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Achieving Business Value from SAP Investment

February 27th, 2012 by
SAP Business Value & ROI

SAP Business Value & ROI

As a follow up to last week’s post on Sustained Business Value from SAP Business Software I did a little research on the study authors and discovered their continued focus on this issue.

Recently Peppard (one of the authors) and a couple of other colleagues provided real business value success findings in an upcoming journal article called “Factors Affecting the Successful Realization of Benefits from Systems Development Projects: Findings From Three Case Studies” [FN1].

While I read through and reviewed the draft 35 page study I couldn’t help but notice the striking similarity to my nearly 5 year old post on the subject of SAP as a Change Enabler. What SAP as a Change Enabler summarized in a few pages appears to have been empirically tested by comparing and contrasting a few case studies of live software implementations.

Following my personal experience around SAP since 1994 I’ve added additional insight on how to gain SAP ROI through Strategic Business Transformation by also Using SAP to Improve Revenue and Profitability.  The “how-to” instructions, and detailed guidance is starting to gain some traction. To amplify their initial research I’ve cross-linked many posts throughout this one.

Changing from SAP System Delivery to Business Benefit Delivery

Before anything else a benefits focus must be the guiding framework for your SAP project. Every major business software project must begin with some clear guidance on the “why” of the project.

Business Centered SAP Change Management is Required

The authors highlighted several key observations around organizational change management and the need for user participation but missed one of the key areas of success–, knowledge transfer (see Change Management and Knowledge Transfer Part 1, and Part 2). Not just end user training, but more holistic knowledge transfer about the new system, its capabilities, and how to maintain them.

SAP business transformation is an ongoing effort. To achieve this one of the goals of SAP projects has got to be to create a learning organization. An organization where knowledge exchange and benefits centered collaboration is key to SAP program success (see ERP III – Is the Integration of Collaboration the Future of Enterprise Applications).

WHY do an SAP Project?

So, what is the basic idea here? Their findings indicate that a large scale software program requires a business benefits focused approach. An approach which addresses the “WHY?” of the project.

[A] project might be successful in meeting its internal targets, yet not deliver beneficial business outcomes. [FN2]

For too long enterprise software vendors and SAP system integrators have focused on everything but the genuine business “WHY?” of the 5 W’s and the H of SAP projects. For too long companies have addressed:

  • “WHO” (who will implement, who will support, who will the core team be, etc.)
  • “WHAT” (what is the scope, what technology, etc.)
  • “WHERE” (both project logistics as well as the organization structure that is impacted)
  • “WHEN” (project timeline, business timelines, milestones, etc.)
  • “HOW” (use our custom methodology [i.e. make it up as we go], or use ASAP)

Few companies get down into the details of the “WHY?”

WHY is Management Engagement and User Participation Lacking?

It is the “WHY” which will engage the larger business community and senior leadership and that is The Real Reason Executive Participation Creates IT Project Success. It is the “WHY” that will bring about badly needed business process changes from the user community. Unfortunately it is my opinion that because the compelling “WHY” part of the business case has been missing for so long senior leadership and ultimately the user community is generally disengaged from the project delivery process.

Think about it, how many multimillion dollar investments, with such wide organizational impact, do management stakeholders and end users take such as “hands off” approach to?

If you want your SAP project to be a business project, GET THE BUSINESS ENGAGED! If you want it to be a technology project, nothing else is required. Just put the system in and when people complain tell them to shut up. It was never really about the business anyway!

Do Your SAP System Integrator Consultants Have Business Knowledge or ANY SAP Experience?

This leads to the next issue. If the business is engaged and you decide to bring in a system integrator then define BUSINESS expectations from your system integrator up front. If they only speak to the business in techie terms then get rid of them because do no one  needs “consultants” who can’t consult? (see Screening and Interview Methods to Find the Right Consultant – Part 2).

Think about this a minute and let it sink in. If you hired a system integrator for an SAP business application project then shouldn’t they be focusing on the business? If they can’t speak to you in business terms then why again did you hire them?  Are they really consultants? To gain real competitive advantage in the business marketplace you must Change How You Look at SAP to Create ROI because SAP Implementation is an Investment NOT an Event.

During the sales cycle you as an SAP prospective customer have GOT to ensure there is a clear business vision. Again I ask, if not, then why are you even doing this?

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[FN1] Doherty, N., Ashurst, C., and Peppard, J. (2011) Factors Affecting the Successful Realization of Benefits from Systems Development Projects: Findings from Three Case Studies. Journal of Information Technology (upcoming).

[FN2] Sauer, C. and Davis, G. B. (2010) – Information Systems Failure, Encyclopedia of Library & Information Sciences, Third Edition, pp 2643-2652.

