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SAP S/4 HANA Deployments: Speed Testing Your Appetite for Change

Author: Aditya Bahl, Managing Principal at Echelon Solutions Group
January 25, 2017

Echelon is a young company fortunate to have the opportunity to lead and participate in the tremendous S/4 HANA journey. We have had our share of successes and failures forcing us to constantly think about change. At a personal level, I have observed that in a short span of five to six years, the mindset of most customers deploying new ERP solutions has changed drastically.


• Capture an organization’s competitive advantages accurately
• Build a business case and a business charter
• Focus on building and testing end-to-end integrated business processes in the new system
• Get business ownership of processes and data
• Get IT ownership of systems
• Deploy the system in 12 to 24 months
• Build multi year deployment roadmaps
• Focus IT budgets on capital expenditures and 5 to 10 years major IT renovation and spending cycles

And now:

• Cloud offers speed
• All commodity best practices should be available off the shelf
• Systems should be pre-deployed
• Business Process Procedures, Test Scripts, Functional Design Documents should be pre-delivered
• End to End deployments should be done in 3 to 9 months
• Training has to be extremely intuitive
• Data validation and cleansing should be as much a consulting and technology challenge as it is a business challenge
• The lines between business and IT ownership of these programs are vanishing
• Business sponsors don’t have the patience for multi-year technology roadmaps

Like many of my peers in the consulting world, we are living this change while trying to define a path forward for ourselves and our consulting team.The question top of mind is:

What is the secret to a successful system integration/deployment under this new set of expectations and ground realities?

1. Preparing extensively prior to engaging with business users

  • Systems and software have to be pre-deployed and integrated
  • Business processes and corresponding best practices have to be activated prior to the start of any business validation
  • Process gaps have to be carefully analyzed with a clear mandate to stratify any new developments with Time, Money and Diminishing Returns in mind
  • Laying the groundwork for data readiness with business
  • Having a detailed and clear communication plan top-down
  • Having “Best Practices” driven project plan

2. Choosing consulting team players who can lead change management

  • Much smaller and agile consulting teams have to be identified with a clear mandate to enable change. The consultants have to hand hold business counterparts throughout the engagement
  • Understand that there’s little time for business to adopt the new processes, training, system walk-throughs, process walk-throughs and data flow all have to be thought of while validating the “Best Practices”.
  • Have to focus on how the end-to-end business would run with the new set of processes and not just their siloed business function
  • Risk and Quality Management: Solution Architecture, Solution Management and Quality Management require a new vigor, time is the enemy and core consulting teams have too little time to do justice to Risk and Quality Management. Every project team needs a very strong Solution Architect and a Business Counterpart who can truly own the end-to-end solution.

3. Managing Change

  • Almost all business processes have to be molded to the “Best Practices” provided by the new solution
  • Without a clear mandate and business leadership, the chances of success are much lower in accelerated timelines
  • A Business Project Manager must lead the deployment efforts, or the risk quotient increases at least two fold

4. Understanding and Managing Technology Risk

  • S/4 HANA is a very stable software but is being continuously enhanced
  • Both the functionality and technology foundation has changed enough to keep even the most seasoned consultants on their toes
  • The engagement of HEC-AMS, SAP RIGs and SAP Product Management in S/4HANA deployments is extremely valuable
  • Solution Architecture Design has some new challenges (and opportunities)
  • Hybrid landscapes (on-prem and cloud)
  • Risk Management (due to hybrid landscapes)
  • Hybrid integration infrastructure
  • Distributed data
  • Fast deployments
  • Security design has become extremely challenging and multifaceted

So why not take your time and increase the deployment timelines, go back to the old methodologies and do what worked for the last 20 years?

  1. Because business is no longer waiting for IT
  2. Because there is a generational gap between new business users and “experienced” consultants
  3. Because the fact is that a vast majority of the world’s on-prem software is shelfware. It never got deployed or saw the day of light
  4. Because unless your business product truly depended on it, perfection is not the desired outcome in majority of the commodity processes. Perfection is a distraction from the true business needs

These are just some shared experiences I hope to continue to grow.

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