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You are an SME (small- and medium-sized enterprise) planning to go in for an ERP solution. After due diligence and research, you have chosen SAP Business All-In-One (BAIO) solution. Great choice, congratulations!!

Now, you are well aware of the fact that getting on the ERP bandwagon is always a big challenge for any organization. No points for guessing that. The best approach is to identify these challenges in advance and devise a detailed plan to overcome each one of them.

In this blog, I would like to discuss some of the unique hurdles, risks and challenges that you may face during the SAP BAIO implementation. Check if these challenges are common to your organization. If you can plan your approach and prepare well, it may help you achieve greater success with the SAP solution.

What makes a BAIO project different?

To understand the unique challenges better, we need to first understand some of the distinguishing features of an SAP BAIO implementation project. As compared to the standard SAP implementation, the BAIO projects are much shorter, using standard processes, tools and templates. The objective is to deliver tried-and-tested solutions for your organization at a faster pace with lesser disruption. Let us discuss these features briefly before we understand the underlying challenges-

1)    Use of Standard pre-configured solution: A typical BAIO solution uses standard pre-configured solution, which is rolled out to the customer. It leverages on standard SAP best practices for different business scenarios. This has reduced the time and effort required to configure the system. But it also means lesser flexibility to customize SAP to suit your exact needs.

2)    Fast, lesser time to adopt and change: The timeline for a BAIO implementation is much shorter than a traditional implementation. This means optimized project phases and lesser time to train the user-team and test the system before go-live. This ensures rapid deployment, but it also means that there is less time to react to any new risks that come up during the project.

3)    Limited scope for customization: As a corollary of the above point, the BAIO methodology relies on adopting the best practices. Of course, the solution can be customized to map any unique differentiating business processes that you follow. However, these projects are governed by strict limitation of scope for customization.

What are the major challenges?

Now that we know some of the unique features of BAIO projects, here are some of the key challenges that customers face. Proper planning and execution of your response to meet these hurdles can ensure a smoother ride for you. It’s of course possible that some of these challenges are also common to other ERP solution implementations. However, I have tried to discuss the issues from a BAIO point of view.

1) Managing the change to an SAP environment: The biggest challenge is to orient your business process teams to understand and use SAP transactions. For many of them, this might be their first exposure to an ERP system. If the team is used to working in silos, and using stand-alone systems, the concept of centralized data and singe source of truth can be alien concepts. Some of them may perceive that the move to SAP now requires them to key in more transaction entries in the system; or that the rules and regulations imposed by the system, impact their agility and freedom to make decisions. For e.g. a proactive billing manager cannot bill the customer unless the warehouse team has posted goods issue transaction. It is very important to manage this aspect of user orientation.

2) Adopting the SAP ‘best practices’:  As seen earlier, the SAP BAIO comes with standard pre-configured solutions. These solutions are based on industry best practices that SAP has gathered with years of research. However, adopting the best practices would mean overriding your traditional way of running these processes. During the solution playback sessions, you have to quickly judge if any of these processes are not suited for you. If an SME is moving from a very primitive or disjointed legacy system to ERP, the SAP best practices are indeed a great solution. However, you could have some unique processes that provide you with a competitive advantage and differentiate you from the rest. You would certainly want to accommodate these processes in your SAP solution. Any deviation from standard requires additional customization. The limited time and budget are the constraints that battle this additional scope. Arriving at a consensus within the team will be a key driver to success.

3) Stretching your lean IT team: A small organization like yours has a lean IT team. This team manages all the IT applications and production support issues. All this limits the number of resources that can be devoted to the SAP implementation project. Their participation is crucial during the solution playback sessions as also during user acceptance testing and training sessions. It is extremely crucial that your IT team gains command over SAP transactions, as they will form the backbone of the production support after go-live.
    When you draw the project plan along with the implementation team, take into account the exact dates on which your IT team is needed on the project. Make sure that these dates donít clash with other deliverables and deadlines – such as month-end activities, which require their time, attention and efforts.

4) Collecting and cleansing your master data:  Having a set of great processes in SAP is just one aspect. The success of your SAP system will rely a lot on the quality of the master data you use. If your organization is new to the concept of centralized master data, it can be a major task for them to gather and extract the master data. The list of customers and vendors could be scattered on several desktops. There could be duplication or incomplete records. Your project plan should emphasize on extraction, testing and loading of master data into SAP. You can even initiate this process in the project preparation phase itself.

5) Enforcing user discipline: Even after you go-live with your SAP BAIO solution, it is important that the users following the system rules and record all the transactions diligently in SAP. The ongoing success of the project will be determined by making SAP as the single source of truth. So, discourage the manual workarounds, exception rules and other attempts to hoodwink the system. Have the right set of incentives and penalties to enforce user discipline. For e.g. the success of the HR solution depends on user reporting their time and expense in the ESS system in a timely manner. One of the organizations made it mandatory that any delay in submission required approval from a senior manager. You may have to plan similar measures to ensure user discipline.

Getting the right ERP solution is half the battle won. To win the other half, you have to effectively manage the unique challenges such as change management and people management, before you can proclaim “all is won” with your All In One!

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