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Whenever I work with a client on an implementation of the SAP S/4HANA suite, one question always pops up in early discussions: How I can accelerate the process so that it does not turn into a multiyear implementation project?

The short answer? Yes, it is possible to implement SAP S/4HANA faster than other businesses that have undergone the same experience. But underlying that one inquiry is concern about factors that could delay completion, such as:

  • Slow start: Overanalysis of how the company operates – complimented by a “what we can do differently?” phase – typically sets the stage big bomb that, when set off, leads to a slow and costly implementation.

  • Long “to be” implementation: Possibly the longest and most costly to a majority of implementation projects, this theoretical phase creates a big deviation between what the system can do and what the company envisions as the ideal setup.

  • Overdevelopment: Customizing the “as is” system to reflect ideal state requires additional nonstandard and heavily modified interfaces – escalating maintenance costs such as extensive testing and reoccurring adjustments to the custom code.

Who can afford such complicated steps in an implementation? Unfortunately, no one can – which is why the implementation of SAP S/4HANA is remarkably different.

SAP Activate: Old school implementation vs. new school transformation

With the SAP Activate innovation adoption framework, our customers benefit from a unique combination of best practices, methodology, and guided configuration when implementing SAP S/4HANA. Here’s a brief rundown of the key activities the project team performs in each phase of the methodology.

Phase 1: Prepare

Before design begins, the framework paves the way for discussions and analysis about key existing processes and how they are mapped to existing functionality of the software. This step allows the customer and implementation team to understand what functionality is really used, which modifications are critical, and when migration is truly needed.

Then, a series of workshops are conducted to devise a clear digitalization strategy and understand which advantages can be achieved and the potential for future benefits. This entire process is heavily standardized and provided in the form of well-defined workshops. It is also based on the heat map semi-automatically prepared based on input from the customer.

Phase 2: Explore

Perhaps the most important part of this framework is the learning standard phase, where key business users are allowed to try out the system to explore its business capabilities. This step is streamlined by using interactive workshops, where business representatives are immersed in the system itself.

Phase 3: Realize

When representatives from the customer side and the implementation team know the desired standard and are clear about requirements, the fit-gap analysis begins. This exercise is focused on key capabilities that may call for functionality that can only be achieved through extensions.

Phase 4: Deploy

By applying SAP Activate, a large portion of the standard functionality can be implemented in a semi-automated manner. This step is significantly shorter since a major part of the functionality is configured automatically and is based guided procedures and best practices. Some companies even benefit from the use of a model company, which serves as a predefined template for a particular area or industry.

Phase 5: Reap the benefits

The innovation adoption framework drives down the typical size of enhancements as only business critical and unavailable functionality is added to the system. To maintain control, SAP can help the customer set up development processes that keep modifications low. And as enhancements and customizations are added, the total cost of implementation and ownership is dramatically less, especially when compared to organizations that create and maintain heavily modified systems.

SAPPHIRE NOW: Discover the SAP Activate difference

When comparing a past implementation experience with one guided with SAP Activate, it’s easy to see how structuring and executing some critical steps with a framework can simplify the path to digital transformation. In many cases, they may even be automated to a high degree and completed in an efficient, predefined manner.

The best way to learn more about your options for implementing SAP S/4HANA is to join us at SAPPHIRE NOW. Come by the Digital Business Services campus and speak with our solutions experts to find out what the best SAP S/4HANA implementation approach for your organization is.