Additional Resources for Successful SAP Implementation

Check out these posts for specific ideas, thoughts, and experience on achieving real results from your SAP project or other enterprise software projects:




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Using Your SAP Steering Committee for Business Transformation

March 14th, 2011 by

Using SAP Business Technology Convergence for competitive advantage

SAP Business Technology Convergence

 

How Long Term SAP Steering Committee Integration Changes the Enterprise

One of the biggest benefits of an SAP implementation is the business transformation it can bring.  At first the changes and challenges are uncomfortable, even downright painful.  But in the mid to long-term SAP brings about a business culture transformation.  When that transformation is enabled by ongoing steering committee involvement then business to IT convergence occurs.  Over time this convergence of business and technology produces financial and marketplace improvements.

Use the Steering Committee’s Experience for Ongoing Governance

An SAP best practice is to form a steering committee before the project even begins.  In other words this group should be together before the first RFI is issued.  They (the steering committee) should be key members of senior leadership who have the ability to make business altering decisions.

The most effective SAP steering committees typically:

  • Set SAP project scope and then help manage it.
  • Define project objectives and evaluation criteria.
  • Monitor project progress, including key milestones and deliverables progress.
  • Oversee Quality reviews at key check points.
  • Evaluate and mitigate organizational impact of business changes.
  • Promotes the project throughout the organization.
  • Coordinates staffing and resource levels from key business areas.
  • Makes critical decisions which the project team is unable to resolve (escalations or key business decisions).
  • Etc.

Even on a relatively short duration project of six months, many of these steering committees will have worked together in this fashion for a year or more.  Going through the initial business needs analysis, software selection, vendor selection, the project execution, and then go-live support for some period brings this group together for some time.

Gaining Competitive Advantage through the Ongoing Integration of SAP into the Business

As a steering committee works together over the course of a year or two they develop a unique and key skill set that is well-suited to ongoing technology integration into the business (called “convergence”).  As the SAP project goes live and some stabilization occurs the SAP steering committee has learned more about the enterprise from a leadership perspective than anyone in the company.

While the project team is gaining the focused process skills within an SAP module the steering committee is gaining invaluable insight into the overall operations of the business from a leadership perspective.  This steering committee is also exposed to technology and how it applies to business, solving problems, its capabilities, and its limitations.  They have become the most capable future leaders of business transformation and of competitive advantage in the marketplace.  They have worked through the hard things in an interconnected and integrated way.  They have set the stage for future advances.

What happens next?

Your company moves into maintenance mode and the steering committee disbands!

That my friends is a crime!

Do NOT Disband Your SAP Steering Committee After Go-Live

The ideal solution is to retain the SAP steering committee and convert their role to one of managing technology to business integration.  The skills they gain during the course of their duties cannot be underestimated.  They are invaluable to future IT initiatives of expanding the SAP footprint in the enterprise or other key business centered technology projects. This is a role and a function that is seriously lacking from today’s businesses.

In 2007 the BTM Institute (or Business Technology Management) published research indicating that companies who focused on converging business and technology enjoyed greater revenue growth and net margins than their competitors.  They were also found to have consistently greater returns on their investments than their competitors. [FN1]  The BTM Institute defines four broad categories for analysis of business and technology convergence which are:

  • Strategy & Planning
  • Strategic Investment Management
  • Governance & Organization
  • Strategic Enterprise Architecture

Think about it, your SAP steering committee has engaged in all of these broad dimensions throughout their existence.  Assuming the SAP steering committee was in place before the project for RFI and RFP preparation they would determine business objectives, priorities, strategic direction, and then develop scope.  These are clearly strategy, planning, and strategic investment activities.  As the project progresses they would engage in oversight, decision making, high level technical architecture analysis, and organizational requirements.

The steering committee must continue to function but take on a new role as the SAP project goes live and you move into stabilization.  Don’t kill the strategic engine of business transformation just as it is finished being built.  They are a critical component of the conversion to an SAP Center of Excellence after your SAP system goes live.

Steering Committees can ensure SAP or IT to business convergence to move from project, to competency center, to center of excellence.

The idea of a center of excellence is the integration or convergence of technology, leveraged in a powerfully competitive way, to ensure business benefit.

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For more information on developing an SAP Center of Excellence please see:

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[FN1] Business Technology Convergence Index, The Role of Business Technology Convergence in Innovation and Adaptability and its Effect on Financial Performance, BTM Institute, June 2007




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What are SAP Best Business Practices Anyway

March 7th, 2011 by
Key types and distinctions of SAP Best Business Practices

SAP Best Business Practices

Over the last couple months I’ve seen a few posts developing a debate around the use of software “best business practices.”  The basic takeaway is that if everyone uses the standard delivered “practices” there is no competitive advantage.  While this may be true for many software applications there are two things with SAP which causes this idea to be misleading.

