Revolutionising SAP Deployment (manifesto)

Members of the C-suite have many significant responsibilities, like focusing on customer relationships, sales and marketing and financial management. They also guide their company to implement essential changes by having a clear vision, aligning stakeholders, empowering change influencers and enablers, monitoring progress and celebrating successes.

Deploying SAP S/4 HANA triggers change, as it streamlines business processes and increases efficiency to drive growth. These strategic objectives are high on business leaders’ agendas, but also requires them to be actively involved during the SAP S/4 HANA implementation, providing strategic guidance, support, and alignment for their organisation.

Everybody agrees that it makes sense that leaders show how to achieve change.

However, this theory is often not applied in real life.

There needs to be more involvement of C-level executives to ensure change management projects succeed.

So why do business leaders often delegate the execution of impactful changes, sometimes to such an extent that they even become absent when their leadership is required?

Some of the reasons are insufficient time, lack of skills or confidence, fear of failure, or resistance to change.

It is unrealistic to assume that leaders have all the skills required to handle everything to steer the company in the right direction. They need advice they can trust to stay afloat. Therefore, it is tempting to outsource the SAP S/4 HANA implementation and “leave it to the experts” without proper involvement and oversight. But such a decision can have significant consequences for the business leaders, potentially damaging their reputation.

SAP will not get involved with the deployment because its business model relies on selling licenses.

I have been one of the few SAP consultants privileged to be invited by SAP to witness their demonstrations for C-suite executives. The experience is unforgettable, as SAP’s presentation is nothing short of polished and professional.

As you enter the room, you feel like you’re stepping onto the bridge of the Star Trek USS Enterprise. Countless screens fill the walls displaying data in graphical cockpits, like dashboards for C-suite executives to run their businesses by identifying trends based on key performance indicators. You play simulations to review the cause and effect of your strategic decisions based on the S/4 HANA demo system data. The atmosphere is electric, and you can’t help but feel like Captain Kirk, ready to navigate your company to success.

It’s easy to see why senior managers love such a setup. The experience is truly awe-inspiring, and the whole design makes you believe you could run your company elegantly, efficiently, and cutting-edge way. With data at your fingertips, the potential for success seems unlimited, and the thought of being in control of your organisation like never before is genuinely exhilarating.

C-suite executives are well aware that the demonstrations by SAP are done within a controlled environment to showcase what is possible with a well-designed SAP system. While these demonstrations can be impressive, critical business leaders understand that SAP’s marketing machine influences them.

Despite this, SAP does show an achievable result, and it’s easy to see why executive leaders desire the potential benefits an SAP system can offer.

However, SAP will not get involved in helping organisations achieve that result. The implementation and support responsibilities fall to partners, who get a free hand to control the implementation phase, leading to a competitive market where IT service providers are eager to prove that they are the best choice to deploy SAP on time, within budget, and fit for purpose.

To this end, IT service providers put on fantastically polished presentations that promise the moon and the stars. They show they have the resources and expertise to ensure a successful implementation. They often highlight their almost unlimited supply of high-quality SAP professionals who are ready and eager to help to get to the finish line.

C-suite executives assume that SAP partners have ulterior motives to get the contract. Still, they like to believe these promises. After all, it is the core business of SAP consultancy companies to deploy a well-designed and expertly implemented SAP S/4 HANA system.

As a former employee of an IT consultancy company, I have seen firsthand the pressure these IT firms are under to win SAP implementation contracts. I was part of a team preparing a pitch for a multinational company, and what I saw was eye-opening. The struggle to balance being honest and realistic while still appearing value for money against your competition was palpable.

One of my colleagues was tasked with creating a budget plan for the SAP implementation. After drafting the results, which were based on a realistic proposition, the management of the IT consultancy company took the liberty of halving the total amount in the final presentation. My colleague was understandably upset by this decision but was told by management that “every senior manager knows that the presented budget in a sales pitch needs to be multiplied by three.”

C-suite executives are placed in a challenging position when they want to implement SAP S/4 HANA.

On the one hand, SAP showcases the result of a successful SAP implementation in a controlled environment but keeps its hands off when implementing the system, delegating this task to one of its partners.

