As IT leaders across the SAP ecosystem work to prepare their organizations to make the jump from legacy ERP solutions to SAP S/4HANA and the cloud, the question of how to successfully facilitate digital transformation still looms large for many customers. 

Migrating to a new ERP is no easy task, requiring buy-in from many organizational stakeholders. Additionally, enterprises often work for months on the cutover, migrating necessary data and preparing the ground to go live on SAP S/4HANA without disruption. When SAP first announced RISE with SAP, the offering seemed poised not only to help SAP customers with their SAP S/4HANA implementations but also to jumpstart their migrations to the cloud. However, as many SAP customers consider the complexity of their digital transformation projects, they must also evaluate whether RISE with SAP is the right path forward for their organization and IT infrastructure.

ASUG recently sat down with Jonathan Jakub, Manager, Enterprise Solutions at Lincoln Electric System (LES); and Patrick Gans, LES Business Solutions team leader. LES is in the midst of evaluating RISE with SAP ahead of a transition from SAP ERP Central Component (ECC) 6.0 to SAP S/4HANA. Jakub and Gans will discuss their experience evaluating RISE during the upcoming SAP for Utilities, Presented by ASUG conference (Oct. 9–11 in Chicago; register here). 

Setting the Scope

A vertically integrated utilities company serving 150,000 customers in Lincoln, Nebraska, Lincoln Electric System (LES) covers around 200 square miles of urban service territory. With 500 employees, the company is a long-time SAP customer, having first implemented SAP solutions in 2000. “We use SAP across all the different areas of our organization,” Jakub said.

Currently LES is running SAP ECC 6.0 with the latest enhancement pack, leaning on the utilities module for billing capabilities. Elsewhere in the organization, LES also uses SAP Customer Relationship Management (CRM) for front-office operations and SAP Work Manager to oversee construction and asset replacement projects. LES is currently in the evaluation stage of RISE with SAP and expects a decision on that front in 2024.

“We knew this was more than just an SAP ECC 6.0 to SAP S/4HANA move,” Gans said, underlining that LES eventually decided to pursue their migration project via RISE with SAP after researching the offering and speaking to SAP account executives. As LES continues its implementation project, Jakub emphasized that the team is focused on the customer impact of this migration. “We didn’t look at this as an SAP S/4HANA migration,” Gans said. “Rather, this is an enterprise migration.”

As LES weighed its digital transformation options, one of the first tasks the company needed to complete was setting the scope of the project and deciding where to start. “We started with the things that we absolutely must do, so we concentrated on solutions that were either incompatible or at their end-of-life stage,” Gans said.

LES then moved to examine what benefits it could attain in the future with a digital transformation. While the company would eventually work toward these goals, Jakub and Gans emphasized that the immediate focus of the project was the implementation of an updated ERP. “For our approach, we focused on migration and not a lot on new innovations or migrations,” Jakub said.

Evaluating RISE with SAP

LES didn't consider RISE with SAP immediately; its choice to evaluate the offering came after “years of evolution,” according to Jakub. One of the biggest concerns was how RISE with SAP would impact the way LES interacts with—and serves—its customers. The organization wanted to oversee this transformation with limited impact on customer service. This migration was set to be a significant move for LES, impacting operations across the entire enterprise.

“We needed to focus on the customer impact of a migration to RISE with SAP,” Jakub said. “Functionally, how would this work?” Jakub said his team also examined what things would change as part of the transformation project and how that would affect customer service.

“We were looking at what is the one-to-one relationship [with our current IT infrastructure] and what things did not translate,” Jakub said. Part of this process involved LES examining their current landscape and determining what work was needed to successfully make the migration to SAP S/4HANA as well.

“We really started looking at this from a holistic technology perspective,” Jakub said. “What do we need to do to actually move to SAP S/4HANA?”

Managing the Migration’s Technical Aspects

Thanks in part to that initial work, LES understood the work needed to begin the migration. Gans touched on how LES oversaw the technical parts of the implementation, noting that the organization had to include multiple stakeholders from different parts of the business. For example, Jakub and Gans brought in members of the LES finance team and educated them on the RISE with SAP process.

“We got different perspectives on concerns and attention that must be paid to certain aspects of the migration,” Jakub said. There were a few areas of focus for LES during the implementation. First, since LES is an SAP CRM user, the team wanted to understand how the migration would affect their CRM system.

“When we had discussions with SAP, we were trying to understand options with RISE with SAP,” Jakub said. Eventually, the utilities company decided to work toward leveraging SAP CRM embedded in SAP S/4HANA along with SAP Customer Engagement for Utilities. Additionally, LES examined how the RISE with SAP journey would affect the organization's human resources data. LES was already an SAP SuccessFactors customer, and the organization leveraged SAP Human Capital Management (HCM) as part of its HR operations. LES discovered that RISE with SAP provided options to integrate with SAP HCM and SAP S/4HANA.

Throughout the process, LES worked with SAP to continuously evaluate whether RISE with SAP was the right option for the organization. SAP provided knowledge and tools so LES could understand the full technical implications and changes stemming from the migration project.

“SAP did a great job giving us the tools to figure out the technical aspects ahead of time,” Gans said, specifically highlighting SAP sizing guidelines as well as roles and responsibilities documentation. “These tools gave our employees a good foundation for understanding the solution details and examining what SAP provides—and what it does not,” he said.

According to Gans, these tools helped LES figure out not only the critical parts of the migration but also any extra costs. For example, LES leveraged the SAP Production Integration Portal (PiP) process to understand integration and orchestration. “We looked at how to migrate to the SAP Cloud Platform Suite,” Jakub added. LES also relied on Redwood for job scheduling. According to Jakub and Gans, figuring out how to carry over that solution was also a priority for LES.

Keys to Success

Gans and Jakub also spoke about best practices that have made their RISE with SAP evaluation easier.

According to Jakub, “chunking” an implementation project—or focusing on specific components as opposed to the entire project—helped the LES team. “It’s super risky to do a big project,” he said, before underlining how focusing on one section at a time helped LES manage the overall implementation project.

Additionally, SAP has been incredibly helpful throughout the entire process. According to Gans, SAP guided LES through some of the complicated parts of the enterprise-wide migration. He also discussed how SAP has connected LES with both business-specific and solution-specific professionals to help ease the transition on the LES team.

Benefits of RISE with SAP

Gans and Jakub also discussed the potential advantages of RISE with SAP. Gans mentioned that being cloud-focused will make the process of staying current and up-to-date easier. “We don’t have to worry about updates to the database,” Jakub said. “SAP is handling that.” Additionally, Jakub and Gans discussed how SAP held sessions for LES to answer questions throughout the process. For example, Jakub discussed how SAP hosted sessions for LES on SAP Work Manager.

“Getting both the business and technology people from SAP on the phone has been so beneficial for our teams,” Gans said.

LES is still in the midst of its RISE with SAP evaluation and has not made an official decision to move forward with RISE; that decision will come in 2024. While the enterprise is making progress, there are still aspects it’s considering, including technological support for disaster recovery. Both Gans and Jakub will speak further about the current state of the LES migration at the SAP for Utilities, Presented by ASUG conference on October 9-11. Register here.

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