Posted: November 29, 2011
The insider secrets they don't want you to knowBy Yosh Eisbart
They don't want me to tell you this.
But I'm going to anyway.
The purpose of divulging these secrets is not to pull pack the curtains and reveal a monster lurking behind the machine plotting to take advantage of the defenseless customer. Not at all. The purpose is to provide an opportunity for organizations to more effectively implement this complex set of products so everyone (including implementation partners like NIMBL) can be more successful. A rising tide lifts all ships, right?
Myriad horror stories exist about implementing a strategic corporate wide Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system for the large enterprise (i.e. businesses over $250 million in annual revenue). Headlines scream of bottom-line financial impact due to business disruption. Regardless of flavor (SAP, Oracle, etc.), most everyone knows someone or some company that has experienced the pains of working on an ERP project.
This simply doesn't need to be so.
Successful SAP (Systems, Applications and Products) implementations hinge on several key well-known principles such as strong executive management, heavy business involvement, competent team members (whether internal or external), etc. However - for those in the know with several SAP projects underneath their belt - several additional guiding tenants could provide your organization with the greatest opportunity for success. Wanna hear more? Thought so.
Keep it Vanilla
When embarking upon new SAP implementations, many organizations drive to essentially replicate screen for screen their existing business software platform... green screen and all. Big mistake. The value behind implementing an ERP is to leverage as much as possible "out-of-the-box." Heavy customization of the existing product not only drives unneeded projects costs but creates a long-term sustainability (i.e. production support) nightmare.
SAP specifically has spent years of research and development in building business best practices into the software. In fact - SAP offers industry-specific solutions (aka "All-in-One" Solutions) incorporating industry specific functionality. (Think hundreds of industry flavors spanning from Wholesale Distribution, Energy, Manufacturing, Oil & Gas, etc.) Obviously there will be some customization such as must-have reports or interfaces; however - the implementation mantra should be system-standard always your first option. So as opposed to making the system change for your organization - make your organization change for your system.
Obtain expertise in-house
Knowing what you don't know is key and when either running a new SAP project or supporting a productive one - understanding the software's capabilities is fundamental. Many organizations - especially within the midmarket - are new to the SAP world and select to partner with a system's integrator to handle most - if not all - of the implementation.
Possessing in-house in-depth SAP skillsets is crucial on many fronts. First and foremost - after the implementation - you as an organization are responsible for the support and upkeep of the system. Even if you are planning on leveraging a third party SAP AMS (Application Management Services) for post-production support, you - the customer - are always the one left holding the bag.
Secondly - it never hurts to have the ability to question or challenge your SAP provider's product. Obviously - your partner has been chosen for a laundry list of important reasons including Trust. However - having in-house SAP expertise never hurts in ensuring everyone is always doing the right thing. Therefore - having some SAP product knowledge - whether functional/business process and/or technical can help promote long-term effective operations and the ability to "send the fish back if needed" every once in a while.
Maximize that which you already own
Organizations spend considerable investment in implementing and supporting SAP. As a baseline - when adding new business process functionality - customers should always look to maximize their current investment as opposed to implementing new systems and/or products whether new SAP software or non-SAP software. Specifically within the ERP product - rich business processes exist which might not initially be leveraged. For example - many an organization first implements a component first (i.e. SAP Financials and Controlling) and then looks to expand in business scope (i.e. Order to Cash next).
With the exception of the implementation costs - you already own the ability to leverage both. Another SAP specific optimization opportunity resides within SAP's Solution Manager product suite. Without going into too much detail - Solution Manager possesses robust Change Management, Incident Management, Test Management, Technical Operations, and Project Management functionality which most customers do not use due to lack of exposure or knowledge.
As opposed to purchasing, implementing, and maintaining other products and tools - maximize Solution Manager - a product you already own as part of your license to tackle these key IT areas. All responsible customers never take lightly both the immediate and long-term costs associated with the purchase of a strategic ERP platform. Looking at maximizing the product - i.e. squeezing out as much standard functionality as systematically possible - should always be your first option.
Inquiring minds want to know
So there you have it: A view behind the curtain revealing several opportunities for your organization to mitigate risk, maximize investment, and avoid undue challenge. While these thoughts are far from prophetic - for those unfamiliar with the ERP and specifically SAP universe - they hopefully shed some light and at a minimum provoke thought. Always interested in hearing other professionals' perspective whether similar or to the contrary. Please feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Best of luck on your IT projects!
Yosh Eisbart is a principal and cofounder at NIMBL LLC, an industry-recognized SAP professional services firm focused on agile delivery and maximizing customer SAP investment by doing more with what clients’ already own. Headquartered in Denver, Colo., with offices in Los Angeles and Chicago, NIMBL serves both Fortune 500 organizations and midmarket companies across North America. Yosh began his SAP career over 17 years ago in the days of R/2, has lead SAP initiatives across the globe and believes strongly in actively contributing to the SAP ecosystem. Driving NIMBL’s strategic business initiatives, he proselytizes the importance of value and mutually beneficial partnership between customer and vendor. Email Yosh at email@example.com.