Merit Energy is a leading energy company headquartered in Dallas, Texas, and much like the energy sector overall, is no stranger to the world of mergers and acquisitions (M&A).

Frequently cited as a top workplace in local publications like the Dallas Morning News, Merit Energy has led more than 130 acquisitions since its founding in the 1990s – all aimed at helping it grow and guard against the short-term volatility that characterizes the industry as a whole.

In a recent discussion with ASUG News about RISE with SAP, SAP North America President DJ Paoni characterized the Intelligent Enterprise as “an insurance policy against future disruption.” This is exactly the mindset Merit Energy, as a leading user of SAP S/4HANA, has adopted as a company.

Russ Hulme, Financial Systems Manager at Merit Energy, recently joined SAP’s virtual roadshow series on RISE with SAP and SAP S/4HANA to discuss why the energy leader has gone down the path of becoming an intelligent enterprise.

SAP S/4HANA Movement Uncovers Business Case

Merit Energy has leveraged SAP solutions for more than 15 years, testing and implementing new enhancement packages as they were made available and being an early adopter for new releases. In 2019, Hulme and his team had to tackle a challenging strategic question: invest in five more years of on-premise hardware or start the move to SAP S/4HANA? To answer this question, they needed to be able to present a legitimate business case for choosing the latter option. This is where SAP’s S/4HANA Movement program entered the picture.

“Within IT, we didn’t want to be the ones making the business case; we wanted to partner with our business to do so,” Hulme said. “This is where SAP S/4HANA Movement program proved pivotal. The SAP team engaged our business in a fact-finding mission that helped us have intentional conversations that got members of the Merit Energy business excited for the possibilities that SAP technology has to offer.”

One of the business drivers that surfaced early in the process was the ability to collate, manage, and analyze the wealth of data that was being generated across Merit’s many IT systems resulting from years of acquisitions. “We had more than 130 different applications serving our organization,” Hulme said. “We quickly realized that SAP was the sun at the center of our universe that we could use to establish standardization.”

Unique, Self-Starter Approach to Implementation

Most of Merit Energy’s corporate operations are in Dallas, which means that most, if not all, of its user base is together in one location. When you add that to the company’s “get stuff done” culture that prizes scrappiness, it became clear that the Merit Energy IT team had the resources and know-how to be able to manage the implementation of SAP S/4HANA 1909 in-house.

While many customers see the flexibility and scalability of the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system as an opportunity to fully refresh IT strategies, the Merit team elected to instead make the platform complement its existing systems and felt a full IT reboot wasn’t needed. To support the move, Hulme’s team landed on a four-step, multi-phased approach to product implementation, starting with the initial system upgrade to SAP S/4HANA 1909, the latest version at the time, to “see what hypercare is needed.” Expanded user testing, third-party add-ons, and full-team user acceptance testing followed, resulting in a seamless implementation process in as little as 10 months.

While the Merit Energy team prides itself on self-sufficiency, Hulme was quick to praise one resource offered by SAP in particular. “We saw immense value in engaging SAP Value Assurance,” he confirmed. “We considered them our ‘bat phone’ resource to help us get the job done right.”

Lesson Learned: Rethink Your Work with Strategic Partners

When asked what his top learnings from the project were, Hulme had two conclusions. First, in retrospect, Merit Energy would have started the SAP S/4HANA journey earlier given the immense value the team has seen from the ERP system to-date. Second — and his biggest advice for peers at other companies — is to get outside of thinking of SAP as an accounting program.

“There are so many other efficiencies and innovations that are generated by the SAP ecosystem that it’s a mistake to only think in terms of ERP or finance,” Hulme said. “The quicker you adopt this mindset, the more results you will drive.”

The SAP S/4HANA Success series features content by leaders from SAP North America focused on highlighting customer success with SAP S/4HANA . Learn how customers in this region manage successful implementations with the partner ecosystem and SAP Services as well as leverage the platform to transform their industries.

John Tully is senior vice president and managing director of the South Region for SAP North America.