What are your biggest challenges with SAP? We have listened to our clients complain about their SAP problems, and the biggest ones fall into these three categories:
- User Experience,
- To Avoid Brain-Drain, You Need Continuous Training,
- Sustainment and Evolution (Care and Feeding).
Yes, there are many other topics we could list such as Application Development and Customization, Lack of Flexibility, System Maintenance and Security Patches, etc. But these three are mentioned the most frequently.
SAP’s GUI has pretty much stayed the same since its inception of the R/3 platform in 1992. There were some enhancements with Enjoy SAP in the 1996 timeframe. But the GUI has changed little which includes fields and screen sequencing.
And users still complain about it!
With the introduction of Fiori, many expected this UI to break through these obstacles and enhance the user experience. Fiori does improve the experience for task oriented requirements, but lacks in the flexibility of how it handles multiple task within the entire business process.
One of our clients, a Manufacturing Company, has a division they have wanted to convert to SAP for many years. The biggest pushback was that these users had homegrown screens and when they saw the GUI, they resisted the change.
The legacy system could still support the business, therefore, it was alright to run two systems. But as new requirements and acquisitions occurred, it was obvious the legacy system could not continue to run the business: the roadmap to SAP was set.
When we met with the project team from the division on the legacy system, they were thrilled that we could build a UI5 front-end and layout the screens to reflect how they worked. IT was happy because they could justify the migration to SAP and take advantage of the expanded system improvements: a win-win for business and IT.
To Avoid Brain-Drain, You Need Continuous Training:
I recently heard an interesting statistic, the average age of IT professionals supporting SAP is over 50 years old. This will create a knowledge vacuum in a few years as these employees move towards retirement.
How are you addressing your SAP Knowledge Workers (KWs)? And if you implemented SAP more than five years ago, you already are experiencing the brain-drain of your workforce.
The math and reality according to KWs:
- KWs retain 80% of what they learn!
- Each successive generation of KWs retain 80%.
- Each generation is three years, the average time a resource is in a role.
- Conclusion: after 5-6 years into your SAP journey, your SAP KWs may understand 50%-65% of ‘what’ and ‘why’ you implemented this functionality – interesting statistic!
The resulting activities for users and super users drives inefficient behavior in the form of workarounds, code-on-code fixes, misinterpretations of best practices, and other decisions that drive-up the cost of ownership.
A prime example, while advising a client on their Accounts Payable processes, is they wanted to build a separate system to track some celebrity assets. The requirement was to ensure paying royalty payments and contractual agreements on-time.
Rather than building this separate application, we pointed out that SAP has this capability to set up PO’s and recurring invoice processing that track these requirements and pay celebrities according to license terms. After a review of the original BPML, we noticed that this requirement was on the list, but dropped from the scope.
Another common request is for training on the SAP Report Writer/Painter. The finance team for an electronics company had problems with the month-end close. The volume of spreadsheets was piling up. The controller needed help and thought the training would reduce the time to close.
We reviewed the case, and many of the reports they needed were either available or close to the format they needed. This finding put a spotlight on the brain-drain that occurred after many years of performing recurring tasks and not investing in their knowledge workers.
Where can you start? Look for where you have a build-up of spreadsheets and manual workarounds and see if there are SAP processes that could eliminate these inefficient practices.
Sustainment and Evolution (Care and Feeding):
How do you keep evolving your ERP systems? Should we follow an agile or waterfall methodology?
Agile projects are the rave in PMO circles. Agile is the way to get functionality faster to users; quickly and efficiently.
Unfortunately, agile doesn’t always work in the SAP world. Where does it work and where does it not work? We could probably write a full article or book on the many methods and approaches for this.
We have found success with the agile approach for point solutions such as new report cubes for Sales Analytics. Or, rolling out single mobile application function on either Fiori or UI5 for Approvals of time or vendor invoices.
The scope of the work focused on a small group of users, and the risk is limited. We found a pilot approach following agile methods worked effectively in this situation.
Agile approach fails when you have cross-functional requirements, impact or risk. One of our clients was rolling out SAP to a plant they acquired. The rollout affected enterprise data, pricing, customers, materials, and valuation area.
The traditional waterfall method works best for scenarios with integrated requirements, and all requirements need to work together. The plant rollout is a perfect example due to the need for each subsequent step or phase having a dependency on the prior phase.
We have worked with our clients to demonstrate how both methods can coexist in the PMO. Having the flexibility to deliver in both the waterfall, agile or lean method can save you time, money and improve your SLA’s with your internal and external customers.
With a system the size and complexity of SAP, there are many other problems that may challenge you. These are a few that we have solved for our clients.
Tell us your biggest problems with SAP and let’s talk about how we can solve them for you? Contact Kent Lamb, 214.632.5621.; or, contact your Titan Consulting Director. You can see additional information on our Advisory Services page at www.titanconsulting.net.