Migrating to SAP S/4HANA is something that is on the minds of most SAP customers. While SAP recently pushed back the transition deadline—it will end its support of SAP ECC in 2027 instead of 2025—customers still need to begin planning now if they are likely to move to the new platform. Yet this process is easier said than done. ASUG and DSAG recently conducted research together focused on the benefits and challenges of SAP S/4HANA adoption. Both user groups found that one of the biggest pain points in this process was that organizations underestimated the complexity involved with migrating to SAP S/4HANA.
One of the ways SAP customers can significantly reduce this complexity is by developing a center of excellence (CoE) in their organization that will help them take the best route in their SAP S/4HANA adoption journey. ASUG recently hosted an ASUG Express event dedicated to developing and effectively maintaining a CoE. The event featured thought leaders and speakers who shared details on the ways attendees can build and leverage a CoE at their organization to streamline the SAP S/4HANA adoption process.
“Companies that develop an effective center of excellence can extract more value from their existing SAP investment,” said Paul Kurchina, ASUG evangelist and the event’s host. “In today’s ever-changing world, there is a business imperative for companies leveraging technologies like Technologies like S/4HANA, SAP Cloud Platform, cloud, machine learning, and artificial intelligence to create and maintain a next-generation center of excellence.”
The event’s speakers gave attendees practical, actionable advice they can use to start building out a CoE today and begin their adoption of SAP S/4HANA.
Develop an Aligned Business Strategy
One of the main themes throughout the entire ASUG Express event was the need for customers to develop and maintain a business strategy for their adoption of SAP S/4HANA. This will help customers not only implement SAP S/4HANA, but also develop and maintain a CoE. Business strategy drives the adoption process.
“You need a business strategy,” said Stuart Browne, managing director of Resulting IT. “Or else your business processes, technology, and environment risk becoming irrelevant.”
Yet sometimes organizations develop a business strategy that is not at all aligned with its CoE, which also leads to problems.
“Centers of excellence should understand business strategies and the company’s direction of travel so they can support it,” said Nick Coburn, consulting director at Resulting IT. Coburn stressed the importance of developing a clear and concise business strategy so that it can be easily aligned with a CoE and help customers understand their business processes.
Make—and Maintain—a List of Business Processes
Coburn and Browne recommended that customers make a list of business processes. Not only will this help companies understand how their processes support their competitive advantage, but an accurate list will also greatly strengthen a CoE. Browne described SAP as “a big box that helps run business processes.” It’s vital to understand what these processes are and how they affect the business.
“Having a list of processes is one thing,” Coburn said. “Really understanding the processes at a high level of detail is what can turn a center of excellence into a powerful organization.” Simply making a list isn’t enough. Corburn stressed that keeping that list up to date is just as important as creating the list. Without an accurate account of all the processes your organization is running, it will be hard to develop a business strategy and a center of excellence.
“If [the business process list] is not up to date, you can’t have a huge benefit from it,” said Coburn. “Without it, how can you move forward? How can you understand where you want to go?”
Invest in Maintenance and Support
The event’s speakers also encouraged attendees to invest in the maintenance of their software and systems. The current COVID-19 pandemic only serves to underline the importance of maintenance.
“This is the biggest crisis I’ve ever seen in my life,” said Thomas Spandl, SVP and head of maintenance go-to-market at SAP.
Spandl discussed several ways SAP supported its customers in maintaining their business processes throughout the crisis, including releasing a financial stress test package, increasing security to protect customer data, and opening up SAP Ariba Discovery for free use. Spandl also acknowledged that customers require flexibility and the ability to invest in maintenance at their own speed. To encourage more of these investments, SAP is taking steps so that customers can conduct system maintenance at their own pace.
“Investments in the cloud need to be as commercial as possible,” he said. “You will see more flexibility moving forward.”
Don’t Think of Users as Users
When developing a CoE, it’s important to think about the end user, the employees who will be working with this software and technology to help your organization compete in the marketplace. Yet thinking of these employees as users can be a mistake.
“Don’t think of the people who use your technology environment as users,” Browne said. Instead, Browne encouraged organizations to think of them as “businesspeople with a specific goal.”