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Characteristics and Benefits of a Prototype

When being involved in Planning Services for SAP S/4HANA Transformations I frequently encounter customers, which are very interested starting their Digital Transformation to SAP S/4HANA but have concerns around certain aspects of the solution – some "Best of" examples:

  • How much efficiency will our Business Users gain with the new Simplified SAP FIORI UIs

  • How much performance gain will we see from the new innovations, e.g. the enhanced ATP check

  • What the effort for a system conversation of our specific system

  • I would like to switch to a Private Cloud using SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud– how do we operate a Cloud system and will the performance change for our end Users

  • How much work will it take to make one of our key custom developments ready for SAP S/4HANA

It’s possible to study these topics extensivly from a theoretical perspective – nevertheless sometimes it is just better to test the real thing using a Prototype.

NASA has some nice images of prototypes – e.g. the following for a Space Shuttle Prototype Enterprise to test Gilding and Landing Characteristics:
.Source: Image by NASA 

The image illustrates three important characteristics of a Prototype:

  • The Enterprise was used for Gliding Tests => Prototype is meant to test certain characteristics and concepts, but not the complete product

  • The Enterprise had no engines and heat shield => A prototype is allowed to cut corners and take shortcuts to safe effort and cost, as long as it does not interfere with the characteristic we want to analyze

  • The Space Shuttle Enterprise never made it to space (unlike it’s bigger brother) => A prototype is not meant to be used productively, that’s a major difference between a prototype and a pilot (and here I mean pilot implementation! Not the guy sitting in the above plane.)

So if customers want to try out S/4HANA not just in a demo but test it’s capabilities hands-on with their own data, then a Prototype can be a good idea. Some advantages, which come to mind:

  • A Prototype helps Customer IT and Business teams to better understand capabilities of the SAP S/4HANA solution like SAP FIORI UI, Operational Reporting, …with their own data and business scenarios

  • Prototypes can help to get the buy-in from internal stakeholders like Business teams to get a SAP S/4HANA implementation project started

  • The Blueprinting of the later implementation project can usually be shortened significantly if we run through the Best Practice processes on the prototype system. The alternative of blueprinting from scratch and charting out long requirements lists on whiteboards, write user stories, etc. usually takes much longer

  • Taking the Prototype as the baseline for the Fit/Gap analysis in the Explore phase can encourage business teams to stay closer to standard than starting from scratch with business requirements

  • A Prototype can help to understand hurdles/roadblocks of project at an early stage reducing the risk of project delays and cost overruns

  • Implementing the Prototype can help to collect important data points, which help to make the planning of the overall project much more reliable

  • A Prototype helps the Customer IT team to get an early start to learn the new SAP S/4HANA innovations, simplifications and transition tools so they are well prepared once the actual transition project starts

What makes a Prototype Successful

Some key factors I have seen in successful Prototypes:

  • Limit in the functional scope and technical scope of the prototype, so it can be run in 3-4 months. Usually we recommend at most 3 business priorities. If you end up with much more scope cut back or consider doing a pilot.

  • Perform a well-organized scoping workshop, which provides the following outcomes (Although things are much less “formal” in a Prototype then in a real project you still want to define some basic cornerstones):

    • Clearly defined scope of the Prototype – also list key items that were discussed and did NOT make it into the scope to ensure everyone has the same expectation. The scope should also define, which Org Units should be included.

    • Definition of what data will be required in Prototype System

    • Decision, which deployment option will be used for the Prototype (HEC, Cloud, On Premise Landscape,..)

    • Decision on how the the Success of the Prototype will be measured, like Test Cases, Performance KPIs, Reduction in Clicks to run a certain process, etc

    • And effort estimation for the Prototype

    • A Project Plan for the Prototype – how long will then Prototype run and what tasks will take place when

    • Definition of Responsibilities (e.g. RACI chart)

  • Have the same people involved in the Prototype, which would be also involved later in the Full Implementation project to take advantage of the great learning opportunity

  • Document all the issues and resolutions well during the Prototype to avoid troubleshooting the same issue again in the real implementation (“How did we get rid of that Short Dump again!?”)

  • Bring everyone together again at the end of the prototype to review/agree on the result and decide on the next steps

Value Assurance Package Plan and Prototype

If customers are interested in Prototypes for SAP S/4HANA, SAP offers a Value Assurance Package called “Plan and Prototype” to support them (My organization actually delivers this Package, so I have to do a bit of advertising here). This package can support two flavors of Prototypes for SAP S/4HANA depending if customers want to move an existing system to S/4HANA or start with a green-field implementation:

  • Prototype for System Conversion: Here we typically start with a Readiness Check, that can be run by customers as self-service on the current SAP ERP system. The Readiness Check brings back some data points, on the SAP S/4HANA readiness of the system (Are Add-Ons supported, how much Custom Code is there that will be impacted, etc). This helps to plan the effort for the Actual Prototype during the Scoping Workshop. During the Prototype a copy of the Quality or Production system is created, which is then converted to SAP S/4HANA. Finally the team might enable some of the relevant Simplifications and Innovations of SAP S/4HANA on the SAP S/4HANA system before handing it over to the business team to test it out.

  • Prototype for a New Implementation: Here we install a brand new SAP S/4HANA system. To make sure the prototype does not run too long we typically use one of the fully activated solutions offered in the SAP Cloud Appliance Library. This shortens the installation of the system from weeks to hours. Fully Activated means, that the system comes with the Pre-Configured Best Practices, which means we can run business transaction almost immediately after the system has been provisioned. Each best practice also comes with a Test Script, which means the standard processes can be easily run by/demoed to the business and test cases can easily be created. Nevertheless before letting the business users onto the system a Data Migration is done, so users can test the processes and analytics with their own data.

The Plan and Prototype Package mostly uses the same Value Assurance Services SAP offers to support full scale Implementation Projects (so it’s actually a also a good way for customers to test out the value of these services in a smaller fashion). There are two exceptions: The “Scoping Workshop for Prototyping” and the “Result Workshop for Prototyping” (blue boxes) have been created specifically to Support Customers with their SPA S/4HANA Prototyping.

Customers often ask, which landscape they can use to run the Prototype – the following options exist.

Which deployment option is preferable really depends on the what the customer is planning for a later implementation project. If customer plans to switch to a private Cloud option, the Prototype can be an excellent opportunity to try that out.

More Information about the SAP S/4HANA Value Assurance Services can be found in the Overview of SAP Value Assurance Service Packages for SAP S/4HANA

The Prototyping Information Sheet provides more information about the Plan and Prototype Package.

Happy Prototyping!