As Thomas Edison once famously said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Or, to put it another way, great things come to those who wait. However, if, as a CIO or CDO, you have neither the time nor the money to spare for such trial and error, you can save yourself some missteps. In our experience, there are a few typical stumbling blocks that customers regular encounter that can significantly hinder a digital transformation. In the following – highly subjective – list, we explain the most common pitfalls and misconceptions.
Pitfall 1: Producing a high-level vision for the digitisation process that uses all the latest buzzwords but lacks specificity and leads to development confusion.
Problem: Employees have no clue what they have to do or what the vision means for them. Result: best case, nothing gets done; worst case, lots of money, motivation and credibility is lost on futile initiatives.
Pitfall 2: Deciding to reorganise the enterprise as part of the digitisation strategy completely. And changing all the team names and job titles in the process.
Problem: The IT organisation has no option but to focus on itself for the next few months, meaning that the actual digitisation process is put on a back burner and zero progress is made.
Who plans the project – business or IT?
Pitfall 3: Defining purely long-term goals and no short-term ones.
Problem: Every employee remains focused on their day-to-day tasks and fails to work towards long-term goals. After all, the plans are far in the future and will most likely change with the new management anyway.
Pitfall 4: Defining a highly detailed, long-term implementation plan up to 2031.
Problem: This gives the management a false sense of security but does not reflect reality.
Pitfall 5: Having a digitisation plan created by a business unit, rather than IT and then expecting IT to implement it.
Problem: First, business departments tend to lack the necessary IT knowledge, and second, the business department’s planning is not likely to be consistent with the IT strategy.
Pitfall 6: Assuming that, because plan-build-run worked great for R/3, it also makes sense to use the tried-and-tested ‘waterfall’ approach for digitisation too.
The problem is that these approaches only work in rigidly predictable situations, which is definitively not the case with digitisation.
Pitfall 7: Attempting to digitise integrated end-to-end processes without involving the SAP team.
The problem is that SAP systems probably account for 80 per cent of the company’s revenue (if not, they’re off the hook). Digitisation of end-to-end processes without SAP will most likely involve lightweight, superficial apps that are more suited to ordering a coffee. Do you want to use digitisation to boost your company success or sell coffee?
Pitfall 8: Believing that a S/4HANA-first strategy means transferring absolutely everything over from R/3 haphazardly and as quickly as possible without prior reflection so as not to leave anything behind. After all, the new S/4 system is the digital core and will sort itself out in the end, right?
Problem: You only get out what you put in. If you transfer all the old processes, it will not magically become an intelligent enterprise! Your new S/4 system will be no different from your old R/3 system, except it will look prettier with Fiori Apps.
Pitfall 9: Implementing a greenfield S/4HANA project and not having an enhancement concept because you want to ‘remain in the standard’.
Problem: Although a greenfield implementation with the SAP standard is good, ideally, you also want to switch consistently to the S/4HANA public cloud right away. For everyone else, the following applies: No one remains in the SAP standard. If you don’t have a modern S/4 enhancement concept, you’ll fall back into the R/3 age sooner than you think.
The process of chaos remains
Pitfall 10: Starting an S/4 project simultaneously with implementing the new Business Technology Platform (formerly SAP Cloud Platform). On the BTP, the enhancements to S/4 should then be developed according to SAP / DSAG / ASUG recommendation, and the S/4 should become a ‘Clean & Lean Digital Core’.
Problem: It is correct in theory. However, upon commencing an S/4 project, an organisation already has more than enough to do with S/4, leaving no time to focus seriously on the new topic of BTP. Result: No experience with BTP. The S/4 project is implemented by copy & paste due to increasing pressure. Result: Millions invested, but still an old-fashioned system.
Pitfall 11: Doing everything on-premise because of the mistaken belief that keeping everything in the cloud is unsafe.
Problem: Ever done a serious penetration test of your data centre? No? Then give it a try. I could go on for quite a long list of companies with serious problems with hackers in their data centre. In the cloud, at least real professionals take care of security.
Pitfall 12: Once we have lots of mobile apps, the process chaos in the backend systems will somehow be resolved.
Problem: The process of chaos remains. It just looks fancier with apps.
Pitfall 13: If we go to the cloud, we will be able to leave our chaotic master data behind.
Problem: The problems with the master data remain, even in the cloud.
Pitfall 14: The Windows program SAPGUI runs great, so I don’t need Fiori at all.
Problem: SAPGUI compared to Fiori is like a landline compared to a smartphone. Who still makes phone calls via landline? And have you ever tried to open a SAPGUI transaction on a mobile device? Check it out for yourself.
Do any of the above sound familiar? No problem, you are not alone. And the list could go on. After all, we encounter these common misconceptions time and again. But perhaps now is the time for some critical reflection.