La Trobe University Disrupts Higher Education with SAP S/4HANA

Everyone jokes about what they could achieve if only they had more hours in the day, but La Trobe University is serious about breaking this kind of new ground in workplace productivity. As the first organization to deploy SAP Simple Finance, which runs on SAP’s cloud-based platform, SAP S/4HANA, La Trobe expects each person on its finance team will gain one entire day of productivity.

“We aim to achieve a 20 percent efficiency gain across finance and administrative tasks using SAP Simple Finance, the equivalent of one day’s work per person on our Finance team,” said Peter Nikoletatos, Executive Director and CIO at La Trobe University. “Significantly speeding up reporting times will allow workers to concentrate on the application of the data for insights the business can use for demonstrable benefit in each college in terms of student information, financial reporting and grants and research.”

La Trobe educates 36,000 students across a network of Australian campuses and through partnerships in Southeast Asia. Its comprehensive curriculum focuses on agriculture, bioscience and sports. Faced with an aging cost center and program consolidation, La Trobe elected to upgrade its original SAP R/3 system to S/4HANA. SAP Simple Finance is the first cloud-based application La Trobe is rolling out. By the end of 2015, all of La Trobe’s SAP software will be delivered through the SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud (HEC), hosted from a local data center. This includes SuccessFactors (Human Resources and Payroll), Business Intelligence (BI), Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC), and Materials Management.

“S/4HANA is the engine for the university, and we’re going to drive everything from it into our future,” said Nikoletatos. “We’re keeping our innovation momentum going because we want our students to be very successful in the marketplace when they’re looking for a job.”

Mobilizing Real-Time Data

Speaking recently at SAP’s SAPPHIRE NOW event, Nikoletatos was excited about what the finance team at La Trobe will achieve using SAP Fiori UX, the company’s mobile interface.

Peter Nikoletatos, Executive Director and Chief Information Officer at La Trobe University attended SAP’s recent SAPPHIRE NOW event, where he explained how the school simplified its IT landscape using SAP Simple Finance and the SAP HANA Cloud Platform.
Peter Nikoletatos, Executive Director and Chief Information Officer at La Trobe University attended SAP’s recent SAPPHIRE NOW event, where he explained how the school simplified its IT landscape using SAP Simple Finance and the SAP HANA Cloud Platform.

“We spent too many years dragging our data into a warehouse and then producing reports,” said Nikoletatos. “We’re beginning to roll out SAP Fiori for high-level, real-time summaries the business can apply immediately to solve problems and take advantage of opportunities. It has a convenient, out-of-the-box interface with a responsive design for any device like watches, smartphones and laptops. We’ll use BI for reports that span longer timeframes.”

Executives and administrators at La Trobe have quickly realized the measurable benefits of S/4HANA. With instant access to reliable information about grant money, researchers will spend more time on innovating for value. Consolidating data across library, parking and other administrative areas will provide students with one centralized source for updated information, allowing them to focus on academics. Real-time data will also give La Trobe an immediate view into student performance, mitigating costly attrition rates.

“In days instead of weeks we’ll be able to identify the early warning signals that a student is having problems like not going to the library, registering for tutorials or attending classes,” said Nikoletatos. “With a database pulling and analyzing data for hundreds or thousands of student interactions immediately and summarizing it on any device, we can intervene faster to reduce attrition rates that impact our bottom line.”

First-Mover Paves the Way for Industry Transformation

Nikoletatos appreciates the benefits of simplification that S/4HANA offers, and he predicts fast adoption from other sectors as a result.

“In terms of licenses, it’s cheaper for us to move away from on-premise and go to the cloud by a significant amount. With this investment, we’re getting a decrease in capital expenses and depreciation and a small shift in OPEX,” he said. “We’re being watched by many organizations in other industries. Within six to 12 months, I envisage a number of other organizations investing in this technology – and that’s exciting.”

Lessons Learned

Like most organizations, La Trobe had highly changeable information across many databases. Nikoletatos characterized data migration as one of the most complicated aspects of upgrading systems. He also advised companies to investigate the actual skills of in-house experts and plan accordingly.

“When it came to crunch time, we had to reach out to SAP because we did not have the capability internally, particularly around data modeling and architecture and security, where we relied more on SAP,” he said.

La Trobe University went live with SAP Simple Finance in just 20 weeks, instantly consolidating over 70 customized reports with unreliable information to five standardized report containing accurate, real-time data. In bringing finance into the cloud, La Trobe University has taken a seriously huge step forward that’s disrupting higher education with groundbreaking productivity gains. It’s a lesson that isn’t lost across every industry worldwide.

Related Content:

VIDEO: Peter Nikoletatos at SAPPHIRE NOW

Follow me @smgaler