August 2020 – As our previous CH/4NGE article series along the six SAP Activate phases clearly shows, the transformation to the new SAP S/4HANA Business Suite poses challenges far beyond the technical aspects. The ” critical” Realize Phase is now followed by the final sprint towards the cutover – one could also say: the countdown to the rocket launch.
In the Deploy phase, the system goes live, and here at the latest, what has been sown in advance is harvested. Initial instabilities and bugs must then be corrected during the Run Phase. In the last article of our series we summarize these two phases and explain what to look out for when the system is rolled out, the project is closed and existing tasks are transferred to line functions.
What happens in the Deploy phase, what in the Run phase?
If we were engaged in the launch of a space mission, in the Deploy and Run phases we would make the final preparations for the launch and finally ignition of the rocket. The necessary implementation activities have been completed, the system integration has been checked and the cutover “rehearsal” has been performed. Final master data is verified and then ultimately migrated. What sounds so insignificant here involves system downtimes of several hours and must be carefully planned across different time zones, especially in globally active companies. The user acceptance, roles and authorizations are tested to ensure that each user can continue to perform his or her function smoothly across the organization. Just in time for the go-live of the S/4HANA productive system, all data is then up-to-date and the support organization is ready for the Hypercare phase.
Once the new S/4HANA production system is live, the “operating mode” is activated. Users and support settle in, minor errors or instabilities in the solution are corrected. Ideally, the Business Suite is continuously and systematically developed further so that new technological possibilities can be discovered and implemented on an ongoing basis. Once these remaining project activities are completed, the “transformation” as such is officially closed. Workshops are used to define and record lessons learned for future projects. All tasks – now largely in the IT and support area – are handed over to the previously defined persons in charge. And – not to forget – the project team deserves to be celebrated for its success.
With regard to change management, the deployment phase is also the final step towards the finish line. The system reaches the organization and is ideally accompanied by a rollout concept with appropriate measures. In large organizations in particular, e-learning tailored to the users’ needs in the area of training is a good way to keep up with the pace while satisfying the right needs. At the go-live, but also during the Hypercare phase, change agents and sponsors take on special roles again – as discussed in the last article. In order to be able to adapt measures permanently, it is important to observe the organization closely via these and other feedback channels and to react quickly to counteract unfavorable dynamics at an early stage.
What are the typical challenges in these phases?
While it is generally difficult to clearly separate the successive SAP Activate phases, a line can easily be drawn between Deploy and Run. Deploy can be regarded as the last phase in the transformation project with the completion of Hypercare after the rollout. Once QG4 (“Deploy-to-Run”) has been passed, the transition to the Run phase and thus to the operational mode comes, which no longer has an end in the strict sense. From a change management perspective, the mountain’s peak may be waiting in the deploy phase. The period of grace has ended, and all testing activities have been completed.
If an error occurs now, it has an immediate impact on day-to-day business. This fact, combined with the system that has just been rolled out, brings a lot of uncertainty into the organization. And who does not know this situation? You are presented with something new, you try it out and suddenly it doesn’t work. The consequence: You are not convinced, you dismiss it and put it aside.
change becomes reality for the end user.
The situation describes well why the organization-wide go-live of the system is critical. The user is unsure, resulting in the initial positive mood tipping slightly. If he or she is left alone now, one can speak of a successful technical installation, but not of a sustainable implementation. What (monetary) consequences this brings in turn, we have discussed in detail in the first article of our CH/4NGE series. In order to counteract this danger and thus ensure that the rollout is successful even in the case of initial difficulties, a well thought-out rollout plan is essential. This plan should not only contain user-specific trainings based on a change impact analysis, but also a broad spectrum of enabling and communication measures. Users must be permanently confirmed by incentives and rewards, but also by success stories and other communication measures.
Wins must be celebrated, changed behavior recognized and momentum maintained. In combination with functioning support processes and a good change agent network, users are decentrally enabled across all levels to integrate the system sustainably into their daily work. Speaking of Change Agents: As already described in the last article, these roles are also of crucial importance here. Once the Change Agent Network has been mobilized for the cutover, the CMO in the Hypercare phase must collect valuable feedback from the user groups continuously and quickly in order to be able to react quickly to obstacles and uncertainties.
Once the rollout has been completed and the Hypercare phase is almost over, the transformation project will be officially closed. Remaining functions are transferred to the line organization and proper documentation is created. But what now? Was that all? – No, of course it wasn’t. Once the transformation project is complete, it is essential to decide what to do with the valuable network of change agents and sponsors. In most cases, it is a waste to simply “drop” these contacts now. On the other hand, it is smart to institutionalize this network with its structures and continue to use it as a driver in future transformations of the company.
After the Change is before the Change!
After all the official end of the project is also the start of an innovative future. The implementation of a continuous improvement process will enable a shift in focus away from daily support to value-adding functions. What distinguishes the S/4HANA Business Suite significantly from other systems is that it helps companies to realize new business models and potentials based on their individual digital strategy.
And here we conclude the circle to the first article in the series. With the completion of the transformation project to S/4HANA, strategic questions should move into the spotlight, such as: “How can and will we use S/4HANA in the future? What opportunities are offered by IoT, Big Data and what innovation potential does this offer us?”. Preparing the teams that the technological future starts right here and encouraging them to continuously improve the system from now on is the key to success in this context.
- The change becomes reality for the end user – Guide them through the process and respond quickly to feedback from the organization.
- Celebrate success – Reward exemplary behavior to show employees that they are on the right track.
- After the Change is before the Change! – Institutionalize successfully established change structures for digital transformation.
To close the series
With this deep dive to Deploy and Run we come to the end of our CH/4NGE series. Thank you very much for your interest in the articles! Of course we hope that our change management view on the S/4HANA challenges will provide you with some valuable insights and impulses for the transformation in your own organization.
You will find an overview of all articles available to re-read in the news section of our website.
In addition to this detailed series of articles we also visualized our CH/4NGE approach for S/4HANA projects together with our partner Dialogbild in a simple and comprehensive way. If you are interested, we would be happy to provide you with a printed copy of Dialogbild free of charge. Of course we will gladly explain the scenes of the picture, the challenges and our approach in a personal meeting.
Do you have any questions about change management in S/4HANA transformation projects? Please contact us!