it strange that they were all done in 16 weeks. It seems like a magical number of weeks for S/4 maybe? Most of these presentations look at the project installation, project team, standard process workshops, the project go-live, and rollout to end-users, stores, plants, etc… But what hit me during and after all of these presentations was that no-one was talking about what happens next!
An S/4 Hana implementation is a big change for a company. It brings about a whole new way of working for a lot of people and that not only impacts the end users but IT as well. In this blog, I wanted to focus on what happens now that S/4 Hana is live and end-users are using the standard product.
Look at how we’ve changed
If you’re now running S/4 Hana, your IT infrastructure has probably changed drastically. We’re in a cloud-based world and my guess is if you were able to implement S/4 in 16 weeks you had to do so via cloud infrastructure. Whether that was SAP’s S/4 Hana Cloud system, or a hybrid solution of hosting your S/4 environment via GCP, AWS, or Azure, these systems are insanely easy to install, setup, and get into. When I was a basis administrator it would take weeks to procure disk space, hardware or VM space internally, download the software, run through the installs, do post-install steps, get security setup for users, etc…All before a single user could login. Just recently, for a trial system, I did all of this in 4 hours for an S/4 1709 system hosted via GCP.
There is no true steady-state in S/4
Things today are moving at an unprecedented pace in all aspects of our day to day lives. This is no different in a business/IT world. Once you have implemented S/4 Hana, you’ve gone from an on-premise slow to change ERP system to one that runs instantaneously in memory and has a myriad of ever-changing updates via “Feature Packs” and/or major numerical milestone releases (1709, 1809, 1909). SAP is working very hard to make it seamless and easy to update/upgrade your systems to the latest Feature Pack and/or release package. Instead of needing 6 months of upgrade planning, you should be able to do this in weeks including all testing if you’ve got a CI/CD track up and running with your SAP environment.
Sidenote: for those wondering what the numerical sequence means for S/4 releases, I get asked all of the time! It is very simple and follows the European date format. 1709 was released in September of 2017, 1809 September of 2018, etc..etc…
You’re living in a Bimodal world
Whether you like it or not, you now live in a bimodal world of IT systems. What does this mean? This literally means you can have 2 different operating modes of business. You have a new core ERP system S/4. You also most likely have licenses to SAP Cloud Platform (SCP). As your core ERP system stays the same and fairly transactional on a day to day basis, you can innovate very rapidly within SCP using different technologies. SCP is marketed as SAP’s innovation platform and is also where a lot of SAP innovation spend is going. With things like Machine Learning models, Web IDE development platforms, management of IoT devices, API-Hub, and other services being added all of the time, SAP is trying to get on the same playing field as AWS/Azure/GCP in terms of innovative services their customers can take advantage of.
The pace of technology and change
The pace of change in technology today is faster than ever before and it’s not going to slow down anytime soon. I listened to a very interesting presentation at the SAP Consumer Experience forum in Dallas TX recently. John Douglas of PepsiCo went through the innovative technologies that will soon start to disrupt the consumer retail industry. Things such as the AmazonGo store, Drone deliveries, Robots scanning shelves for product outages, targeted marketing per item/per shelf, item level IP addresses in a store, and many others. This rapid pace is disruptive to the entire marketplace and ecosystem. If you’re not ready and not looking into these things in your consumer-facing business, you could be left behind.
So…what now? Rapid Deployment needs an Agile Response!
So what now? You’ve deployed S/4 Hana in 16 weeks and are ready to rock. Except, rock what exactly?
I’ve chosen to write about this topic because it’s something we hear over and over again. We’ve deployed, now we’re just waiting for the disruption to happen for us!? That’s not exactly how it works. In order to be part of the disruption, having a system using the latest technology is only the beginning.
Step 1: Normalize
Now that you’ve deployed S/4 Hana, you’re looking to normalize everyone to a new platform. A 16-week deployment is a huge undertaking and you probably had to either cut scope or compromise with business partners to make sure mostly standard processes were utilized from SAP out of the box to meet the deadlines.
Step 2: Get to an Agile release mode
Being live is great, but meeting business demand for resolving incidents quickly is even better. With an Agile IT Support staff, you’ll be one step ahead of the game when it comes to rapid deployment of fixes and minor enhancements.
Step 3: Look for opportunity
Measure! Measure how the system is being used. Look at who’s using it, how often, via what device, medium, etc… There are numerous tools that are offered for exactly this, but even with a baseline of users, usage, transaction volume, etc… you can see a pretty good story start to develop. Other ways to do this we love include user interviews, user studies, and A/B software testing.
Step 4: Develop a business project backlog
Now that you can see some opportunity in the areas you’ve deployed S/4, you can create a backlog. This backlog will drive prioritized project work in which to roll-out to the business in Agile Sprints of development work. Note, at this point (for you agile sticklers) we don’t yet have user stories developed because we haven’t designed anything to build yet. I’m using backlog here to describe meeting with business stakeholders, showing them real usage data, and proposing areas of change that may be needed.
Step 5: Create something amazing!
There’s a reason you chose S/4 Hana over another platform. Either it was an upgrade or a greenfield implementation, but I’m sure your company didn’t embark on this major milestone without thinking something new and innovative was going to come out of it! Now that we’ve gone through the above steps and know the areas we need to focus on, we can start Design Thinking Workshops with real end users, stakeholders, and sponsors to listen, understand, learn, ideate, and innovate together. Coming out of these design thinking sessions will be a high-resolution design of the ideas we came up with to fix pain points in end-user processes. By empathizing with these real end-users, we’re able to fix real-world problems for them they come across in their day to day lives in SAP and as a result, once implemented has an amazing impact on business performance.
Between the technologies, you now have in place (S/4 Hana, SCP, Cloud infrastructure), the possibilities of changing end users lives are now better than ever!
Change your Mindset!
Now for the shameless plug. All of us at Mindset are very passionate about finding what it is that makes your company run and creating an amazing experience to get you to the next level. Whether that next level is getting users into a mobile/easy to use SAP environment or if that next level is implementing drones and beacons to automatically to keep track of a warehouse or store in SAP, that’s what we live for. Our process is pretty simple. You know your business, we know innovative SAP. When we work together through Design Thinking and Agile/iterative development sprints, we create something amazing. Guaranteed.