SAP.info: How does the work of the JSUG Global Implementation working group look like?
Kyoshi Takigawa: The JSUG working group comprises companies from diverse industries that come together to discuss their experiences and issues surrounding the global implementation of SAP ERP. Until last year the Global Implementation SIG only met on a quarterly basis and mainly shared the cases they experienced. Members felt they weren’t getting the in-depth information they really needed. So, I changed the format of these meetings to produce more detailed deliverables based on the combined experiences of participants.
The group now meets every quarter, while smaller sub-working groups get together around once a month. Discussion topics stay on the table for around a year to allow enough time to cover issues thoroughly and produce comprehensive findings. Participants can now take away real advice and pointers on how to overcome specific issues.
SAP.info: How are the group’s findings presented and what themes are you currently discussing?
Takigawa: We recently published a report on the issues facing companies about to go global with SAP ERP. This was based on the experiences of 18 of our member companies. In Japanese this type of document is called a “tora no maki” (a book of secrets), which literally translated means “scroll of the tiger”. This is a kind of master text that provides comprehensive advice for enterprises getting ready to take their business beyond Japan – a kind of checklist to take them through from pre-implementation to operations. We also prepared a report for companies who have already gone global but are facing issues going forward. The report covers the typical challenges they can expect on the road ahead.
Another related theme we’re currently working on is global talent. We’re looking at what really constitutes global talent and how it’s best identified and fostered. Once this research is complete, we’ll put together another “tiger” volume. We hope to have this document translated into English to allow for potential input from other countries.
SAP.info: What did you find were the biggest challenges for companies going global?
Takigawa: It really varies depending on the company but one challenge that can cause all kinds of issues in a global rollout is information about SAP Global implementation, or a lack of it, and we hope the findings of our group help to overcome this to some extent. Another common stumbling block for Japanese companies is a lack of planning for post-implementation operations. Companies implementing SAP globally often don’t consider post-operational issues prior to embarking on their implementation. This can lead to problems later.
Consolidation is another major concern. Most Japanese companies with overseas operations run these systems separately. Given the fact that we need to comply with International Financial Reporting Standards and other global regulations, worldwide consolidation becomes a mandatory issue. It’s crucial that systems are established based on one convention so that all countries speak the same language.
Speed and cost are also key challenges. When a company with a large number of subsidiaries implements a core system globally, a basic rollout might only cover one company per year, which would obviously take far too long. Companies need a faster, lower-cost approach to implementation.
SAP.info: As most large enterprises are now globally active, how can companies differentiate themselves in the global market?
Takigawa: From an IT point of view, the emphasis is turning more and more to speeding up the flow of information to top management. For example, it used to be that key financial information was provided at the end of the fiscal year, or after monthly or quarterly closings. Nowadays this kind of output is required prior to closings so that management can consider new measures to achieve their goals. So to stay ahead of the competition, global IT consolidation needs to be smooth, speedy, and transparent.
SAP.info: The Asian market offers a big potential for Japanese companies. Are there any obstacles to going global in this region, for example in terms of the size of the Chinese market?
Takigawa: There are of course many opportunities for Japanese companies in such a dynamic market. In terms of IT obstacles, the uniqueness of the Chinese system can present difficulties when forming an alliance with a company. Tax and accounting systems, for example, can differ from district to district, or even city to city. Improvements to logistics and telecommunications over the past 20 years mean that infrastructure is no longer a big issue, but a lack of a consolidation in terms of bureaucracy and regulations, and a lack of a proper sales system, is challenging when you’re looking at global business and global IT.
SAP.info: In which way do you cooperate with SAP? Do you get the right support?
Takigawa: We have representatives from SAP at each of the quarterly meetings of the working group, so there’s already interaction at that level. From a group standpoint, there’s no centralized opinion as to how SAP could provide more support but I think information and knowledge transfer is always a common concern. SAP Japan couldn’t always provide the full picture on SAP global implementation in collaboration with SAP AG to help us going forward. Perhaps when the “tiger” report is translated into English, this would be a useful trigger for productive discussion.
SAP.info: In which direction would you like to see the Global Implementation SIG develop?
Takigawa: We’re still discussing the themes for this fiscal year, but one goal on a general level would be to establish a more direct and open mutual exchange with SAP AG. This would also help us to identify further topics for discussion going forward.