By Robert Holland, VP and Research Director, SAPinsider
Nearly half of those moving to SAP S/4HANA have indicated that they are planning on performing a system conversion, but is a new implementation a possibility they hadn’t considered? Any transition to SAP S/4HANA involves understanding how and where you are doing to deploy the solution. Choices must be made not only on the type of deployment you are doing, for example, a system conversion or a new implementation, but also where and on what infrastructure. But while organizations are aware of these sorts of decisions, they aren’t necessarily doing all the preparation that is required to build a foundation for success or putting in place some of the key pieces that can help streamline and accelerate the project once it’s underway. To gain a better understanding of what is needed for a successful SAP S/4HANA deployment, SAPinsider sat down with solution experts at Cognizant to discuss what they have been seeing with their customers and where they have been able to help them ensure a successful move to SAP S/4HANA.
Planning and Preparation
The starting point for any SAP S/4HANA transition is in building the business case. But to build the business case, as Cognizant’s Head of SAP Global Markets Jack Miller says, the line of business teams need to understand—regardless of the technology—how that technology is going to impact sales, HR, marketing, and other business teams. “Cognizant has put together our SAP S/4HANA assessment program where we will perform a complete assessment not just of business processes, and what changes from their existing ERP system to SAP S/4HANA, but also what that means from a capability standpoint.” This type of preparation came up multiple times when talking with customers while putting together our Deployment Approaches for SAP S/4HANA benchmark report, with more than one saying that without this level of preparation they would never have been able to make the business transformation that they completed with the move to SAP S/4HANA.
But what Cognizant produces as the output from that assessment can remove some of the complexity in putting together a business case for SAP S/4HANA. “We provide two forms of output,” said Miller. “One is an entire cost of ownership assessment including every fee, licensed maintenance projections, the project costs, plus any cloud fees. The second highlights at the line of business level and includes changes to functionalities and capabilities that they are going to receive.” This level of detail can help organizations address what respondents in the Deployment Approaches report categorized as the second biggest challenge that they faced in the move to SAP S/4HANA—quantifying the business impact of SAP S/4HANA.
Looking at some of the challenges that Cognizant has seen organizations face when preparing for a SAP S/4HANA deployment, one of the biggest roadblocks has been current business process owners. They can be extremely passionate about why the organization performs tasks a particular way, and executives need to be engaged with the deployment so that they can bring engagement across these business teams. “You need to make them partners on the growth strategy of the organization, so it isn’t something that stays at the executive level,” stated Miller. By engaging these business leaders with the growth strategy of the organization they can become advocates for the change. “As good as the technology is, whether it’s SAP S/4HANA or something else, it is only going to be as good as it’s being used,” Miller said. “And once it gets used they are often pretty amazed at what they can do, especially on the predictive side.”
Quality Assurance and Testing
The other major factor that Cognizant says should be emphasized in the move to SAP S/4HANA is that of testing. While architecting and developing the system important, according to Senior Vice President Andreas Golze, the transformation needs to be a quality one. “Without quality SAP S/4HANA is just another project that might potentially be a challenge for everyone,” stated Golze. “What we do, and I think we’re unique with this, is not only build the framework for our clients, we also put a full-fledged complete automated test framework in place.” With many organizations looking to standardize as part of the move to SAP S/4HANA, they are deploying a platform that provides the ability to be updated in a fast and agile manner. But they need to have automated testing and abilities to really leverage the agility that the environment can offer.
Most SAP customers are doing at least some testing with their applications—it’s something that is typical for any implementation. But that testing does not necessarily leverage smart automation that can provide for features like a delta analysis. The testing tools that Cognizant is deploying provide the capabilities for organizations to run a full regression test in a few hours, and this can be done as often as is needed. Golze maintains that having this testing combination is a great asset for any company because you will allow them to improve quality while reducing the effort needed to maintain that quality. Cognizant’s ambition in putting this automated testing in place is to not have to go through multiple development cycles until everyone is happy but to achieve that goal in one step. “This isn’t about achieving quality one time, but in making sure that in the years to come the system stays at the level that we establish in the first week,” said Golze.
To help them achieve these quality goals, Cognizant has established a large testing organization with specialists who do nothing other than software testing. This group works in close collaboration with their SAP practice. This allows them to develop fully automated testing in a short period of time—a significant benefit to organizations that are looking to both streamline and accelerate their SAP S/4HANA deployment, as well as have the infrastructure in place for the future. And while those who have already deployed SAP S/4HANA are using automated testing solutions at nearly twice the rate of those who have yet to complete deployment, most aren’t yet at the point where they can leverage the capabilities of these solutions in the way Cognizant envisages will provide a long-term benefit. “In the future, with Industry 4.0, SAP S/4HANA won’t just be connected to laptops. It will be connected to templates and to mobile devices in the broader sense. It will be even more important to think from a quality perspective as well as from a maintainability perspective,” Golze emphasized.
What Does This Mean for SAPinsiders?
Moving to SAP S/4HANA is a big project for any organization, but organizations need to think beyond the standard deployment and infrastructure questions if they are to make that transition a successful one. But what steps should you be taking to make sure you are prepared?
- Evaluate your existing systems and processes before beginning your planning for SAP S/4HANA. Multiple SAPinsiders have spoken to the importance of this step when doing their deployment. Having a complete understanding of what business processes are used, the expected inputs and outputs, and how those processes can map into the new environment is key to project success. Whether you leverage a service like the one Cognizant provides, or you follow another approach, spending the time to perform this evaluation as part of building your business case will pay off during and after the deployment.
- Engage business process owners from the beginning. The people that have the best understanding of how your business runs and are most passionate about making that successful are the business process owners. Without their engagement, your newly deployed system is much less likely to be accepted. Ensure that they have the bandwidth to dedicate time to the project, and the support from their own line of business leaders, and this will help ensure that you can execute a more successful project.
- Prioritize quality assurance and testing for both deployment and maintaining system quality over time. Automated testing can not only accelerate your initial deployment by reducing the manual testing effort, but it will also improve the overall quality of your SAP S/4HANA deployment and provide a platform for maintaining that quality through future upgrades and integrations. Those who are using these tools are seeing the benefits that they bring, but all SAPinsiders should focus on quality assurance and testing—and the tools and technologies that can accelerate this—as part of their planning for SAP S/4HANA deployment.
With locations around the world, Cognizant provides business consulting, information technology, and outsourcing services. Cognizant is a global SAP services provider, and their SAP practice consists of over 11,000 consultants focused on supporting organizations to make targeted operational and technology decisions as they support digital transformation initiatives to drive lasting change.