2 Is SAP the ideal system for your business?
An ideal system for an organisation is one that helps it to operate efficiently and accurately. It provides information helps the users of the system make the correct business decisions. It should be reliable and auditable and it should benefit all levels of the. It should also be flexible, current and maintainable. It should provide a healthy ROI and it should be able to be maintained at a sensible cost. It should be able to turn the huge volume of data that we retain into information that we can use.
Is SAP the ideal system for a business? The answer depends more on how you implement the system than anything else. This can be said about most systems, but it is particularly relevant to SAP.
To understand how important it is to get the implementation of SAP right, please read the section devoted to this later in the book. Also consider the following. I think of a new SAP system as being the best quality oil paints, the best quality artist’s paint brushes, and the best quality canvas. Give this to someone who can paint and you may get the Mona Lisa, give it to someone who cannot paint and you will get a complete mess and worse still you will have ruined the paint, the brushes and the canvas in the process.
SAP is very similar to this. There are some people who understand how to get the most out of SAP (the artists), and then there are others who don’t understand that it requires a different approach and try a paint by numbers approach with a resulting quality that matches.
The quality of the end result of an SAP implementation is directly connected to how well the decision makers understand the SAP concepts at the very beginning, even before the decision to use SAP is made. The problem with this is the business has no experience of SAP yet and so do not know which direction to take. If the business knew at the outset exactly what this thing called SAP is and how to get the most out of it, then the implementation is much more likely to be a success and also for no extra cost (probably at significant cost savings in fact).
But firstly, let’s consider how we would get our ideal system if we started from scratch.
- What if we had an IT department consisting of thousands of business system experts?
- What if we took 30+ years to develop and enhance a system for the business processes that we should be using?
- What if we had millions of users all testing the system in a “live” environment, for the last 30 years?
- What if we could make sure it works by getting the majority of the biggest organisations in the world to use it before we do?
- What if we had a Research and Development Department, with a huge budget, whose sole purpose was to improve the system and ensure that it can react to any changes in financial methods or legal requirements , before those requirements hit us
- What if – we could make the system completely integrated so that we are able to drilldown through to the minute detail or up to the highest level of aggregation
- What if – we made that system so flexible that it wouldn’t require a new system or new implementation even if we sold off any part of the business that we own or bought in every business we wanted to, or both
- What if – we could build a system that could be used by all of our core departments, instead of separate systems for each one?
- What if – we could have it right now without having to build it from scratch
- What if – we could get other organisations across the world to use the same system so that it would be easier to do business together?
It would be quite a system if it did all of the above, wouldn’t it? But this is exactly what an SAP system is; in fact, it is all of the above and more.
This is not a "sales pitch" it is just that I firmly believe that many of the above points are not always made known. I am merely attempting to highlight the strengths of the SAP system, a kind of “CV for the SAP system”.
3 Has SAP changed the way that systems are implemented?
It most definitely has and this makes it extremely important to understand this and use this knowledge to our advantage. Many implementations fail because they do not really grasp this important shift.
One of the major contributing factors in problem and failed SAP implementations is the approach taken to the implementation. Many implementations suffer because they rely on outdated approaches. These approaches evolved over time and provided all of the safety that a project needed. The problem is that many of them are built on implementation approaches that were based on “scratch built” systems that understandably need a high level of documentation, because everything was being designed for the first time and therefore needed to be captured in full detail. These implementations were lead by the I.T. department because every piece of data and every screen and even every keystroke had to be designed in a way that it would work technically. A business user would not have been able to contribute to the database design or the program that displayed the screens etc. This meant that the I.T. department was seen as the expert and the business users merely assisted in the project.
An SAP implementation approach should be built around the fact that the databases and the technical programming have already been completed and the remainder of the effort needs to focus on the business needs and to ensure that the required processes are configured correctly. This means that the main difference is now that in an SAP implementation, the business should lead the implementation with the help of the I.T. department (and not the other way around). Get this right at the very beginning and you have immediately removed one of the main causes of failure.
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