Many of these commentators fail to recognize that SAP refers to different things as “best business practices.”  The key types of SAP best business practices involve the processes included in the SAP software itself– software supported business processes.   Then there is the management and integration practices around software alignment to business — or the whole Business to IT Alignment dynamic which focuses on business value. [FN1]

The posts and comments complaining about “best business practices” I refer to are the ones where the authors complain about software supported business processes.  The common denominator I find in all of these authors’ complaints is they have little or no exposure (let alone experience) with SAP.  Their commentary is a bit misleading because of the depth and breadth of options available to any SAP customer.

SAP Best Business Practices for Business Software Integration

Few of the “best business practice” detractors are aware that SAP best business practices are far more than just the software business processes you put in scope and implement.  SAP’s best business practices include structured decision making and governance around applying software solutions to business (shocking isn’t it!) [FN2].  The whole idea behind these types of “best business practices” are to find ways to gain tangible benefits from the application of technology.  By identifying value based governance and project criteria you can achieve measurable Return on Investment (ROI).

Use of SAP’s Best Practices for Speeding Time to Benefit [FN3]

Best-practice value identification, transformation, and measurement approaches include:

- Incorporation of business case objectives throughout the project lifecycle
- Communication and documentation of process objectives and project success criteria
- Use of both existing and new program-specific financial and operational key performance indicators, based on the business case objectives, to measure project success.

The points above come from the SAP literature.  If you look at what SAP is proposing in those points you will see a company that is encouraging accountability to the business in the implementation and integration of its software.  Unfortunately few of the SAP implementation vendors or partners encourage this type of accountability.

SAP as a business software company spends over $1 BILLION Euros a year on Research and Development (R&D) (or over $1 Billion US).  That is to support both types of “best business practices” and is more than nearly all of SAP’s competitors generate in gross revenue each year [FN4].  Is it any real surprise that most of these complainers do not work with SAP?  Many of them are from competitors.

SAP Software Supported Best Business Practice Process Design and Setup

The SAP software supported best business practice processes generally refers to a broad type of functionality that the application contains.  For example, in the automotive sector, on the materials management side, it means that you have special functionality for JIT (Just in Time) or Forecast schedule agreements.  Along with that it also includes “sequencing” for automotive manufacturers and suppliers to guarantee that components and assemblies are delivered to the production line in exactly the order the OEM manufacturer builds them.  This is industry specific business process functionality.

In that one small example, what is not “understood” by many of the best business practice software process detractors is that there are literally dozens, if not hundreds of individual and granular system setup options for how each step of that process works.  On top of that there are also dozens, if not hundreds of master data points between the vendor, materials, pricing, and other possibilities that directly influence how the steps of that process are carried out.  So in a generic sense you have SAP “best business practices” processes in the form of industry accepted JIT and Forecasting along with automotive specific sequencing.  The details of how you execute that functionality can be finely controlled along the way without custom coding.

Conclusion on SAP Best Practices for Business Processes

The example just provided above is one small processing example of hundreds of processing options, within one single industry vertical.  SAP supports over 20 major industry verticals covering industries as diverse as Chemicals, Public Sector (government), Retail, Pharmaceuticals, Consumer Goods, Healthcare operations, Hi-Tech, Services, Aerospace and Defense, etc.

Even though SAP offers a “best practice” setup library with documentation on system settings to support specific business processes, they are a starting point.  The SAP documentation and resources do not cover all of the fine details of setup that only experience brings.

The ability to finely tailor or “tweak” system settings to meet a particular need or requirement, with hundreds, and in some cases thousands of variations, means that two companies using the exact same functionality can create entirely different processes to support different business strategies.  Together with that you have dozens or even hundreds of master data settings which rely on this system setup to create a virtually unlimited set of options.  And then before building some completely separate, stand-alone application there are user exits (or enhancement points in ECC versions) to program very specific requirements.

In the end an experienced consultant can guide you through the process of making the finely detailed adjustments to handle nearly any requirement with a minimal amount of custom coding.  And that is where true “best business practices” intersect with IT. Combine the right consultants with proper project or task governance and you have an optimal solution for the least Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).  Together with reduced TCO you gain real Return on Investment (ROI) with the application of “best business practices” surrounding good governance to create business solutions with IT (rather than IT solutions for business).

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[FN1] This site focuses more on “best business practices” related to business and technology alignment. There are any number of great resources for the business process related topics so another site would add little benefit.  In fact I’m not sure anyone could compete with SAP’s own “SAP Community Network” (or SCN, http://scn.sap.com ).

[FN2] SAP Executive Insight Series (September 7, 2009).  Accelerate Value Creation: The Virtuous Cycle of Using Technology to Maximize Business Value.  http://www.sdn.sap.com/irj/scn/index?rid=/library/uuid/70fa08b0-cf81-2b10-a396-89d18932fbd0&overridelayout=true (retrieved 4/23/2010).

[FN3] SAP Executive Insight Series, pg. 6, 2009.

[FN4] SAP Annual Report for 2009.  Review of R&D Operations.  http://www.sapannualreport.com/2009/en/annual-report-2009/review-of-operations/research-and-development.html (retrieved 3/05/2011).




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