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Cloud People: Gerlize de Villiers, De Villiers Walton (DVW)

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Gerlize de Villiers has built her career working in partnership with diverse client groups across the financial services, insurance, technology, telecommunications, professional services and consumer goods sectors. She has extensive experience in supporting management through periods of organisational transformation and associated risk management.

Gerlize joined De Villiers Walton (DVW), a niche professional services organisation, in 2004 to define, implement and manage its HR and Business Operations framework. She takes responsibility for all governance and controls, financials, statutory and contractual elements associated with the day-to-day running of DVW’s businesses in the UK and North America.

SAP Business ByDesign – A Hands-On View

In February 2013, we took the final step in our migration to the cloud by switching off our legacy systems and moving all of our business processes onto SAP Business ByDesign (SAP ByD). As the Director of HR & Business Operations for De Villiers Walton (DVW), I must admit that I had a few concerns when our MD originally suggested we implement the solution. Firstly, our business already ran smoothly and had done so for 10 years on a suite of fit-for-purpose software products, some cloud-based, others more traditional. Why fix something that wasn’t broken? Secondly, as a non-technical person, I was concerned about relinquishing control over the existing systems and creating a dependency on technical specialists.

At DVW, we have always believed that a small business does not have to be an unsophisticated business in terms of its people, processes and technology. Many of our people started and developed their careers in large, top-tier consultancies and blue-chip corporations before joining DVW so between us we have had exposure to it all – good and bad. Our size has given us an edge in our ability to learn from the past, adapt rapidly to the present and plan with confidence for the future. Thanks to our people and processes, DVW has already thrived for 10 years, which suggests that we are doing something right!

Before running our business on SAP ByD, we made the technology we had adopted work for us and our systems never failed us. But  – unlike our people and processes – our choice of technology did not give us any competitive advantage. What we have in SAP ByD is a serious, sophisticated and dynamic business solution that will support the growth of our business well into the next decade.

Having a cloud solution has given me peace of mind. I know that our data is secure and there is no longer a dependency on me to ensure that we have data back-up processes in place. The cloud suits our workforce, which is internationally mobile. Our people can log into SAP ByD from any location at any time of day and get access to data and reports in real-time. We also have access to an SAP Support Centre with skilled technical specialists to assist when we have problems. I recently logged my first Incident with SAP and was surprised at the speed of resolution and general level of support offered. All in all, I have not given up control but have gained access to support and assistance beyond the level that was previously available to me.

In working closely with our SAP ByD Implementation Specialists from the start of our project, I feel that I have peered into the guts of our system and have a good understanding of how it all hangs together from a data and configuration point of view. I also understand what I can refine on the spot and when a change project is required. This gives me a degree of independence. What is great is that I don’t need to be a technical specialist. I just need to be familiar with how the business processes fit together to support my business, ensure my business users are properly trained and that our system is populated with clean data. It’s an added benefit that the on-line Help Centre is always at hand to jog my memory and walk me through a process or a configuration change. I can also add my own Help documents to support our users in remembering how to do things the “DVW Way”.

There are a number of things however, that I would like to see catered for in future releases:

  • (1) One area relates to Service Agents. Whilst it is possible for Service Agents to capture Time against Projects, the recording of Expenses is not available in the current release.
  • (2) I find the reporting functionality clever and dynamic, but, bizarrely, the SAP ByD ready-made reports are almost too sophisticated for my needs. I need SAP ByD to take a few steps backwards to allow a more dynamic way for me to extract raw data, pre-linking fields at the most detailed level of data entry. For example, SAP ByD allows the User to capture detailed information against each Expense Receipt such as Receipt Date, Receipt Type, Receipt Amount, Tax Code and Cost Assignment; and to add free-style comments in the Description field. I would like to see a simple report (per User or selection of Users) that displays in a single line in a single table every bit of such detail entered per Receipt ID. The standard User Expense Report Statements will benefit equally from a similar format, rather than splitting details relating to one Expense Receipt ID across multiple datasources.
  • (3) I find the Authorisations / Approval Paths for Employee activities to be a challenge given our organisation operates in a Matrix rather than Hierarchical management structure.
  • (4) Whilst I like the Help Centre, it would be even better if SAP could add real business working examples to make it all more concrete. I understand the Business Centre offers more specific help, but this is not available to all Users. Perhaps SAP could reconsider access restrictions in this regard.

