Key Success Factors in Global SAP Business Transformations Part 1

Key Success Factors in Global SAP Business Transformations [1/2]


After delivering several global business transformations in Pharma and Chemicals industry, a few of which have heavily been impacted by the pandemic, we have compiled a list of "real life" make-it or break-it topics you need to consider when running a large-scale innovation program. Here is Part 1.

1. Fix the Business Model

  • Ensure alignment on vision and future business models
  • Establish clarity on the initiative's strategic priorities
  • Obtain senior leadership buy-in

As part of the SAP business transformation's setup, it is key to plan for enough time so senior stakeholders can align on the envisioned business and operating model(s) the program is required to enable. On top of this, there needs to be a common understanding on the future strategic priorities of the business, such as for example the provision of flexibility to quickly incorporate new business models (i.e. through M&A), to provide guidance on the setting of program priorities.

In addition to fostering alignment among senior executives, the process of reconciling perspectives on the future business direction provides the opportunity for the program leadership to obtain buy-in and build trust. 

"One mistake we made was not reconciling the senior leadership's varying perspectives on the company's future business model. The necessary discussions took place during the Design Phase, resulting in a substantial delay of the milestone closure." - Client at a Fortune 500 company

2. Clarify Your Mission

  • Foster a shared mindset and sense of belonging
  • Provide an organizational compass
  • Lower resistance to directional changes

Occasional directional changes (e.g, in scope, timeline, approach) are to be expected in any long-running, large-scale business transformation initiative. This is due to an immensely dynamic business environment with often changing strategic priorities. In order to keep the team aligned to a joint Northstar and quickly adapt to changing priorities, a strong mission is paramount.

"We took a year of storming to come up with our true mission. Only after, we started to deliver the expected business value." - Client in the Pharma industry

3. Establish an End-to-end Mindset

  • Break the silos across functions/divisions
  • Parallelize Design and Build
  • Demonstrate quick wins to project sponsors
  • Facilitate sprint planning and provide clear sprint scope and goals

Slicing the MVP scope in end-to-end and integration scenarios enables you to design, build and test the solution incrementally, adding capabilities to the solution at each iteration. In addition, Build and Test Phases can be kicked off early and executed in parallel to Design after the first two Design Sprints (while the first Sprint addresses foundational configuration, e.g. organisational elements, number ranges, etc., the second Sprint addresses basic end-to-end scenarios, e.g. domestic product sale). 

Structuring the solution design and build along end-to-end scenarios is key for demonstrating quick wins to senior leadership. In addition, parallelising Design, Build and Test enables the organisation to familiarise with the Sprint mode of operandum and obtain immediate feedback from Build and Test teams. 

To ensure this, the program organisation needs to adopt an end-to-end mindset early on. Strong end-to-end coordinators working in tight partnership with process owners co-develop pragmatic solutions and ensure timely decision-making during the design sprints.

4. Define clear Collaboration Directives

  • Efficient collaboration
  • Optimal access to information

Each initative needs to go on an exploration on how to employ tools to support the detailed project operations. Such a tool could be Solution Manager that features powerful workflows and supports design deliverable sign-off and storage governance, as well as facilitates the management of solution build efforts. The same applies to risk and issue logs, document repository, project or sprint planning tools, etc.

It is paramount that the project team is well trained on the features and pitfalls of such tools, and will not resort to workarounds instead (e.g. emailing documents for review instead of doing it on Solution Manager).

Our experience shows that definition of clear directives as well as  nomination of super-users within the workstreams greatly facilitates the adoption of tools and fosters adherence to project processes. In ERP implementations, the selected application lifecycle management tool (e.g. SolMan) requires training of all team members as well as regular walk-in sessions to ensure correct tool usage. In one client example, we saw how one team member erroneously assigning solution documentation to the wrong process step caused the entire project to miss a hard quality gate. Such risks can be easily remediated by setting up an effective training team within the program.

5. Ensure Integrated Program-Wide Planning and Tracking

  • Take well-informed decisions
  • Minimal time and manual effort to collate and aggregate progress data

Leverage tools like Smartsheet to automate planning, reporting and tracking as much as possible - while considering workstream-specific exceptions. Leverage the sprint review to collect data on progress directly from the stakeholders. Live the Agile principles and limit the time you invest in creating and maintaining detailed plans too far ahead (they are often wrong!)

What's Next?

Digital business transformation can be intimidating and complex. We can change your experience in what technology investments can do for your business and provide you with peace of mind and confidence when facing difficult decisions in a constantly changing environment. Get in touch.

Check out part 2 here.