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Why Implement SAP: Enabling Innovation

Introducing SAP into an organization is time consuming, expensive, and subject to creating a whole lot of new challenges. After all, not only will the new system's end users need to be retrained in how they do their job, but the IT organization will need to ramp up on supporting new applications and the various technologies that underpin them. Why go to all this trouble?

The answer is competitive innovation, or the ability to introduce the kind of change that gives a firm a leg up on its competition. SAP also calls this business innovation, though its term is actually a bit more limiting than what we've seen in the real world. Innovation with regard to SAP comes in two forms—innovation inherent to introducing new SAP business applications, and the innovation that can be brought to bear relative to how SAP is implemented, deployed, and managed.

The first type of innovation relates to how the system will be used to effect companywide change that presumably reduces operating costs, increases company-internal synergies, helps uncover new revenue streams, and so on. With the exception of introducing ERP (which arguably is more about keeping up with the Joneses than introducing a competitive advantage; see the sidebar for our perspective on this), implementing new SAP business applications will help you to increase your top line and decrease your cost of doing business, or enable other systems to do so.

The second form of innovation—implementation innovation—is a bit less obvious but just as easy to understand. For starters, a firm that implements a new business application and processes less expensively than its competitors enjoys a better relative capital advantage. If the same company can set up its ongoing IT operations and systems management more cost-effectively, it'll remain in better fiscal shape year in and year out. Finally, if that same company can introduce nimbler infrastructure and IT processes than its competitors, the company's business will be able to change direction and go after new markets more quickly than its less-agile competitors. Combined, such a company will enjoy a significant advantage overall—the kind of advantage that keeps a company in the black and people employed.

Our Take on "Best Practices"

In SAP circles, there's much talk of leveraging best practices. Why? For every thousand implementations, there are nearly a thousand ways to implement SAP but perhaps only several really good ways or a single best way. In the course of consulting, however, we have determined that there tends to be one or two "best" or "preferred" methods of doing a particular task, or addressing a particular problem.

It is these nuggets of insight and knowledge that we hope to pass on to you, our readers, within the larger scope of covering an SAP implementation end to end. Most of the concepts, practices, and approaches outlined in this book are the result of years of experience designing, deploying, and supporting SAP implementations enabled by technology platforms from Compaq, Digital Equipment Corp., HP, IBM, Sun, and Unisys.

Like SAP AG, we too have endured many changes over the past few years, and have grown both stronger and wiser in doing so. Our projects boast some of the largest, fastest-to-production, and complex business-enabling implementations in the world. We are experts in designing and deploying cost-effective SAP business solutions, pushing the envelope when it comes to embracing new computing paradigms, computing platform groundwork, development tools, and project management approaches alike.

Common Practices

Outside of the two or three preferred ways to plan for, complete, or control a task—whether business or technology oriented—there are oftentimes many more common ways of doing the same thing. These common practices stand apart from their best-practices kin in at least one important way—they tend to strike a significantly better balance between what might be deemed best in class and what is deemed acceptable. The classic trade-off cited by those executing common rather than best practices is cost. Best practices are nearly always more expensive to implement than common practices. Common practices fall into the buckets of "good enough" or "good for now" because they do a better job of balancing cost and capabilities. When these "good enough" practices become commonplace, they become de facto common practices.

The Four Priorities of an SAP Implementation

Regardless of whether a practice is "best" or "common," it may be grouped into one of four general areas. We refer to these as the four priorities or primary characteristics of implementation:

  • People—End users as well as IT professionals
  • Processes—Business, technology, and project management
  • Technology—Relative to its adoption and how it enables business innovation
  • Money—Budgetary realities, ROI considerations, and total cost of ownership (TCO) targets

Our parallel implementation roadmaps line up well with these four priorities, all of which must be addressed. That is, attention to only one or a few of these priorities will result in a failed implementation—all four need to be addressed and balanced to reflect a firm's unique business and technology landscape. We like to think that the last priority—the money component of an implementation—is perhaps the most central priority of all four, though, because it enables or limits the other three, and itself is limited. Don't misunderstand this point, though. Big budgets do not necessarily equate to successful implementations. At the end of the day, success is found in how money is spent (and saved, or recouped afterward) relative to an implementation. We will do our best to ensure that all four of these areas are well covered in each chapter, as appropriate, along with relevant best practices and common practices. It is our intent to help you build an understanding of the problems and pitfalls you might encounter, and how you might best rectify or avoid them altogether as you march down the road to a successful SAP implementation.

As such, we view this book as simply an extension of our own SAP consulting work, an amalgamation of insight and experience bound together for your benefit in one place. You are now our customer, and we are your (quite inexpensive, thank you) SAP consultants. Given that the efficient and proper use of external consultants is one of many keys to a successful SAP implementation, you're already well on your way to success just by leveraging this book. Nice job.

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