There are ways around all of the above, but given what SAP has provided me with so far, I hope it is just a matter of time before these areas are addressed.

DVW has been running entirely on SAP ByD for over a month now. I am excited about the future and what the system still has to offer to me. On a day-to-day basis, I am starting to see how the system is enhancing my management of our business operations. There is a shift towards more value-add activities.

  • For example, in Finance, validating source entries rather than also duplicating them from one system to the other;
  • tracking profitability against Projects;
  • simple things like building up history records to extract with ease and showing dynamic holiday and special leave balances with Time Accounts configured to suit my business.

It all adds up to making my life easier!

Looking back, the timing was perfect for us to invest in a new system as we prepare for our next growth spurt. If you are planning to implement SAP ByD successfully within your business, I strongly recommend that you ensure that your implementation team is not just a technical team. In fact, with SAP ByD it is critical that your implementation team is predominantly non-technical. You need business people, who understand your business and its processes, making decisions on behalf of the business. Your business users after all need to “own” the system once it goes live. From my experience, it is also essential that you have a person with sound Finance knowledge as part of your core implementation team. Yes, you will need technical specialists to look after your local infrastructure, such as internet connectivity, printers, and other peripherals but the technical aspects of the core SAP ByD solution are taken care of in the cloud by SAP’s technical specialists. At the start of your project, make sure that your SAP ByD Implementation Specialists listen to what you need and want, but do be prepared to listen to them as you may pick up valuable tips and process improvements along the way.

Cloud is here to stay as it makes good business sense, especially for “non-techies” like me:

  • (1) You never need to look under the bonnet as SAP takes care of all things technical – your functional knowledge rather than technical knowledge is key;
  • (2) It removes the need for expensive upgrades – SAP does that automatically, so your system is always on the most up-to-date version;
  • (3) It takes away the stress of system maintenance and housekeeping tasks such as back-ups;
  • (4) You can access it from wherever, whenever you need it, real-time; and
  • (5) You have access to an SAP Support Centre with highly skilled and responsive staff.

Finally, to assess if you, as a key business user, are ready for it, I would suggest you first challenge yourself before considering your business case:

  • (1) Am I (not my business!) ready for an integrated solution that is sophisticated enough for large corporations – if not, why not?
  • (2) What are my biggest concerns and are they realistic given what we are making do with at this very moment? Make a list and actively seek out the answers.
  • (3) What are the inefficiencies in my specialists’ roles as a result of our current technical solution?
  • (4) Are my business processes really based on best practice and fully supported by my technical solution or are we having to use make-shift time-consuming manual work-arounds to get things to work?

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SAP Cloud People Blog Series: how the Cloud is affecting the day to day lives of people.

2013-04-10 : Cloud People: Gerlize de Villiers, De Villiers Walton (DVW)

2013-03-11 : Cloud People: Jesus Hoyos, Social CRM consultant, speaker, and independent analyst for Latin America

2013-03-01 : Cloud People: Bodo Klečka, BOA Group

2013-02-25 : Cloud People: Luke Marson, Gavdi Group

2013-02-11 : Cloud People: Mark Ridley,

2013-01-23 : Cloud People: Sascha Rauhe, AICOMP/VCXI Group

2013-01-18 : Cloud People: Nils Stock, Freudenberg Sealing Technologies

2013-01-15 : Cloud People: Brian Kinion, SuccessFactors

2012-12-27 : Cloud People: Alan Fang, ERP Logic Cloud People: Alan Fang, ERP Logic

2012-12-10 : Cloud People: Paul Nursey, the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC)

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  • It’s great to get some feedback on the Help Center, and on the access policy for the Business Center.

    All key users get a Business Center user automatically. Key users can create users for other colleagues in their company directly in the Business Center. 

    We are currently considering making a part of the Business Center – the SAP Business ByDesign customer forums - completely public. Currently you need a Business Center user to access the forums.