Serving over 129,000 students in the Jacksonville, Florida area, Duval County Public Schools (DCPS) is the 20th largest school district in the United States and the sixth largest in Florida.

A longtime SAP customer, the organization sought to approach its SAP S/4HANA Cloud migration with intentionality, according to Cindy Seaburn, SAP Systems Analyst at DCPS.

Managing Costs at DCPS 

"We wanted to be able to manage our costs," said Seaburn, noting that cost control is non-negotiable for companies in the public sector. As the school system began its two-pronged digital transformation project—simultaneously moving to SAP S/4HANA and the cloud—mitigating excessive spending and establishing defined costs for the project were essential.

"In the public sector, you must come up with a budget each year and stick to it," Seaburn said.

With those qualifications in mind, DCPS chose to leverage the RISE with SAP offering, still a relatively new addition to the SAP portfolio when the school system initiated its go-live in 2022. Seaburn is set to discuss the DCPS experience with RISE with SAP at the SAP Sapphire and ASUG Annual Conference next month in Orlando. Ahead of the conference, ASUG sat down with Seaburn to dive into the enterprise's RISE with SAP journey.

Why RISE with SAP?  

As previously noted, consistent costs were essential to DCPS.

"With RISE [with SAP], it's straightforward," Seaburn said, reflecting on the clearly identified costs of pursuing SAP S/4HANA Cloud transformation with RISE. “We knew this was going to be our cost moving forward.”

Seaburn further noted that cloud solutions often possess hidden fees that aren’t immediately disclosed by vendors. Since RISE with SAP is a bundled package, looping hyperscaler and SAP S/4HANA Cloud services into a single contract, DCPS found it particularly appealing, and the school system’s leadership soon formally decided to leverage RISE.

RISE with SAP eliminated the need to engage with a third party for implementation and cut down on all the "different moving parts" traditionally associated with managing a cloud environment, Seaburn added. 

The Importance of Workshops 

Seaburn emphasized the critical role workshops played during the digital transformation project. To ensure all parts of the business were updated, these workshops were conducted with leaders across different business areas and used to identify cross-functional pain points. With that information in hand, DCPS made crucial adjustments and updates to its initial migration plan.

A perfect example of this was the new finance structure DCPS implemented during the project, which was not in the initial project scope. “Our SAP S/4HANA journey was supposed to be a technical migration update,” Seaburn explained.

However, workshops with the DCPS finance department revealed the need for more control over budgets, especially when it came to managing federal funds and special projects. Instead of pursuing a separate project to upgrade the organization’s finance structure, “we realized it would be simpler to include it as part of the whole migration," Seaburn said. This ended up being a vital part of the project, as the update affected important processes, including payroll, asset management, and human resources.

Additionally, the workshops enabled DCPS to introduce SAP SuccessFactors to business users and "show them how the different modules can impact different parts of human resources," according to Seaburn. The organization’s HR department had an immediate need to replace its recruiting and onboarding solutions to accommodate complicated tasks such as tracking teacher certifications. 

Advice for Other Enterprises  

Seaburn also shared crucial tips for other enterprises about embarking on their own SAP S/4HANA Cloud journeys.

First, she encouraged her peers to archive their data. “Archive, archive, archive,” she said. “I cannot stress that enough.”

This process was a significant undertaking for DCPS, as the organization’s business users wanted to bring all their data with them into the new system—a complicated process, as the organization had never before archived its data. Ultimately, success required a lot of mapping with the new finance structure. Additionally, data archiving was complicated by the customized structure of the legacy ERP system at DCPS.

The school system brought in a consultant for data archiving, which helped the team tremendously. Seaburn noted that choosing the right partners early was also crucial to success. In addition to the data consultant the enterprise used for its data archiving, DCPS also worked with a system integration partner. These external resources were vital for the "small but mighty" SAP team of 11 at DCPS, who are still charged with maintaining the legacy SAP (ERP Central Component) ECC 6.0 system DCPS had in place.

"Doing this project doesn’t mean you can just drop everything," Seaburn said.

She further encouraged organizations to prioritize their SAP S/4HANA transformation plans in the coming years, especially as the 2027 end of maintenance deadline for SAP ERP 6.0—including SAP ECC—approaches.

"If you need to bring in outside resources, they are going to become less and less available to you” as that deadline nears and demand for their services surge, she said, impressing upon the SAP community that there’s no time like the present to initiate digital transformation.

To attend SAP Sapphire and ASUG Annual Conference to hear more about Duval County Public Schools' successful RISE with SAP journey, register here.  

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