Increasingly, organizations are looking to the future to streamline and optimize business processes. This was the impetus for Penn State University to begin its SAP S/4HANA implementation project in 2018, long before COVID-19 was a household term. The university is still on target for its scheduled deployment in July of this year and will be well-positioned to ensure business continuity, despite unforeseen circumstances.

This project has been a long time coming. For nearly 30 years, Penn State relied on its homegrown system called IBIS (Integrated Business Information Systems) to run everything from finance and procurement to budgeting and accounting applications. To achieve business modernization, it launched the SIMBA project, which is not only an implementation of SAP S/4HANA, but also SAP Supplier Relationship Management and SAP Budgeting and Planning.

The Need for Integration Leads to SAP S/4HANA

SIMBA, which stands for the System for Integrated Management, Budgeting, and Accounting, will not only replace Penn State’s legacy system, but it will also facilitate more robust and transparent reporting, reduce university risk with state-of-the-art IT security, replace redundant financial systems where possible, and optimize and align business processes.

This is the first greenfield SAP S/4HANA implementation in higher education, as SAP could not overlay the existing technology, which was heavily customized and ran on a mainframe. As a result, the team had to start from a clean slate.

Moving to SAP S/4HANA meant the organization could upgrade to get better reporting and make better data-driven decisions, a proactive move that provides more integration now on a platform that will serve the university for many years to come.

The Steps to Governance

To keep the project on task, budget, and timeline, the university created a very specific governance structure, which includes executive sponsorship from university leadership representatives.

The project also is served by a 23-member executive committee, a 26-member steering committee, and 15 advisory committees. Each advisory committee is responsible for specific target areas including functional, reporting, technical, change management, and security. This structure ensures consultation, representation, and input from key stakeholders across the Penn State system.

Managing the Change, and Changing the Mindset

It’s one thing for an organization to adopt changes—it’s another completely for its workforce to follow suit. To address any uncertainty and resistance that may exist among end users in such a large-scale implementation, Penn State established a well-resourced Organizational Change Management team, with an emphasis on leadership communication and interaction throughout the project.

Penn State has thousands of end users to train in the system before deployment. The SIMBA team hosts a monthly “SIMBA Session” webinar, which provides a general update, a spotlight feature, and a Q&A session for end users. End users also receive a monthly SIMBA newsletter and are encouraged to visit the project website where they can find a wealth of tools and information to assist them in their “Journey to SIMBA.” After go-live, the change management team will go into a hypercare period that will last from July to December 2020, which will focus on engaging end users who need additional training or require recurring training.

Simplifying Finance Across the Board with SAP S/4HANA

Since Penn State is using a greenfield approach, the team took stock of existing processes while considering how to fulfill the organization’s requirements, a process that involved mapping data to the SAP S/4HANA structure and running conversions.

As Penn State had been using the same chart of accounts for a quarter of a century, the team saw the SIMBA project as an ideal opportunity to redo the entire chart of accounts, a decision that was not without its challenges.

“The mapping process became very complicated because with the new chart of accounts, you don’t have one-to-one mapping. It might be many-to-one, one-to-many, or many-to-many,” said Michael Andre, SIMBA program manager. To address the challenge, they set in place a dedicated team to work specifically on chart of accounts.

When SIMBA goes live in July, it will support functions including treasury and cash management, procure-to-pay, grants and sponsored awards, as well as operational, accounting, budgeting, and travel management. There will be about 3,500 core finance end users, and an additional 41,500 procurement (shopper) users who will have access to the system. This deployment will improve overall processes and enable greater financial transparency, with a sustainable solution to meet the future of this organization.

Join us June 22–25 for ASUGFORWARD to learn, exchange ideas, and gain information you can put into practice immediately. Register for the virtual finance and procurement track taking place on June 24–25 and learn how to configure and manage your SAP investment to gain agility and efficiency.

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