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In our diverse client experience, we find that SAP implementation projects for large, multi-national organizations are much different from those of smaller or less global companies. Although any ERP software project is full of challenges, global SAP rollouts require focus on a number of additional variables.

Below are five things to consider when managing a global ERP implementation:

  1. Global vs. Localized Business Processes. Companies with global offices, particularly those acquired from another company, often have very non-standardized business processes. A global ERP software implementation provides an opportunity to standardize processes across locations, such as in a global shared services ERP model, but such changes can be difficult. A global SAP implementation needs to find the right balance between standardized vs. localized business processes and system. Often times, these decisions boil down to identifying processes that are crucial to staying close to the customer vs. those that are not adding as much value.
  2. Big Bang vs. Phased Implementation. Once the system and corresponding business processes have been defined, it is important to define how to rollout to end-users. For example, do you go-live with all functions and geographies at one time? Do you rollout in multiple phases based on region and/or function? Or is it some combination of both? Most of our clients take some sort of a hybrid approach, largely based on their tolerance for risk, resource availability, and legacy system constraints.
  3. Global vs. Localized ERP Support Structure. The actual SAP implementation is only one step in a longer-term ERP process. Before the first go-live is completed, it is important to define how and where your ERP software is going to be managed going forward. Many companies look to centralize ERP support and help desk functions, while others choose to offer decentralized support to cater to a diverse end-user base. The sooner this support structure is defined and established, the sooner end-users will fully adopt the business software and start realizing the expected business benefits.
  4. Language and Currency. One of the key business benefits of SAP software for global organizations is the ability to standardize business processes and provide global visibility into operations. However, local requirements often create a competing force to allow for flexibility to manage data and transactions in local languages and currencies. Finding the right balance between standardizing to English and US dollars across the globe vs. allowing multiple languages and currencies is an important decision point. 
  5. Master Data Management. Master data is an important but often overlooked aspect of an effective ERP initiative. Not only does master data need to be cleansed and migrated to the new system, but global companies need to define how it will be managed going forward. For example, will local entities have the flexibility to manage their own local chart of accounts, or will changes require centralized and global governance? The same needs to be decided for other types of master data, including customer, supplier, and inventory master records.

Most of the above decision points are not black or white; instead most require an organization to choose where it plans to fall on aspectrum of options. What is more clear, however, is that companies need to start making decisions related to the above issues sooner rather than later to provide direction and focus to their global ERP implementation.

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