To find out how TomoTherapy moved from its legacy systems to SAP so quickly, SearchSAP.com spoke to Martin Christopher, director of IT with Madison, Wis.-based TomoTherapy Inc., to get the lowdown on the company's SAP implementation experience.
How did TomoTherapy begin its SAP journey?
Martin Christopher: TomoTherapy had 250 employees in early 2006 and we were just going international. At the time, we had a single-instance ERP application that required us to make a copy of the database for every new entity we created. So we had to replicate all customers, vendors and materials between databases. Obviously, it wasn't scalable. In mid-2006, I wrote a letter to the CEO recommending a Tier-1 ERP solution. We chose SAP because it was the only company that bubbled up to the top after we made a list of requirements.
When did you go live with SAP?
Christopher: January 2, 2007. It took 16 weeks.
How were you able to implement that quickly?
Christopher: It began with our implementation approach. Two of our three implementation partners suggested a highly-customized approach. The third implementer, itelligence Inc., offered pre-configured SAP.
Christopher: They said, 'You tell us what parts you don't need, and we'll modify accordingly.'
But, on the whole, you were ready to embrace the business processes pre-configured in SAP?
Christopher: SAP's All-in-One solutions are already tied to industry verticals. You can just modify it for the unique parts of your business. Itelligence takes their best SAP implementations and snapshots the entire configuration so you can just drop it in. SAP follows the value chain that almost all companies follow, so there's no need for extensive customization.
That accounts for some of your SAP implementation speed, but your experience still sounds amazingly fast. What else did you to do to achieve it?
Christopher: We didn't document all our processes. We relied on itelligence's pre-configuration. Also, we broke up the statement of work (SOW) into a 'design SOW' and an 'implementation SOW.' The design SOW was a time-and-materials SOW that made sure that everything was on the table. It prevented a situation that can happen with vendors in which they try to manage down changes to the scope. We programmed it in that the consultants would leave at the end of the project. Most ERP overruns take place in the first 30 days after go-live.
There's a sense of loss and fear when consultants leave, but we contracted with itelligence to have access to their call center. We purchase support on-demand so that if my people need further training, if someone wants to know if it's possible to change a form or find information about service notifications, they call itelligence and can get the answer back in an hour or less. That's instead of hiring consultants on-site, which would be expensive.
Earlier, you said that SAP supported TomoTherapy's growth. Is there any other benefit you'd like to highlight?
Christopher: We went public several months ago. With all the requirements for Sarbanes-Oxley, it's a huge relief to know that the system is fully compliant. Everything's documented; the documentation was written directly into our configuration.
This was first published in April 2008