SAP Implementation and Operations - New Paradigms

Navin Kewale, Director-SAP Technology Platform, SAP CoE, Cardinal Health
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It is no news that cost of implementing SAP for managing business processes are very high. Lot of this has to do with the way the implementation processes followed for business process transformation. Successful SAP implementations are always a result of commitment of senior leadership for sponsoring these initiatives. The other key components are team with good subject matter expertise knowledge and disciplined project execution routines. It is very easy to get distracted from core objectives business transformation of any SAP implementation as the traditional dilemma around change management still continues to be the biggest challenge for SAP implementation projects. The core issues always surrounds the adaption of changed/improved business process and retaining the competitive advantage built as part of legacy processes, which are driver of core business benefits. Due to this the percentage of such successful implementation at an effective cost model has not been very high.

“The traditional dilemma  around change  management still continues  to be the biggest challenge for SAP implementation projects”

Over the years, I have seen many factors playing in success or failure of SAP projects. The reasoning ranges from lack of leadership, funding, talent and change management to name a few. In additions to these there is a significant cost component involved around implementing and sustaining a SAP solution. Most of these are nonfunctional requirements of SAP implementation, which gets converted into significant part of support costs once a solution gets into production. In these times where competition is getting tougher by day, Why business needs to invest money into these nonfunctional requirement for project implementation and support costs during production support. Company investing in SAP needs to be assured that implementation and run disciplines are ingrained in SAP solutions when implemented and companies don’t need to invest fortune in either implementing or maintaining these. Business should continue to invest in driving innovation in marketplace, the core objective for any business.

Implementation today are suffering with complexities around the various opportunity areas of standardization of process for software configuration, targeted testing using automation tools, automation of system management processes, significant manual adaption of business process monitoring and trending after implementation. Adding to this management of custom code developed as part of software lifecycle. Business is least worried about any of the above points, as primary focus area of business is to build innovative idea and let IT enable these as part of the implementation processes.

To reduce these significant costs, base SAP software should provide capabilities to perform all these system management, testing and implementation as part of my core software development process. Why do I need army of IT resources for performing testing activities, which should be part of basic software implementation and operations? It seems like unnecessary overpayment for services which needs to be offered as a consolidated offering by software provider. If the developers and configurators are capturing information as part of routine process defined as a standard, I should be able to understand my impact analysis right from the core system itself instead of connecting to an external application lifecycle management tool like solution manager etc. So how about some of these capabilities which should be part of base process of implementation instead of having the customer run around and purchasing every small feature as a part of a individual purchase. What if some of these capabilities can be available in core software itself:

• Automated custom code health management
• Automated identification of impact for customer based on new patch releases
• Business process trending service part of base offering
• Implementation involving documentation to enable business process monitoring and trending
• Business process exception reporting
• Automation of software management processes like patching, change management etc.
• Testing impact analysis and automation

Businesses are spending multiple years to establish these capabilities only to learn that these procedures are either outdated due to new version/release or out of support from vendor in few years and they should plan for another maintenance cycle. Ideally the software should offer inherent management capabilities for lifecycle management.

As the costs pressures continues on IT, I expect more of these nonfunctional capabilities to become part of base software which should provide necessary incentive to business for implementation of SAP. This should also provide opportunity for significant innovation in this space.

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