After 25 years of working in and around SAP projects, I have concluded that the single most painful factor for SAP customers in the long-term, is a failure to simplify business processes, despite their initial intent to do so.

It all starts out well, often with the CIO deciding that they shall adopt commodity processes,  “I want a vanilla implementation”. Once we take this a stage deeper, however the process owners don’t want to fit-to-standard and adopt the “best-practises” since they have a special way of working and need flexibility in the product.  I have been in these gap-fit workshops so many times and so often hear “we can’t run the process like that, we have a business need to blah blah…”.  Now in some cases this is true, but more often, in that moment, the pain of changing the business process seems too great. 

In an eagerness to please the customer and meet deadlines often the project team decides to bend the product. Though many can empathise with the intent, often this  decision is taken without due consideration of the TCO, the long-tail of re-testing and supporting this bespoke code through every future upgrade.

There have been so many SAP projects that fail to adhere to their “vanilla concept”. So many gap fit workshops fail to really challenge the businesses need to change the software -  because it is considered to be the easy way out.  

I have worked as a consulting developer with SAP implementing projects, and I liked nothing more than a big bespoke development to test my technical prowess.  When the question reaches the developer “can we change process A to make it do this?” Well of course we can, but not everything that can be done, should be done.

The implementation partners, however honourable, can’t be truly impartial when it comes to getting paid to build something bespoke.  If the business orchestrates change to alter there working models to fit the best practice, this takes time and causes costly project delays….. this sentence is a bit confusing

For the last 10 years, I have been working for SAP in the support arena. Every IT Manager or CIO wants the same thing from SAP:  Help me to reduce my operating costs (including the painful upgrades), but at the same time give me increased innovation. Then,  along comes the Cloud and something call the cloud mindset. 

Cloud is fundamentally a different and must be approached accordingly. The SAP S/4HANA Cloud comes with predefined business processes, with a strict fit-to-standard approach.  This is the chance to finally to get it right, to change commodity business processes to standard, to finally achieve where  many SAP projects have failed.  A chance to reduce your ERP operating costs and yet still increase innovation with rapid quarterly releases.

As part of the Activate methodology we at SAP help the customer with a fit-standard workshop which provides a new chance to strive for the goal of standardisation.  This does not mean you can’t change anything, but it does mean that the digital core remains standard.  This standardised core is imperative for SAP to ensure we can effectively provide seamless innovation at each quarterly release .

Customers still find this fit-to-standard rather than fit-gap process painful, but once they are through that phase of the project and up and running with the cloud system, they all agreed that they could not have achieved this level of standardisation with governance alone.  SAP have been implementing ERP for 40 years and I truly believe,  a level of standardisation is imperative to succeed in the true multi-tenant cloud world.