Agile Template Design for S/4HANA

3. April 2020

By Henning Krug, cbs Corporate Business Solutions

With traditional approaches, building a new ONE Digital Core is an enormous undertaking that takes forever. Agile methods enable development of business-specific templates that can be executed after only a few months.

The classic watefall approach is no longer fit for purpose. The business must be involved at an early stage. There is a need for rapid ‘product’ development and the provision of suitable process packages

Henning Krung

Senior Manager

Most of the chairs in the Vancouver project room are still empty. Not surprisingly, since Monday is the day of arrival. We make use of the silence. Together with the Operational Excellence Manager and Sales Manager for Italy, we are running through the new sales processes for the Apennines. Our template is almost ready: Order to cash on S/4HANA. Go-live in six days.

The technology company is working on the ONE Digital Core. The aim of this Greenfield project is to provide the customer with a perfectly orchestrated process landscape. No easy task, with 170 legal units! Each national subsidiary has its own processes. At the same time, the organization is to be converted from multiple divisions to three business areas. There are 40 SAP ERP systems and 25 non-SAP ERP systems. In other words, non-harmonized processes with a heterogeneous IT landscape resulting from many company acquisitions, which have been added on rather than integrated.


Digital End-to-End Processes in Half the Time

The board of the industrial group of 15,000 employees has decided: the process and system landscape is to be restructured on the basis of a global ONE ERP system. Processes are to be standardized, there should be as much harmonization as possible. Is the target picture clear? Is the customer ready? In the target picture phase, we clarify the necessary framework.

What do we need? In the past, people worked on blueprints for at least three months. After that, a system was built and all important processes defined. The classic waterfall method. Lots of paperwork, lots of discussions about non-system-related process schematics without looking at an SAP system. At least 15 to 18 months would pass from the start of the project to the first go-live – essentially flying blind. Because there would be no feedback from the business until that point! Does it work for you?


Maximum Business Alignment

That approach is no longer fit for purpose. The business must be involved at an early stage. There is a need for rapid ‘product’ development and the provision of suitable process packages from which to obtain direct feedback: all the processes required by a small sales unit for example. We do not describe all the requirements for all processes from A to Z, we take an inventory. We then decide which part we want to implement in the first product.

We create a S/4 microcosm. This has the advantage of in the next step, a company can immediately go live and test the product in the real world. We rapidly develop a new SAP template in a dynamic and target-oriented manner – with the exact amount of agility that template development within an ERP environment can take. The aim is to ascertain whether we are on the right track And what the process owners think.

Naturally, the full project scope always stays in focus. But it is much too big. We tackle small pieces at a time; one small part of the vast process landscape of a corporate group with a 90-year history and annual revenues of 2.3 billion. In line with the saying: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time! Only when this small template is operational do we move on to the next product. We follow an iterative template approach. A product is developed in just three months in close coordination with the business departments.

And we are able to incorporate the feedback from buyers, production planners, logisticians, and controllers immediately. We continue to optimize the template even during the creation stage in the interest of continuous improvement. This approach proved successful even for the initial product. Only three days of fine-tuning, then the first, small template for Sales Italy is ready. The sales manager gave us valuable input for this. In return, he is given his custom product. The business could not be better aligned.