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How to decide when to move to SAP S/4HANA

In part one of a two-part Q&A, Shaun Syvertsen of Convergent IS says that SAP S/4HANA can be transformative -- if your organization has the right mindset.

When it comes to illustrating the business impact of SAP S/4HANA and the Fiori user experience (UX), a good guide...

would be Convergent IS. The Calgary-based professional services firm is both an SAP systems integrator -- helping companies implement S/4HANA and Fiori -- and a bleeding-edge user of both technologies. Part one of this Q & A with Convergent Managing Partner Shaun Syvertsen discusses what organizations need to consider when implementing S/4HANA.

Why should organizations consider making a move to S/4HANA?

Shaun Syvertsen: If they're looking at it as an opportunity not to replace their existing system in kind but to take a leap forward, then that's a really exciting proposition. I think the folks [who] aren't ready to think about it that way should probably hold off until there is a broader community of people who have done an implementation. But for the folks [who] are ready to make a leap like that, get in there, get a good partner, get a team from SAP Services and start prototyping.

So there are some organizations that should hold off on implementing S/4?

Syvertsen: Absolutely. If your organization comes out and says "We need to replicate all of our old stuff in the new system," then they're just replacing in kind and that's a massively missed opportunity. So to those guys I would say hang off a little bit, not necessarily until it's a more mature product, but until there's a more mature ecosystem of organizations that are running it and can demonstrate why more modern business processes are leveraging that capability.

It's also harder for an organization like a municipality to change some of its business processes. Some organizations aren't as forward looking and they're saying "It's running OK so don't bug me." I'd say they are well served to sit back and watch a little bit. Also, I think for something [that is] legitimately new and that requires a different way of thinking about what it does and how to run a business on that, there's a genuine shortage of organizations out there that can help with that kind of a transformation.

Do you think that's changing and there will be more organizations that will be able to help in the next few years?

Shaun Syvertsen, managing partner, Convergent ISShaun Syvertsen

Syvertsen: No doubt. I think that the demand for Simple Finance is already pretty strong; we see that from our side just on the number of reference requests that we get from folks that are interested enough that they want to talk to somebody who's using it. But to me, it's probably going to be as big or bigger than the move from R/2 to R/3. That was a pretty big transition and there were, in some modules anyway, a pretty dramatic increase in capability, and some organizations were really able to see that and take their business legitimately forward. 

But if you have the right goals and attitude there's no time like the present to get moving?

Syvertsen: Right. There are too many organizations that have a big opportunity in front of them and that is a massive opportunity cost if they miss it. So let's try to tackle it as a community, as an international community of practitioners and make sure that we're not wasting time on academic theories and get into the prototyping, get into the business transformation and see it, test it, feel it and then mature that for that organization and move it out.

Some information out there says that companies should be looking at a multi-year roadmap to get to S/4HANA. I take it you don't agree with that.

Syvertsen: The system implementer must love them! I think that unless an organization is completely mired in an inability to make a decision, they should be able to move a lot faster than that. So frankly, I think that 6- to 12-month blueprinting sessions that some organizations go through are BS. If you haven't [created] a sandbox and started to model your data and look at what it looks like and feels like, you're wasting your time on a lot of hot air in a bunch of rooms with whiteboards and PowerPoints.

What was your first experience like with S/4HANA at Convergent?

Shaun Syvertsen: [Our business has] grown a lot -- in a nutshell, from QuickBooks to S/4HANA, with Simple Finance being a key driver of that. Until recently, HANA has been like a really fast engine with no steering wheel, brakes or tires. It's been something really fast and interesting, but it's a cool piece of technology that needed a use case.

Convergent has helped a lot of companies with their move to S/4HANA. What do you need to get? What problem should companies be trying to solve with an S/4 Simple Finance implementation and what's a realistic timetable to start to get productive?

Syvertsen: You should start with SAP Services or a partner, obviously -- and to be slightly biased, we're delighted that people are starting to reach out to us for our help with it -- but ask a better question before you start. Don't just ask, "What was my metric X last month?" Start to simulate a forecast and try to get yourself ahead of where you were yesterday, and start to get the data to show you where the trend is pointing you for next week or next month.

On the scale of grand SAP projects, the Simple Finance implementation or migration is certainly not a multi-year kind of thing, but for larger organizations I'd say they should be looking in the 6- to 12-month range depending on how complex it is.

What are some of the steps involved in getting from a legacy system to Simple Finance?

Syvertsen: In getting from an existing system to S/4HANA [Simple Finance], the legacy information needs to be evaluated, managed, merged, and transferred into the new system. And then along with that you need to spend some time re-evaluating the financial and management reporting to make sure that that's going to align with a universal ledger. Then you can genuinely shed days in the period close, you can shed spreadsheets, you can shed the time and effort and present that as close to "at the click of a button" as possible.

Next Steps

See how Simple Finance was implemented by Turk Telekom

Read about other early adopters of S/4HANA

Learn what SAP said about S/4HANA at Sapphire

S/4HANA innovates inventory management

Dig Deeper on SAP implementation and upgrades

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