There’s quite a bit you can do in advance to make your cloud ERP implementation a success.

The six-part “Cloud Coach” series focuses on addressing the questions, concerns, and thoughts of a business considering ERP. Michael Jolton, Core ERP Practice Director at SAP partner NIMBL, is responsible for all integration services related to enterprise business applications from SAP – including SAP S/4HANA and SAP S/4HANA Cloud. Here, he shares his perspective on cloud ERP implementation.

Tip 1: Clean Your Data

Start by cleaning your data now. Do not migrate over bad data, whether that be stale customers, stale product data, old bills of material, or old production processors. Get all that data cleaned before you start your project. Next, ensure everyone who will be affected by the new system starts going through training material right away. Lastly, you need to develop and propagate a fit-to-standard mentality.

Tip 2: Make Use of SAP’s Resources from Day One

One of the benefits of SAP S/4HANA Cloud is the pre-populated starter landscape. This allows for that true exposure to the solution almost immediately.

In addition, SAP provides over 1,400 different training modules that are business-role based. And users can access those from day one. Even if you don’t have your starter environment loaded right away, one of the tricks I use is that you can take advantage of SAP’s free trials.

The bottom line is this: Users have access to training almost immediately. In addition, for our implementations, we always recommend leveraging all of the other training content available. SAP has an extensive library of videos, webinars, and training materials. We recommend businesses incorporate a training and change enablement component to their projects, so that the users are trained and ready to adopt and use that solution at go-live.

When you turn it on, it’s ready to go. You just need to make sure your users are.

Tip 3: Implementation Timelines Vary Based on Three Factors

The typical time frames that we see are 20 to 24 weeks. And that does include post-go-live support. Keep in mind, an implementation time frame is highly dependent on the following three factors: scope, integrations, and custom extension development.

In the cases where implementation has gone over that duration, it has been due to the client waiting for functionality to come in a future release. Also, the duration of the project will extend at least one week per country localization that’s required.

Tip 4: Your Implementation Dream Team Includes a Partner

The typical implementation team involves business users, possibly internal IT members, and a consulting partner – like NIMBL, for instance. If you would like to use or train your internal team on implementing SAP S/4HANA Cloud, you can. But I would still advise using a consulting partner. In NIMBL’s case, we’ve done this many times. We know where the rakes in the grass are, so we can help businesses avoid stepping on them.

I recommend combining the NIMBL services with SAP Preferred Success, a program where the business is provided a named resource from SAP and that person is a conduit to information about SAP S/4HANA Cloud. They also help by having connections to expedite your implementation. In this program, you also get information about new releases and functionality that SAP customers who are not in the program do not get. More importantly, with SAP Preferred Success, your resource stays involved long after the implementation to help ensure that your business takes advantage of new functionality that is being delivered each quarter.

If a business is looking for support after the implementation, that is one of the places a business can reach out to. We would want them to call us as well. Just because we’re done with an implementation doesn’t mean we go away. We’re always around!

Tip 5: The Fastest Implementations Come from Embracing Fit to Standard

There are cloud-based ERP solutions, and then there is SAP S/4HANA Cloud. The reason I’m distinguishing between the two is because SAP S/4HANA Cloud comes with unique accelerators which makes the implementation dramatically different from any other cloud ERP.

One of those accelerators is the pre-configurated, pre-populated environment called the “starter landscape.” This allows for rapid application development where business users can interact with the solution in the first weeks of the implementation project.

You don’t start from scratch – you start with a highly interactive set of workshops where you work with the business process owners. Then, you map their business to SAP S/4HANA Cloud. From those workshops, and from that starter environment, SAP gives a whole set of applications that are used to modify the base configuration to meet the needs of the company.

So, if we’re getting a pre-configured solution that’s 80 percent configured to the business, there’s still that 20 percent we have to do. That’s done with these applications, which make things much easier. Because 80 percent of the system is pre-configured, you are limited in what you can change. And people can say, “I don’t want to be limited. I want to think outside the box.” But, with the limitation comes a much quicker implementation. More importantly, you have the ability to easily adapt to quarterly system updates.

Tip 6: Avoid the Three Most Common Implementation “Hiccups”

The easiest part of an SAP S/4HANA Cloud implementation is the SAP S/4HANA Cloud part. As for implementation “hiccups,” those come in three areas:

  • The integrations are complex. The use of SAP white-listed APIs simplify and expedite the process, but there’s still the other side of the integration that must be accounted for. Also, the SAP APIs are still being developed, and sometimes they have fields that haven’t been fully enabled. With anything relatively new, there are kinks that need to be worked out.
  • Regarding data migration, pulling data out of your legacy system and formatting it so that it can go into any new system is a time-consuming process. It should not be underestimated.
  • If business users aren’t doing the training or if they aren’t fully engaged on the project because they’re still focused on their full-time jobs that they had before the project started, that can lead to trouble down the road when the solution looks foreign to them.

Tip 7: A New Take on How to Calculate Your ROI

You move to cloud ERP for several reasons – the easiest of which is getting off of an old, expensive, hard-to-maintain hardware and systems software platform.

The real reason to change your ERP is to enable your business to take advantage of the functionality and take advantage of the new technology, such as machine learning and Internet of Things to really transform your business. That’s where you want to build your ROI in time.

Learn more about enterprise resource planning solutions from SAP here.

Michael Jolton is Core ERP Practice Director at SAP partner NIMBL.