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SAP S/4HANA Implementation Strategies: An interview with Umer Zeeshan, SAP Solution Architect & Principal Consultant at attune

Thu, Feb 24, 2022

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The transition to SAP S/4HANA poses difficulties and issues that may be handled with careful planning. It's worth the effort since switching to the new system gives your company several choices for increasing the digital value-added for your operations and activities. The time has come to act and prepare for the digital revolution.

This discussion with (SAP Solution Architect, Principal Consultant at attune consulting) with Belinda deJesus from SAP’s Adoption & Customer Engagement, and Sheldon Edelstein, product expert from SAP S/4HANA Regional Implementation Group will be a worthwhile investment of your time.

Sheldon: What are the key factors in an SAP S/4HANA transition project?

Zee: S/4HANA project is a major transformation effort for a customer.

I will highlight some of the top priority areas that the project team should focus on at the start of the project for both an existing client and a new SAP customer.

To begin, having product leadership from the client-side to develop a clear project goal is a terrific approach. What is the project's main goal? What are the main business objectives? as well as the IT objectives that must be met in this project. Moreover, all major project stakeholders should be aware of the project's beginning and where it is heading.

Another key area of focus is data quality. It is a critical component in ensuring a successful SAP implementation. It is helpful to do a data quality audit before the start of the project to identify the pain points. Certain areas of data quality problems and data that may not be relevant for the future SAP S/4 system could be archived and stored to avoid additional strain during cutover.

Furthermore, integration with external systems is another important area of focus. SAP is not implemented as a standalone system, it is often connected with a lot of other external systems to keep the business working. All of these integrations must operate properly in a connected world. It is highly beneficial and vital to make initial contact with the key parties from the external systems throughout the project's preparation phases. They may also provide us with input or call out some key areas based on their considerable expertise with their goods, which may benefit the project phase.

From attune standpoint, in the prep phase, we also have something called a Future reference solution or FRS, which is a pre-configured SAP system with predefined business processes built-in. We undertake to demo all these business processes to get the customer's key subject matter experts up to speed on what's coming up during the next phases of the project. Hence, these demos of the established business processes are very useful to get this team on board.


Belinda: Wouldn’t you agree that Data conversion should be considered as well in the SAP S/4HANA transition project?

Zee: Data conversion is a time-consuming and labor-intensive process. And, depending on the SAP version and where you're coming from, whether it's an SAP or non-SAP system, multiple data conversion procedures are involved. You may employ a variety of tools.

SAP, for example, offers its data migration cockpit. We have employed external technologies, such as middleware, to extract, convert, and load data in certain projects, but one thing that is consistent across the board is an emphasis on data quality throughout the project's lifespan.

In this context, it is important to have someone who can effectively anchor all of these efforts, identify the main stakeholders, deal with data daily, provide clarifications, and manage all of the work in these specific data-related areas. If this activity is not done well, there will be data that is not accurate nor relevant coming into the new SAP S/4 HANA system, which sets you backward soon after you go live.


Sheldon: Let's move on to the build-out phase of these projects. For me, that's always been the fun part mainly because you get some hands-on time to develop workable solutions.

Zee: As the project evolves from the design phase, it is important to establish all the key cornerstones of design and identify all the key customization requirements that are needed to support the unique needs of the customer. Seizing all of these building requirements goes a long way toward ensuring that the work is properly planned and completed by the end of the bill.

In recent years, we've noticed that project teams have been experimenting with Agile methodology, various techniques such as Scrum, and so on. However, there are situations when ERP deployments have a vast scope that must be completed within a relatively short time frame. In that scenario, we discovered that we are unable to deploy scrum across the board. However, engaging with the Agile approach on particular themes, such as when developing a cockpit, or things that require a lot of business user input, is beneficial. 

When it comes to developing custom objects, many consulting firms, including ours, adopt an on-site and offshore development model. The key benefits are that the work can continue throughout the day and night. And if the timelines are tight, it is very beneficial to have this around-the-clock activity going on. Also, we highly advise having at least a small team co-located with the customer so that you can truly engage with subject matter experts and obtain a quick resolution to your concerns while the development is underway.

Finally, it is important to foster a strong camaraderie inside the project team, which grows the project team, because it greatly contributes to making the job enjoyable.


Belinda: What would you have to share regarding project timeline, Project ending phases, such as the goal preparations for go-live, post-go-live activities, or monitoring? Do you have any thoughts or insights around that?

Zee: As the project nears completion, it's essential to tie up loose ends, make sure all testing is completed, and prepare for data conversion and cutover operations. And we did run into some issues with certain integrations with external systems throughout particular projects. As a result, we'll need to devote a little more time into testing it and resolving all of the concerns. As we implement newer versions of the product, there are often some challenges coming up with newer features to be adapted according to the customer's business needs. In this case, the S/4 HANA customer care team was not very quick to respond to some of these quarrels and engage the right parties there.

Another thing to keep in mind, especially in larger implementations, is to identify areas with higher-than-normal transaction volumes. So, if a particular limitation has a large order book for sales orders or a large planning data collection, it is important to detect them and ensure that the live environment can handle the load. And sometimes we just have to deal with it once we go live. That's just the nature of certain issues.

For example, in an all implementation, you can plan for specific issues, and some of the challenges can be dealt with later. But having an insight into what areas could be potential trouble down the line, having an early insight into that can help you plan for these external sources that you may need post-go-live.


Sheldon: Can you share with us any of the future for attune?

Zee: attune likes to be engaged with fashion retail customers known across the globe. And we've lately had a lot of interest from clients or fashion brands who are integrating vertical chains. Fashion brands enter the retail market, or brands establish their production or retail businesses. So, there are a lot of vertical business activities that are going on in this space.

We are seeing a lot of greenfield implementations of companies coming from a non-SAP environment to an SAP S/4HANA Fashion environment. Also upgrades from existing apparel and footwear customers with AFS solutions and non-AFS SAP solutions coming out as for S/4HANA. Businesses are eager to obtain SAP's most recent and cutting-edge capabilities. Distinctly, in the recent past, everybody got excited seeing the new Fiori App.

Another topic that has delighted customers is out of box integration with the E-commerce platform, SAP commerce, the POS environments, and so on. These are interesting out of box features and innovations that SAP brings to the table and that is exciting to the customers. Being an SAP partner we get to go along with the journey and coming out of the Covid situation, we see a lot of fashion lifestyle companies putting a lot of investment into enhancing their digital core. These companies want to validate that they have a solid core to handle the retail and omnichannel business and future roadmap that they have coming up in the future years. 


Sheldon: attune Consulting has been growing in the market. Can you tell me any interesting new developments?

Zee: attune is continuously improving the speed with which we can implement S/4HANA solutions are constantly developing our pre-configured attune fashion solution, as when a new version of S/4HANA is released in the market.

We have opportunities in the retail arena in terms of implementing solutions with clients to fashion brands in the retail market. We recently merged with another SAP consulting partner in the retail space, considerably expanding our international footprint and capabilities in terms of features that we can install. So, yes, the market is evolving. With the increased issues with Covid, the retail business is transforming, with a stronger emphasis on omnichannel solutions.


Belinda: What are some of your future plans with S/4HANA?

Zee: As for me, I'm looking forward to continuing this journey with attune and SAP, learning about all the new innovations that may be brought to the table for the benefit of fashion and lifestyle clients.


Click here to listen to the complete discussion...


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