The LIVEKINDLY Collective—which is composed of various plant-based food and media brands—recently underwent a digital transformation by leveraging cloud technology and predicative analytics. It did so in an effort to reimagine its end-to-end operations, scale across the globe, and drive growth by integrating additional new brands and partners.

CIO Rogan Moore spoke to ASUG about the organization’s move to SAP S/4HANA Cloud, ongoing learnings and experiences from the current implementation process during a pandemic, and what a cloud-first mentality really means for a startup looking to grow and spread awareness about food sustainability and greater societal adoption of plant-based lifestyles.

ASUG: Can you give us a high-level overview of your role as CIO at LIVEKINDLY Collective and the role you took with the SAP S/4HANA Cloud project?

Moore: I'm the chief digital information officer for LIVEKINDLY Collective, and I am responsible for leveraging leapfrog technology and scaling our operations. We live in an age of opportunity in terms of digital and technology advances—in what we’re calling the fourth industrial revolution—and it has allowed us to grow faster and to be more efficient at it.

We are a business of impact, and impact is a factor of scale, so we need to grow our business fast to drive that impact. I have a dual role in that my job is to ensure that we take the leapfrog opportunity of leveraging digital and technology advancements with the most pivotal solutions, but also making sure we use best-of-class and best-practice processes within our efforts to ensure efficiency and scalability at a global level.

As far as the migration to SAP S/4HANA Cloud, I am ultimately responsible for our SAP systems—making sure that the implementation for the U.S., which is our pilot program, is successful and that it can be replicated across the globe.

ASUG: What was your ERP landscape before moving to SAP S/4HANA and why did you decide on SAP S/4HANA Cloud?

Moore: We really didn’t have an existing ERP landscape because we started the collective in March of 2020 and quickly began acquiring existing companies and brands which all had different landscapes. So, we had a blank canvas to start with.

We chose SAP S/4HANA Cloud because we wanted a system that would allow us to scale, and to do so quickly we also needed a system that would grow with us, and SAP S/4HANA Cloud does exactly that. It also allows us to leverage best practices in processes and micro-efficiencies in areas like sales, distribution, and manufacturing where SAP has over 45 years’ experience in functional process support.

Beyond the ability to scale, we looked for a system that would allow us to remain agile. We are an exponential organization, so we need to remain asset-light. With SAP S/4HANA’s modern and open architecture, we can leverage the platform’s assets of our strategic platform partners while focusing our time and energy on creating consciousness, shifting behaviors, and creating amazing products to change the food systems for maximum impact. We don't want to operate technology—we want to leverage technology. We want to be in the business of producing really amazing food and connecting with our customers and consumers. SAP S/4HANA Cloud enables that.

ASUG: What were the key elements of your business case and what were the steps required to get buy-in?

Moore: There were some real benefits of being a startup in that everyone looked at business cases from the perspective of building the business for the future by understanding what is needed right now. Some key elements of the SAP S/4HANA Cloud business case were on being able to quickly stand up a system anywhere in the world, to drive long-term margin efficiencies, being able to provide agility and flexibility, and driving long-term technology advancements.

The vision wasn’t focused on doing things cheaper now, but rather on doing it right for the long term the first time around. Our mantra was to set it up with the best technology and practices to give us the maximum ability to scale quickly and efficiently.

ASUG: Can you discuss the scope of the project? Which business functionalities were moved to SAP S/4HANA?

Moore: At the moment, our SAP S/4HANA Cloud instance handles all the core processes, including sales, operations, production, finance, and basic HR. The scope of the implementation was full value chain from inbound raw materials to ending with the customer.

ASUG: What challenges, if any, have you encountered and are you addressing them?

Moore: We went live with the U.S. implementation in November of last year and experienced some challenges. To start, because the offices in the U.S. were new, we didn’t have a lot of data, so there was a lot of emphasis placed on data creation to get things tested. But beyond that, the biggest challenge came about because of COVID-19 in that we needed to complete the implementation remotely and bring everyone on board to learn the processes the same way. We had to rely on digital communication technologies and surprisingly got a lot accomplished. I do, however, still think it’s challenging to do so across communities, across cultures, and across different languages. In the end, we found a balance using technology and other hybrid approaches to make sure everyone understood the system and we could go live safely and successfully.

In Germany—where we’re set to go live in April of this year—we’ve encountered different types of challenges. The business we have there is from an acquisition, and they will be moving from SAP ECC to SAP S/4HANA Cloud. One of the biggest things we found so far is that it will be challenging to bring business users who are experienced with one established SAP system and to get comfortable with the new system. What we’ve done is to begin conference room pilots on SAP Fiori early to demonstrate the capabilities and benefits of moving to SAP S/4HANA and understand any gaps from current processes.

ASUG: Do you have a plan in place for change management? What steps are you taking for training and user adoption?

Moore: The age-old mantra of having business leadership driving an SAP project is very true. For change management to be effective, business leaders need to be visibly behind the strategic IT decisions, and this was very evident in our case from the very start. It also helped that the first implementation we did was in one of our startup operations in the U.S., so there was less risk to existing business, and we had fewer people to train, especially during a pandemic. The plan, however, is to take the learnings from that and apply them to our other implementations across the globe.

From an overarching perspective, our upfront game plan was to reinforce how this project was a strategic enabler for our organization. It was, and remains so today, important to get that message out not only to educate everyone on the why behind the decision, but also in the how and what behind it as well.

ASUG: How do you plan to measure ROI?

Moore: We’re not really measuring ROI in terms of dollar value yet. However, SAP S/4HANA Cloud has enabled us to do two things. First, it has enabled us to very quickly and easily onboard new business acquisitions. And the second element is the agility and the ability to quickly enable new channels to market and to very easily connect everything.

The biggest ROI is that we’re actually able to focus on the business. We don’t need to focus on the technology. We’ve invested a lot of money in the best-in-class technology and we’re allowing it to work for us.

ASUG: Can you talk a little about the intelligent technologies you’ve adopted and that are integrating with your SAP S/4HANA Cloud instance?

Moore: There are a few cool things we’re doing with intelligent technologies, including automating our production warehouse and using robotic process automation (RPA) where we can. We’re also using big data to better understand all the things that affect our products and brands—including climate data, soil data, and crop data. We’re using IoT and blockchain technology for a number of different initiatives, including traceability and carbon impact.

Data we collect goes through SAP Analytics Cloud and from there we’re able to glean insights and use it in various different ways.

ASUG: What are the lessons learned you can share with other organizations looking to move to SAP S/4HANA Cloud?

Moore: One the advantages of doing an SAP S/4HANA Cloud implementation is that it is out of the box and you can do an accelerated deployment, but the lesson learned here is that you cannot get your data wrong. You need to spend time in making sure your data and data standards are as accurate as possible. Another key lesson is that although SAP S/4HANA is SaaS-based—so you don’t need to worry too much about sizing or creating processes—you do still need to worry about change management.

If you focus on your master data and your change management approach, everything else is relatively straightforward.

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