The first two weeks of the ASUG Best Practices: SAP S/4HANA Virtual Experience have walked attendees through the vital preliminary steps necessary to getting any SAP S/4HANA implementation project off the ground. During week three of the event, the focus turned from developing a strategy and plan to the actual execution of an SAP S/4HANA implementation. A complicated and time-consuming undertaking, this process is only successful if SAP customers have done their homework and put the time into developing and planning the implementation.

During the penultimate week of the ASUG Best Practices: SAP S/4HANA Virtual Experience, attendees heard from customers who have completed their own SAP S/4HANA implementation journeys and experts who gave practical advice on how to successfully complete the execution and delivery of one of these projects. Here are some of the highlights from the third week of the ASUG Best Practices: SAP S/4HANA Virtual Experience.

Customer Story: Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team

The week kicked off with a presentation from Laura Goodrick, CFO of the Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team, and Uwe Grigoleit, SVP of go-to-market for SAP S/4HANA. The two talked about the Mercedes team's adoption of SAP S/4HANA.

Goodrick said that technology like SAP S/4HANA has been “key” to keep the team functioning, which is a lean organization. One of the things that helped the organization out was the fit-to-standard approach, which increased the speed of not only the implementation itself, but also system innovation. Grigoleit said that this allowed the team to “fit business processes into standards delivered with the solution,” which helped increase the speed of the implementation. This was incredibly helpful given the lean size of the team.

From a functionality standpoint, SAP S/4HANA has been beneficial to the Mercedes team because of how usable and intuitive the solution is. The organization has mechanics who leverage the system to order parts, so an ERP solution with “no barriers” was crucial for the Mercedes team.

What Makes for a Successful SAP S/4HANA Implementation?

On the first day of the execution and delivery sessions, audiences heard from SAP about some of the key parts of a successful SAP S/4HANA implementation project. Christopher Williams, regional head of embedded support, global service and support at SAP America, and

Vineet Tyagi, retail and fashion lead for northeast America for customer success at SAP, joined Thomas Wailgum, communications director at ASUG, for a Q&A session about the best practices necessary for executing an SAP S/4HANA project.

Both Tyagi and Williams agreed that defining the scope of a project is vital to executing one of these implementations. “Defining the scope is all about taking a deep look at the project,” Williams said.

He emphasized that customers should have a concrete idea of a project’s outcomes, while also being prepared for any surprises that might arise during the execution. Williams also highlighted the importance of master data management, saying that having an effective data strategy is one of the most important aspects of this phase. Yet, many customers begin designing their data strategies far too late in the processes. Williams encouraged attendees to begin working on their data strategy “upfront and first,” while getting executive buy-in on data conversion. Additionally, he said it’s important to work closely with systems integrators on this strategy. If customers don’t take the data strategy seriously, it could throw off the entire project timeline and cause you to miss go-live dates.

Meanwhile, Tyagi encouraged attendees to focus on integrations necessary for the implementation, also covering important areas to keep in mind during execution: application design, solution activation, and solution configuration.

SAP S/4HANA Go-Live in the Time of COVID-19

Week three of the ASUG Best Practices: SAP S/4HANA Virtual Experience also featured a number of SAP customers walking attendees through their executions. Leaders from Terumo Americas Holding Corp. walked attendees through the company’s July 2020 remote go-live. Presenting were Kalyan Balsubramanian, group CIO and VP of IT; Rick Larrieu, VP of global IT applications and infrastructure; and Sung Yang, VP of business transformation and SAP program executive.

“We didn’t expect COVID-19 to come in the middle of the program,” Balsubramanian said. Because of the disruption caused by the virus, Terumo had to push its initial go-live plans from April to June.

Balsubramanian emphasized the importance of ensuring your data management—a recurring theme throughout the sessions this week—is taken care of, noting that this portion of the SAP S/4HANA implementation process is “what generally makes or breaks a program like this.” Terumo had 14 rounds of data cycles, including conversions, mock-ups, and testing.

According to Yang, one of the best things Terumo did was establish a center of excellence at the beginning of the project, whereas most companies create one towards the end of the SAP S/4HANA implementation. Yang also noted that getting executive buy-in for change management was also crucial to the success of Terumo’s implementation. “You need to have executive buy-in,” he said. “If executives are not endorsing a project, change is going to be hard.”

Another key to Terumo’s success was its team. When asked about the biggest lessons learned from the project, Larrieu noted that the team dedicated to the implementation was incredibly helpful. “This is not an undertaking you can do part-time,” he said, before saying that full-time resources were a necessity.

The Do’s and Don’ts of an SAP S/4HANA Implementation

Attendees heard from even more customers during the last session of the week, which focused on tips for SAP S/4HANA implementation success from professionals who have successfully completed their projects. John Austria, SAP S/4HANA program manager at Esri; Alejandro Reyes, IT project director at AES; and Sharon Schuringa, VP of information solutions at Maple Leaf Foods, fielded questions about their respective journeys.

Schuringa told attendees to not “ignore any one part” of the implementation process, encouraging them to assemble the right team filled with the right people, find the necessary resources, and seek out help from SAP to make the project successful. She also said that the earlier you start your project, the better.

Austria said one of the reasons the Esri implementation—part of which was remote—was successful was because the team was proactive about testing. Esri went through multiple test cycles, with 250 people being involved at the peak. He also encouraged attendees to conduct system cutover planning, which Esri did eight times. Despite that, the team still hit a few issues during the 72-hour cutover time, using all 11 hours of contingency time.

All three speakers also spoke about the importance of effectively marshaling IT resources. Austria talked about the importance of engaging with good partners (Esri partnered with PricewaterhouseCoopers on this project) and engaging with the business team during the process. Schuringa discussed how Maple Leaf started with a core project team, before expanding to a total team of 75 people internal and external resources.

Continue learning how to guide your organization through a seamless SAP S/4HANA adoption journey by viewing the ASUG Best Practices: SAP S/4HANA Virtual Experience on demand. Sign up today to access. Please note, on demand content will be exclusive to ASUG members after Thursday, April 24.

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