Harmonisation of SAP landscapes: The path to S/4 HANA implementation in the context of the merger

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Merger of two SAP systems – anything but everyday life!

One of our most exciting projects recently was the harmonization of the SAP systems of two corporate groups onto a current S/4 HANA platform – this definitely is not everyday life! To implement such a mammoth project according to target specifications requires a strong team as well as leadership and expertise, because the initial situation presented us with major challenges:

Both companies developed different processes and systems over the last decades, which is why different versions of the SAP system were used at the start of the project and, also due to the expiring maintenance of the old R/3 platform of one of the companies, there was thus a technical need to introduce a uniform S/4 HANA platform. Due to the decades-long history of the existing SAP systems, both systems contained completely different data, features, and process-related characteristics, which had to be harmonized. In addition to technical and process-related challenges, the cultural and human components also had to be focused on, since the corporate cultures of both companies were very different at the beginning.

Looking back, it was right and essential to establish a uniform project culture from the very beginning, since the project team members of the formerly independent companies started as a joint team right at the beginning of the project to develop a template for the future uniform SAP solution based on an S/4 HANA platform.

Where should you actually start with such a mammoth project?

Starting such a complex upgrade and integration project is always difficult. When companies want to implement SAP S/4HANA, they basically have two possible strategic approaches at their disposal: the greenfield approach (completely new implementation) and the brownfield approach (conversion, upgrade). To provide a clear direction, it was then determined which functional and module areas should be harmonized as a priority within this approach. The aim was then to create a template that was as simple and uniform as possible, which could then be rolled out to other group companies in a second step, with as few individual adjustments as possible. 

Iterative working according to SAP-Activate method

However, the effort to create a template that was as simple and uniform as possible was confronted with another dimension of complexity: Ultimately, the processes from two companies that had grown independently of each other for decades had to be merged and simplified. This had to be done without losing any relevant information. To master this challenge, intensive fit-gap workshops involving experts from both companies were held at the beginning of the project, prior to the actual implementation phase, in which the existing lead processes were compared individually and a harmonized target picture was defined in advance. We particularly appreciated the heterogeneous composition of the teams with technical as well as professional expertise from both worlds.

Being successful through a special work mode.

This approach was also pursued during the project and became an indispensable critical success factor for the project. The teams worked together iteratively in a scrum team, supplemented by a technical product owner and a scrum master, and were thus able to adapt flexibly to changing conditions and dependencies.

Due to the complexity of the project, the product owners of the various teams played a particularly important role. The large number of system and process interfaces required a high degree of coordination between the teams to pull together instead of unintentionally getting in each other’s way during implementation.

The powerful agile organization included more than ten Scrum teams accountable by functionality. Additionally, there were cross-functional teams fully integrated into the iterative project structure in the areas of infrastructure, migration, testing, and training.  This operational Scrum structure was complemented by a classic project management structure, which in particularly served the reporting to the project management, as well as for the management of escalations. This structure ensured that the standard reporting structures remained functional in a familiar way, but enabled teams to work autonomously and in an agile style according to the Scrum approach.

The single iterations were organized in so-called “waves” according to the SAP Activate method developed by SAP, to be able to reach the milestones that are particularly relevant for SAP projects in a targeted manner and to always maintain the target focus. We ensured comprehensive quality assurance of the end-to-end processes by concluding an intensive, multi-stage testing process before go-live.

Did we succeed in achieving our goals?

Yes, because the iterative, agile approach enabled us to celebrate small successes throughout the entire duration of the project, which in total contributed to the successful completion of the project. These included, for example, the creation of robust target processes, the ability to flexibly incorporate requirements and their transfer into the project structure, as well as the functional implementation and final testing. The teams managed to grow together both humanly and culturally, to anchor agile working methods, and thus to create a modern project culture. Furthermore, the project was completed “in-time, budget and quality” after the on-time go-live, which is not something that can be taken for granted for a project of such a scale. A scalable template was created, which can now be rolled out to the other sub-companies.

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