Before companies switch to a cloud procurement solution, they should think very carefully about the effect it will have on their processes and work out which resources they will make available, particularly during the transition period.
Experts Martin Boldys and Stefan Ruska from the SAP Ariba Customer Value Organization share some of their tips for customers in the post-go-live phase.
When Stefan Ruska and his team visit a customer, it can mean one of two things, either the company has thought in advance about the resources it needs once the software is live and factored in external support early on in the process, or it has overloaded its employees with things to do and needs help. The head of Application Management Services at SAP Ariba knows the challenges that midsize and large enterprises all face once they start using the cloud procurement solution SAP Ariba.
“The service infrastructure must be in place before the move to the cloud solution,” explains Ruska, a principal consultant at SAP Ariba. “It may take the form of a separate department that supports the buyers, or a central shared service center that responds to queries.”
Answering users’ questions promptly, handling tickets, adjusting templates, and facilitating supplier onboarding are just some of the tasks on the to-do list once the software goes live.
Post-Go-Live Dilemma: Not Enough Resources
Signs of a “post-go-live dilemma,” as Ruska calls it, include a lack of software expertise, not having enough staff members on the project, over-tasking power users, and being unable to keep up with regular cloud releases. Companies usually start intensively using the software for the first time during the implementation of SAP Ariba, which can take between four and eight months. Some of them then take over the operation of the procurement solution straight away.
“It’s possible, but it’s not ideal,” explains Martin Boldys, director of SAP Ariba Services Sales in MEE. Boldys knows from experience that users start asking questions around four weeks after go live — and then the questions come flooding in.
Get Ready for the Moment of Truth
For the users – the company’s buyers, that is – the moment of truth comes the instant the software goes live. “You don’t want any surprises at that point,” says Boldys. “Users have to be able to log in easily, all the catalogs have to be there, and the interface should be intuitive.” But no-one can fully guarantee that there won’t be any problems. That’s why Boldys advises companies to establish a service infrastructure that can neutralize bottlenecks and make adjustments professionally at short notice. It should also be able to take care of change management. According to Boldys, the main challenge after go-live “isn’t really related to the technology, but to the new processes that the users have to get to grips with.” He believes that it is best if a company settles on a global process approach per spend category. “That really reduces the change management effort,” he says.
Offering Services After Go Live
Once the software is live, the company has to provide a wide range of services that require detailed planning. The following list features some of the main ones, which are also available from SAP Ariba as services for the post-go-live phase.
- Functions: Answering user questions quickly and competently. Activating and updating product catalogs; supporting other units during the software rollout.
- Master data: Entering users and suppliers into the system, setting up accounts, creating groups, and assigning roles. Defining upper limits and exceptions for purchase order approvals.
- Monitoring: Monitoring order statuses, critical processes, and pending tasks.
- Test management: Running automated regression tests to help the company assess new functions installed during regular cloud updates.
- Adjusting configurations: Making changes to business processes, as required by the new technical design; adjusting and modifying configurations.
- Technology: Specifically, troubleshooting. A support team helps if errors occur when transferring data between interfaces (such as to SAP ECC, SAP PI, or to another ERP system) or if processes do not work as planned.
Shared Service Centers or Procurement Champions?
Depending on the size of their projects, companies adopt different strategies to offer these services. Boldys’ experience shows that companies tend toward one of two strategies to keep nasty surprises to a minimum and quickly provide support if needed: either a central shared service center that deals with all service-related matters or a network of local procurement champions that act as on-site advisors.
For example, a company with 3,000 users in procurement assigns 15 buyers to work in a shared service center and answer questions relating to operational procurement that arise when the SAP Ariba cloud solution is being implemented. The advantage: Other buyers do not have to deal with service-related tasks and can focus instead on strategic activities like negotiating and contact management. The on-site procurement champions are the main procurement contacts at the company. They provide assistance from within the organization for colleagues using the new tool, which is especially useful for experienced buyers who haven’t had much contact with tools in the past.