As a global leader in media technology solutions and innovation, MediaKind had big shoes to fill when it turned its attention inward to implement a new ERP system. The organization was freshly branded as a new entity in 2018 and sought to start from scratch as it developed new business goals and put processes in place to meet them.

The IT and business teams worked collaboratively to take on a greenfield implementation of SAP S/4HANA on release 1809 and complete the project in less than one year. Known as an organization that brings innovation to others, it was important to have faster access to analytics, optimized business processes, and faster time to innovation. SAP S/4HANA provided all that and more.

We talked to Kathryn Butterfuss, SAP S/4HANA transformation expert and SAP solutions architect for MediaKind, about choosing the right approach for your implementation, building a strong business case, and gaining the best ROI.

Sharon: What was the thought process behind using a greenfield approach to move to SAP S/4HANA?

Kathryn: The idea of doing anything other than a greenfield approach didn’t make sense for our company. MediaKind came out of a divestiture of the Ericcson Corporation, which sold its controlling interest in Ericcson Media Solutions to One Equity Partners—a private equity firm—in 2018. As a result, we started a new company, now known as MediaKind.

Because we approached this from the lens of being a new company, we sought to implement the best and most innovative solution at the time. We knew that we needed to not only implement an ERP system, but that we also wanted to implement new processes. Choosing the greenfield approach to SAP S/4HANA was the way to go to meet those goals. We decided to use SAP Best Practices for SAP S/4HANA, which is a standardized content library to support implementation projects with ready-to-run business processes.

Sharon: What was the thought process behind moving to SAP S/4HANA on a private cloud?

Kathryn: MediaKind exists to innovate. To be innovative, we thought it best to fully operate on a cloud environment. At the time, the SAP public cloud offering simply was not mature enough for our organization, so we opted to move to the next best thing—SAP S/4HANA Cloud, single tenant edition. With this option, we got an independent instance of our software stack, which is still configurable and customizable.

Sharon: What were the most compelling factors within your SAP S/4HANA business case that helped you gain executive buy-in for the project?

Kathryn: Soon after the purchase and rebranding of MediaKind, the company hired some key players, including our CIO Raghu Marthi, our Head of Supply and Operations Tom Walshe, as well as our CFO Misty Kawecki, and Corporate Controller Michael Colvin. These four individuals were key in working with me and the rest of the IT team to provide insight on the value of SAP S/4HANA. Together, we worked with business leaders to align our technology strategy with the business strategy and create an effective business case.

One of the most compelling factors was showing how SAP S/4HANA can solve a known pain point in meeting the ongoing requirements in terms of a legal compliance perspective, as well as an operational perspective, in the 26 countries our organization operates in.

Sharon: What types of roadblocks or setbacks, if any, did you face during your company’s SAP S/4HANA migration? How did you address them?

Kathryn: The main roadblock we encountered during the SAP S/4HANA project was organizational change management.

One of the decisions we made early on was to not use SAP GUI with SAP S/4HANA. We wanted the experience to be how it was designed and required the entire organization to use SAP Fiori. Although many people think SAP Fiori is intuitive, for those that previously used SAP GUI, it simply is not.

We attempted to make use of SAP resources, such as SAP Enable Now to help with training, but we found that learning how to use SAP Fiori was not the problem. The problem was more institutional, and users were slow to adopt new ways of thinking about and consuming data. We are still working on user adoption and explaining the benefits of using SAP Fiori, including those such as the access to embedded analytical applications and smart business insight-to-action applications.

The core value of SAP S/4HANA for an organization our size is not speed to data; it is more speed to operations. For that, SAP Fiori has a great deal of supporting applications and reporting that are real time and provided directly to the user. We know that and have been trying to relay that to our users. The challenge we continue to face is getting everyone to adopt that new way of thinking and working in a very short timeline.

Another challenge was with working with a systems integrator (SI). We worked with an SI throughout the implementation portion of the project and we now have one that supports our ongoing business. We have found that many SIs claim to have lots of SAP S/4HANA experience. Although they may have experience using the system, we found they haven’t really spent the time required to understand the full scope of simplifications, or how to provide value in day-to-day operations, or how to use SAP Fiori and explain the value that it brings. Getting the right people at the right time and with the right skills continues to be a challenge for our organization.

Sharon: How were you able to go live in less than 12 months? What were the key factors for a successful implementation?

Kathryn: We actually had planned to go live in six months, but due to many factors—mostly around user and data readiness—we went live in seven months.

We stuck with using the fit-gap analysis to evaluate each functional area in a business project or business process to achieve a specific goal, as well as using an Agile-type implementation. It was necessary to get the users early on to see the system and understand what it did and did not do. This was crucial to our short timeline. We also provided interactive demos and true sprint “roadshows,” which gave us the ability to fail fast and work in a real way with our business community.

In no way do we feel our implementation is perfect, but we did go live in seven months and were able to perform all major functions on day one.

Sharon: How has moving SAP S/4HANA affected your business processes? How, specifically, has it helped your business operations continue during the current crisis?

Kathryn: Our business is still adjusting to new ways of working. However, with our steadfast commitment to staying standard, we are now working with SAP to implement robotic process automation (RPA) and machine learning automation in a very short timeline. SAP designed these automation areas around best practices. Because we used that approach as well, we will continue to find value in automation and innovation.

We chose to go with the cloud mindset and that has been a great success for us during this current situation. We were always ready for everyone to be remote because we deployed those strategies from the start. Without that, we would have been behind the ball with this current COVID-19 situation. Many companies are fighting uphill battles around remote working, but our only blocker is working with people to make sure they feel connected and still part of a team. Technology is not a problem.

Sharon: How long did it take you to get to a steady state of operations post-implementation? Was this longer or shorter than you thought?

Kathryn: Given the time of year we chose to go live, this is a little harder to answer. Our busiest quarter, as anyone in high tech can attest to, is Q4. We went live day one of Q4. As we knew the majority of sales would come in the later end of Q4, it was a mitigated risk. We were able to get to steady state and didn’t require the help of an implementation SI within 45 days. We onboarded our support SI in late July/August; this provided a significant amount of time for our project team and support team to work together. Again, the strategy of our CIO is collaboration and innovation. This proved to be a very clear success factor for us.

Sharon: To what extent does your new system deliver the benefits outlined in your original business case?

Kathryn: We continue to work on value propositions throughout the organization. A lot of our original business case was more around starting a new company versus a true set of value drivers. However, we did decide to go all in with SAP. In our seven-month project, we not only implemented SAP S/4HANA, but we also integrated SAP C/4HANA Service Cloud, SAP Group Reporting, SAP Revenue Accounting and Reporting, and SAP Analytics Cloud. We are currently working on the implementation of SAP C/4HANA Sales Cloud, as well as expanding the use of SAP Analytics Cloud in addition to process improvements and adoption.

Sharon: How has your role in IT operations evolved since the implementation of SAP S/4HANA?

Kathryn: My role has stayed very much the same. However, now it is more focused on innovation and value drivers rather than bringing up the system. We have gone down the path of working to provide SAP Fiori-specific reporting, as well as working with SAP on new RPA and machine learning innovations to help streamline our operations. The people are the heart of our business and bringing them along instead of pushing things at them is a shift in the way the role is being done from go-live to now.

Register for the ASUG Express: Achieving Success with SAP S/4HANA Virtual Boot Camp series, beginning on Oct. 27, 2020, to learn about strategy and vision, building a business case, project planning and preparation, successfully executing, change management, and how to execute a 100% remote project.