On the other hand, these partners are IT firms in fierce competition to get your contract and usually trigger overpromising sales pitches leading to unrealistic low budgets and, as a result, projects that fail to deliver.

C-suite executives need to be made aware they are often left to bear the brunt of the blame for a failed implementation.

Meanwhile, SAP stays out of the picture, as they focus solely on selling licences and refrain from participating in the deployment and support of the system.

It seems a Catch-22 situation from which there is no way out.

You can deploy SAP without getting lost in the dazzling presentations, tempting promises and unrealistically low budgets.

It is possible to deploy SAP on time, within budget and fit for purpose. Some independent companies and consultants have a wealth of experience and expertise and can provide valuable guidance throughout the entire process, from scoping to deployment and support.

Still, this alternative route is only for some.

Some business leaders think they have unlimited financial resources to implement SAP. For them, the main focus is on the result, and they are willing to throw money and bodies at the problem to ensure that the SAP system covers precisely what they want, no matter how long it takes. They would not be interested in reading about an alternative route, and I would be surprised if they got this far in this manifesto because whatever I will say will not resonate with them.

Some C-suite executives might think that they are absolved of any responsibility when the SAP project doesn’t turn out as planned because they believe that by outsourcing the project, they can sit back, not bothered that the success or failure of an SAP project can have a significant impact on the company as a whole and would not damage their reputation. I suspect those avoiding taking control of their SAP deployment have already stopped reading this manifesto.

Some senior managers will dismiss my advice because they think I am “just an SAP consultant” and, therefore, my insights and experiences are not valuable. They forget that an observant SAP consultant working on “ground zero” of SAP projects for several decades can offer an alternative solution to ensure a successful deployment. Again, those unwilling to hear me out have probably already left the building.

If you’re still with me, I’m glad you recognise the importance of a realistic budget and the potential risks of a failed SAP implementation. As a seasoned SAP consultant with years of experience on the front lines of SAP projects, I have seen firsthand what can go wrong and what steps you can take to ensure a successful implementation.

I want to share a personal success story from my early days as a freelance consultant. This story isn’t just the bedrock of my manifesto; it’s a testament to the success that awaits those who dare to take the road less traveled.

Imagine me, fresh in my career, embarking on an SAP implementation project that veered away from the conventional path. This journey wasn’t about adhering to the established norms. Instead, we boldly redefined them, crafting a tale of success that starkly contrasts the usual narratives of failure.

In this project, we demonstrated that success in SAP implementation doesn’t always follow the well-trodden path. Our team, embracing courage and innovation, meticulously planned and brilliantly executed a strategy that most would shy away from. This experience profoundly shaped my professional philosophy and forms the cornerstone of the approach I advocate today.

You might be curious about the specifics – the strategies we pioneered, the obstacles we overcame, and the methodologies that led us to triumph. These insights are invaluable and form the core of the wisdom I wish to share. They are far too rich and detailed to encapsulate in this manifesto but are essential for a transformative approach to SAP deployment.

To uncover the full story and the lessons it entails, I invite you to join me further. By signing up, you’ll gain access to the in-depth narrative of this remarkable project and the powerful lessons it imparts. This story is more than an anecdote; it’s a blueprint for success for those bold enough to follow it.

As there is much more to share, so I suggest we continue this journey through email.

My perspective as an SAP consultant offers a unique viewpoint that IT consultancy companies can’t match. I’ve seen the inner workings of successful and failed SAP projects and understand the challenges that arise during deployment. I can share this knowledge with you and help you make informed decisions about the best approach for your SAP implementation.

I encourage you to read more about me and about my book before you decide to continue our journey. It gives you more insight into who I am, what makes me tick, my extended network, and my ideal collaborative environment.

So, if you’re looking for a fresh perspective and want to learn about a different approach to deploying SAP S/4 HANA, I invite you to subscribe to receive emails in which we explore this alternative way.

By subscribing to my emails, we can continue this journey together and explore a revolutionary idea of how to deploy SAP S/4 HANA on time, within budget, and fit for purpose.

You will not get these insights anywhere else.

Best regards,

Isard Haasakker

Director No Tie Generation Limited