Five Tips for Implementing SAP S/4HANA from Customers That Have Done It

Implementing an entirely new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system may seem overwhelming at first. As difficult as it is to run processes on several incongruent systems, sometimes the foreseen time and effort required to streamline all processes can appear even more arduous than keeping everything as is.

Change is daunting, but we have seen firsthand the benefits it can bring. However, do not just take our word for it. Hear what SAP customers have to say.

During SAPPHIRE NOW, we held panels with representatives from companies spanning various industries who spoke of their journeys with implementing SAP S/4HANA. They shared lessons learned that helped with implementation. Here are the top five takeaways from the sessions:

1. Prepare for Change

“Change management.” Alice Sadeghian, senior director of Digital Marketing and eCommerce at American Hotel Register, began with this phrase when she reflected on lessons learned. She noted, “I think change management is for the brave, and it’s important to think about both the team members who are being asked to change, and those who are leading others to adopt it.”

Although preparing for change may seem intuitive, many of the panelists cited preparation as an aspect they could have carried out better. Luis Miguel Soto, CIO of Cementos Pacasmayo, advised customers to “never underestimate the data cleanse you have to do before going through this process.”

Although a lot of change management comes with process work, customers also emphasized the importance of thinking ahead to how the data work would impact the customer experience. In short, plan for the daily effects of implementing a new SAP ERP system on employees and customers.

2. Build the Right Team

“Assemble a team with imagination. Build a team who can imagine what the impact is on the customer, even if they’re not customer-facing, and who can imagine the impact on other departments,” said Carol Lee, director of Application Development at American Hotel Register.

Having the right people involved in the implementation easily made the list of top-five lessons learned. Both Cormac Denton, CFO of Kapura, and Bill Bowers, CIO at Mohawk Industries, spoke specifically of finding good implementation partners that shared the same output requirements.

Once a company has built a strong team, panelists also agreed on the importance of keeping everyone involved. As Johannes Langguth, senior director at Delivery Hero put it, “Make your workforce feel part of the journey and make them feel that their voice is being heard in the overall solution.” A more involved workforce often translates to a more accepting one.

3. Don’t Try to Hold the Ocean

Bowers used the phrase “hold the ocean” among his advice to keep the implementation simple. Others echoed this sentiment with different terms. Robert Barrios, vice president of IT Shared Services and Operations at E&J Gallo Winery, advised customers not to “let your ambitions add over complexity.” As he explained, SAP software has a lot of built-in mandatory fields. Although customers often feel the need to add more for increased visibility in reporting, it often leads to more confusion.

When implementing SAP S/4HANA, customers thought it was important to have their priorities defined and communicated clearly, even if it means waiting to leverage some of the functionalities.

4. Be Agile

Implementing an ERP system often brings some unforeseen obstacles that have the potential to either function as stepping stones or roadblocks, depending on the customer’s approach. According to Theresa Jacobsen of Purdue University, one of the strategies often mentioned to help manage these unknowns is “Test, test, test. Practice, practice, practice.” The most fool-proof way to know whether or not the new system works is to test it out as much as possible and adjust accordingly.

Ryan Muller from MOD Pizza recommended that customers “get your users into the system and actually [start] utilizing it as soon as possible.” Getting feedback from end users will help make the changes necessary and will ultimately drive acceptance. As we all know, practice makes perfect. Although Barrios did wisely mention, “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.”

5. Be Courageous

“Be courageous. Don’t be afraid of doing something that you haven’t done before and challenge every past tradition or ‘this is how we do it’ statement that you hear,” said Denise Birdsell, Financial Solutions director at Zurich North America. It cannot be emphasized enough how much of a difference courage can make. Customers know how easy it is to cling to established routines and how important it is to challenge themselves to change this habit.

As Muller mentioned, “You’ll lose out on a lot of what the new functionality is with SAP S/4HANA if you just try to replicate what you already had.”

Once customers take the leap by implementing SAP S/4HANA, they should not stop there. Customers will have all the tools they need to help the world run better — and do it with gusto.

To help make your journey as smooth as possible, visit the SAP S/4HANA area of sap.com for tools and resources.

Tead about customers that have been recognized for their inspiring journeys on the SAP Innovation Awards page and get an update on SAP S/4HANA by registering for a virtual event.

This article first appeared on the SAP News Center.