Nick Mahieu: "1 year Expertum, Time flies when you are having fun"

April 3, 2020 Posted by: Nick Mahieu

I’ve joined Expertum in March 2019 after being 5 years in an internal IT role in an international environment while working on 2 major topics. Firstly, I’ve worked on the MES and automation program of my former employer and secondly, I was involved in an IT-governance transformation program. I must admit that this period enriched my personal insights and capabilities enormously. So if you would ask me what is the best thing to do to become a better consultant, I would advise you to leave consultancy for a while so you can experience what I did. However, when I was contacted by Expertum months before I decided to join, it was mainly the variation and challenges of the dynamic consulting world that attracted me 

When I decided to go back into the SAP-world within Expertum I was sure that I would be part of an experienced, enthusiastic team of professionals. Thanks to the multiple talks and discussions with people that where 1 after 1 showing tons of experience, passion for what they were doing and a great hospitality, felt part of the Tribe... not from the day I really joined but from the day I had my first interview.  

But yes, I was also hesitating as I was not sure whether SAP addressed it’s major shortcomings during the last years: 

  • User friendliness had always been an issue and I was not sure whether SAP addressed it in the right way in the last couple of years?  
  • Would I be able to understand and agree with SAP S/4HANA be positioned as the foundation for the company of the future? 
  • What if SAP S/4HANA was really so different as it is positioned, would it mean that all my knowledge from the past would be lost? 

Functional processes and scope of SAP S/4HANA  

The last question took exactly half a day to disappear. After I’ve started exploring SAP S/4HANA in “lab circumstances” in our demo environment it felt a bit like homecoming. Very quickly I concluded that the functional scope of SAP did not drastically change, which is of course not a surprise as business processes evolve throughout the years, but the fundamentals remain the same. The individual steps of a business process do not change drastically whether they are being executed in SAP S/4HANA or any other system. One more relief followed quickly: customizing is still customizing!  

The feeling of coming home triggered me to start exploring where SAP S/4HANA does make the difference. We all know the expression “old wine in new barrels”, I could not imagine that this would be the business model and vision that SAP was having in mind 

FIORI 

One of the biggest innovations in SAP S/4HANA is the user interface.  When I’ve started to explore the possibilities and especially the capabilities of Fiori, I quickly realized that talking about Fiori would not make us gain any customerYou wonder why? The answer is simple, it’s not Fiori that drives your operational excellence to new heights. However, while exploring I got convinced of its potential to drive the operational improvements for users and consultants that can rethink their way of working. But "how" should be your logical next question.

“Customers who don’t implement SAP Fiori or continue to use SAP GUI as their primary UI will have only a limited benefit from the innovations in SAP S/4HANA”

First, the role-based navigation brings all the info you need to your logon screen. You won’t need to pull a list to check open sales orders while waiting 5 minutes till the result of the list is on the screen. No, when you are a sales clerk the info will be displayed immediately on your landing page. A simple click on the tile will make you navigate to the detailed info that you require to do your job.   

Secondly, simply by opening a browser link on your mobile device you are able to run SAP on any device. So, there is no need to invest in expensive approval apps that are interfacing back and forth with SAP. Finally, we can work in our professional life in the same way as we are doing in private life. We are used to receive alerts for all important changes in our private lives. When somebody changes job, we get a LinkedIn alert, when somebody marries you get a Facebook notification. New purchases we do via our smartphone and even banking transactions we perform and approve on our mobile phone. And that’s also the experience I was able to achieve with SAP S/4HANA.  

Hana as catalysator 

To bring all this data to 1 screen you need of course an extremely performant layer below and that’s now exactly what the Hana Database layer of SAP S/4HANA is enabling. How amazing is that? And it’s not finished yet… 

Embedded reporting 

The marriage between Hana and Fiori also has a major impact on reporting. Where traditional Business warehouses found their business case in the requirement to consolidate and report data from multiple sources and multiple KPI’s, we saw in the last decade in a lot of companies that gradually operational reports moved into SAP BW because the ERP system was not able to report the data anymore. This performance issue leads to almost continuous extractions which in the end makes your BW team part of the critical functions. In my opinion it is a bad signal if BW loads need to be monitored 24/7 and that’s exactly the business case for SAP S/4HANA embedded reporting. My enthusiasm went sky high when I started to discover the embedded reporting apps of which I knew we had done weeks of development in the past in BW or in ERP to achieve not half of what these FIORI apps are bringing.  

 

Knowing from experience where companies struggle with and seeing the above (r)evolutions SAP came up with made me become an SAP S/4HANA enthusiast. I’m convinced that the deadline of 31/12/2027 is becoming irrelevant the day you start looking from the perspective of what it can bring for the company. And that’s when you are ending up in the right discussion 

Transition pathsBeyond the Greenfield/Brownfield discussion 

What should I do? Greenfield or Brownfield?  

You can spend a lot of money on the green/brown or bluefield discussion. It can even become emotional. If we go green, we finally will be able to do everything like we should” Yeah right.  

My recommendation is quite straightforward. There are basically 3 questions you need to reflect on together with your implementation partner:  

  • Do you know if your system is convertible or did you try to convert already?  
  • Are you aware about the business impact of a greenfield? 
  • Is there a burning platform to start from scratch? 

Outlook 

So after 1 year of having a blast, I’m curious what the future will bring. I wonder how my SAP S/4HANA enthusiasm will evolve but most probably it will only grow.  

Any questions or extra info required on this topic? Please do not hesitate to contact us!

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Nick Mahieu