An SAP S/4HANA implementation is not an end in itself

The use of an ERP system has become a matter of course in almost all companies from a certain size upwards. In order to be at the cutting edge of technology, SAP S/4 HANA, SAP’s ERP system based on SAP’s in-memory platform, is currently being introduced in many places.

If you ask the companies what their goal is when introducing this system, you will surprisingly often get the answer: “We want to align our processes as closely as possible with the SAP standard.”

At first glance, this is an understandable answer. Old systems will no longer be supported by the software manufacturers at some point. And the closer I get to the standard, the easier and cheaper it is to implement future updates.

At second glance, however, this statement is frightening. The introduction of an IT system, which often takes several years and requires considerable investment, cannot be an end in itself. It is not the causal task of software to force an external standard on me? So where are the real chances of such a step, why can the immense expenses still be worthwhile?

The chance lies in really taking two steps back, looking at and shaping one’s own processes from scratch. Historically evolved structures must be questioned, “detours” in the process must be identified and differences between production sites must be balanced wherever possible.

If you do this consistently – like a greenfield approach – several things get into reach: On the one hand, you achieve a new quality in process efficiency and stability. Since the processes are now simpler, more planned and more structured, the results will be considerably better.

On the other hand, a new form of communication will become possible – especially for larger companies. Everyone now speaks the same language, not everyone builds his own process building. This promotes a more efficient exchange of experience, and employees are also more mobile within the company because everyone works according to the same pattern. Soon a new corporate culture develops, the employees of the company grow closer together, a more intensive interaction develops.

Such effects should be carefully accompanied by a change management that goes far beyond the mere introduction of IT. The employees have to be picked up where they stand and be motivated  about the common cause. And then it get’s apparent what a SAP S/4HANA implementation actually is: means to an end. The purpose: the transformation to a more efficient company with a sustainable corporate culture.

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