Rohrer Group: Long Learning Curve from On Premise to Cloud

With the test phase now well underway, the first subsidiaries of industry services provider Rohrer Group are revving up for the go live of SAP S/4HANA Cloud. Time for an interim report from project lead Michael Friess. Put briefly: “The learning curve from on premise to cloud is longer than we expected.”

Whether in Vienna, Linz, or at headquarters in Niklasdorf, the clocks are ticking a bit louder these days across Rohrer Group in Austria. These are the first locations that migrated to SAP S/4HANA Cloud.

“We’ve been in the realization phase since January and are now finally launching the project,” Friess explains. The business developer spearheads a core project team of 10 decision makers from Rohrer’s specialist departments, management, IT, and the cloud-certified SAP gold partner S&T.

While the IT team runs final tests and weeds out set-up errors, Friess ensures that employees in accounting, controlling, and materials management as well as the project members are getting the training and up-skilling they need for the transition. Rohrer is moving its standard logistics and accounting processes to the cloud but leaving its tried-and-true custom enterprise resource planning (ERP) system with its industry-specific knowledge on premise.

“Ideally, the key users receive on-the-job training at their workplace. The other end users receive classroom training in groups of up to 12,” he explains. Yet the specialist knowledge is not enough – it’s just as important that the training imparts a heightened awareness of the change. “We underestimated how long the learning curve from on premise to cloud would be,” Friess says, pointing out his first lesson learned. The high degree of standardization in the cloud surprised many, he reveals, “but we’re compensating with great energy and personal commitment – kudos to the team!”

Cloud ERP: Continuous Development Instead of Rigid Landscapes

Rohrer Group analyzed the pros and cons of cloud carefully before making its decision. The fact that its core business is not about maintaining its own servers, as Friess says, was definitely a point in favor, as was the opportunity for continuous development. A rigid landscape “that you hope to be able to work with for as long as possible” was hardly an alternative for him.

Michael Perfler, business unit manager at S&T, particularly likes the quarterly updates and functional enhancements in SAP S/4HANA Cloud, which he believes should save users the hassle of mammoth upgrade projects every couple of years. “Migrating to the cloud can be a bumpy ride indeed,” says Friess. Companies have to be able to tough it out – and that requires good preparation and change management.

So what is his recipe for success? Communication. He wants everyone in his team to feel comfortable bringing forth their ideas and suggestions. As he sees it, motivation is fueled by a sense of belonging, community. “Before we started this project, we got all stakeholders together to explore the fundamental question of ‘Where do we want to go?’”

As it turned out, they all wanted different things. Whereas controlling yearned for a standardized reporting process spanning all 45 locations, IT’s focus lay more on leveraging technological innovations. Founder and CEO Johann Rohrer, meanwhile, considers the switch to SAP S/4HANA Cloud “a basic necessity.” His company cleans refinery tanks and schedules plant downtimes for customers such as BASF, Shell, voestalpine, and OMV, who themselves use SAP software and thus demand seamless integration with the respective IT systems.

First Milestone in Cloud Migration

From an operational perspective, Friess has to define concrete goals, plan schedules, adapt business processes and procedures, and sometimes even design new ones. “Of course, I can’t allow myself to get caught up in every little detail, so I also need to be able to delegate tasks and responsibilities to employees,” he notes. After 25 years in the project business, he’s a seasoned veteran who knows that “a project is only successful if it generates added value for the company – not just economical but technical, too, when the new solution is accepted and integrated by the employees in their day-to-day work.”

Rohrer’s go-live of SAP S/4HANA Cloud in Austria was the first milestone of the project. The solution will be rolled out in the rest of Rohrer’s 14 countries of operation in half-year intervals. “Our commercial manager in Germany is lucky,” Friess says with a grin. That’s because Germany is up next and can learn from any mistakes that are uncovered in the meantime. The clock is already ticking.

This story originally appeared on the German SAP News Center.
Top photo via Rohrer Group