5 Ways to Manage a Successful SAP Implementation

Once your SAP implementation is complete, rest assured that you have reached the first milestone in your digital transformation journey. But you still have a long way to go if you want to maximize the benefits of your SAP investment. Managing implementation is much more than controlling costs – it is about onboarding all stakeholders, enabling seamless modernization of existing data flows and workflows, avoiding chances of IT-business conflicts, and transitioning to new processes with perseverance. This demands pit-crew level preparedness and a proactive stance towards critical business process improvements. Although there are various examples of successful SAP implementations by top players like Hitachi Consulting, Wipro, Capgemini, etc., across industries like utilities (National Grid), electronic gadget (Skull Candy), CPG (Coca Cola), and others, all of them recognize few best practices for the management of SAP implementation.

Go beyond go-live

The real management of SAP implementation begins after the project has gone live. For post-implementation support, you must embark on an audit and review exercise to check whether the new system meets all expectations laid out at the beginning of the project. You need to –

evaluate and cross-check the performance metrics,
determine the project’s efficacy,
calculate the return on investment, and
monitor and analyze improvements in the set parameters like productivity, employee engagement, and client satisfaction. 

Moreover, you need to realize that once the SAP implementation project goes live, you have to take stock of further benefits that you can derive from the new system to drive your business transformation agenda. You must identify the gaps in the system leading to customization issues and problems with integrations and interfaces. Given the common occurrence and easy-to-miss attributes of such instances, post-implementation analysis has become more mandatory than precautionary. Case in point: a manufacturing giant was able to recognize the gaps of its S/4 HANA MTE implementation and partnered with Wipro for an immediate and cost-effective remediation that would minimize operating expenses and draw a baseline for business transformation in the future.

For best results, you need to look for processes that need to be fixed or upgraded to identify steps missed in the first phase and decide on action plans for the next phase. A great example of this practice is utilities major National Grid. When National Grid realized the need to replace existing, non-scalable, on-premise procurement to support supplier growth, they immediately decided to invest in SAP Ariba Network – a cloud-based business-to-business (B2B) sourcing and procurement marketplace.

Implementation ≠ Project completion

For large enterprises like National Grid, a smooth transition to the new processes without impairing customer service is the best indicator of success. To ensure that the new system delivers on its promise of increasing productivity, improving employee engagement, and enhancing customer experiences, you must provide the necessary post-implementation support.

Here are five practical and effective ways of managing SAP projects post-implementation:

1. Run awareness programs and campaigns for promoting the new applications, systems, or solutions within the organization by involving internal marketing and communications teams.
2. Involve and engage relevant department managers to create a desire within their respective teams to use the new system with all modifications and enhancements.
3. Organize and execute training programs to deliver new system/process knowledge and drive change management with the help of internal training departments.
4. Arrange on-site, post-implementation support to ensure end-user ability after SAP implementation and collaborate with system users to monitor and suggest further enhancements to end-user capabilities.
5. Create a feedback mechanism/tool for understanding the effects of new/changed processes/systems on end-users to reinforce further change(s).

Plan for the farthest ripple – Implement with care

Whether it is improving back-office efficiency or enhancing customer experience, large enterprises like National Grid or American Airlines depend largely on SAP software solutions for business transformation initiatives. As the SAP software integrates business functions into a centralized common platform, it results in significant process and task-related changes and push-backs from within the organization. As a result, systematic change management is a prerequisite of a successful SAP implementation program not only for the technology overhaul but also about user acceptance. Too much focus on technology and too little attention to end-user needs will surely backfire.

Post-go-live system and process optimization for delivering cognitive enhancements and improving end-user experiences are critical success factors of any SAP implementation project. Ensuring that end-users have a command of the new systems and processes and are fully aware of the changes caused by the new technology is also a crucial project success factor. Enterprises across industries – from National Grid in utilities to Walmart in retail – need to tap into each employee’s full potential and manage human capital effectively for the success of any business transformation initiative.