During a major S/4 transformation, the priority for companies with limited human resources is often on safeguarding their IT operations. However, it is more far sighted to rely on consulting expertise and solution competence to strengthen oneself over the entire life cycle of an SAP system landscape – in other words, during both the project phases and operational phases.
Our customer, an international plant engineering company with production sites in Asia and the United States as well as worldwide sales and service units, had already meticulously planned and budgeted its trailblazing migration to SAP S/4HANA. The approval of the Board of Management was expected. It was only a matter of days away. But then an obstacle was discovered: Who would manage the current SAP system landscape during the project? In recent years, the IT department had become smaller. Employees who left the department were not replaced. Some tasks had been taken over and centralized by the parent company (15,000 employees, annual revenue of € 4.2 billion). With around 50 SAP specialists distributed worldwide, the company is perfectly able to manage operations and implement projects at the same time, but not when it comes to major, complex system transformations on the scale of the planned S/4HANA project.
For most customers, an S/4 project represents the biggest and most challenging project they have faced in many years. A project involving a great many changes. This is because, in many areas, established structures, processes, and IT systems also have to be optimized and standardized across the company in parallel – with a view to becoming ONE Global Corporation. “I want to build our digital solution platform of the future with my SAP team,” the SAP team lead confidently explains, and gives three reasons why he wants to involve as many of his employees as possible in this project: 1. The company’s own employees are familiar with the existing processes and solutions, and can thus make a big contribution to the design of the new system, 2. The employees are very interested in working on innovative projects. Not including them in this project would send out the wrong signal. Continuous learning and personal development is important to them and something that should be encouraged. They need to keep their knowledge and expertise up to date, 3. This project represents a starting point for future projects! Only if the company’s own employees have been actively involved in this project can follow-up projects be successfully designed after the go-live.
SAP expertise and process knowledge
The customer therefore needs a means of safeguarding IT operations during the project. ONE Business Solution Management offers industrial companies a wealth of options to support this, including SAP Application Management, SAP Basis Management, Experts on Demand, Job Monitoring & Control, and Authorization Management.
“Our service desk and key users are fully able to handle first-level support,” the customer tells us. For second-level support, the company resorts to near-shore or offshore services in some cases, but this is not appropriate in every instance. Especially when knowledge of complex country-specific details is required, such as in the field of HCM or GTS. “We experimented with assigning third-level support to a small partner, but that didn’t work. While, on the one hand, you need in-depth SAP expertise, on the other, you need more communication with the user to be able to understand the problem exactly,” reports the SAP logistics manager.
Ultimately, in addition to outsourcing third-level incidents, the customer also wants to outsource changes, service requests, and small projects. The customer has greatly customized its SD module with a number of add-ons (user exits, copy routines, pricing routines, etc.). In addition, the company is a variant manufacturer and therefore sells very varied products. An intervention in the SD solution is therefore only possible by absolute experts. Because the situation is similar in the other departments, the company is now relying on SAP Application Management. The above tasks have now been assumed by the customer-oriented core team, managed by a service manager.
Relieving the burden on project employees
This model was later extended to other areas. “I have the same problem as my applications colleagues,” says the SAP Basis manager. “I was therefore delighted that cbs is also supporting this area; monitoring interfaces and background jobs as well as taking on authorization management. Thanks to these services, the internal project team has been relieved of its operational duties, freeing them up to focus on the project work. The SAP team lead is happy: “We are relying on almost all of the ONE Business Solution Management services.” For the S/4 project, we will also be using the SAP S/4 HANA Training Academy and test factory. I am sure that once the project has been completed, we will continue to rely on this support offering. After all, we have a large, global SAP system that needs expert support.”
Another challenge is the company’s rural location away from the big cities, which makes recruiting new employees a challenge. In a few years, the customer will also feel the first effects of the demographic shift and the growing shortage in skilled workers. It is therefore even more important for companies to have an experienced partner at their side to help them safeguard system operations at all times.
Flexibility and innovation
The situation for many industrial companies, whether in the pharmaceutical sector, the automotive sector, in paper production, or in the chemical industry is the same as the example given above: They are growing, evolving in short cycles, and operating on a global stage. As a result, they continue to be subject to different exacting technical and procedural requirements in different countries. Quality support is of course of the utmost importance, but this is far from sufficient. The trend is moving toward consulting-driven application management. It is therefore increasingly important for SAP managers to be able to draw on the widest possible consulting expertise and industry-specific process knowledge at all times. They have to be able to recognize trends at an early stage and implement them as agilely as possible. Because in this global environment, corporations have to keep developing their systems. They depend on the flexibility, innovation, and knowledge of their consulting partners. Broad-based solution providers support their customers across the entire lifecycle of an SAP system landscape, throughout project and operational phases.