​How to successfully drive business change underpinned by SAP S/4HANA

about 1 year ago Alex Voskou

How To Successfully Drive Business Change Underpinned By Sap S4 Hana

Introduction ​

The latest webinar from Investigo’s SAP team discussed how organisations can use SAP S/4HANA to successfully drive business change. Principal Consultant Lewis Dunn and Partner Raj Narwan were joined by experienced change management professionals Christina Cowling, Alex Yim and Bernadette Cosgrove, who each shared their insights and advice.

How leadership alignment is critical to the success of your S/4HANA implementation – Christina Cowling

​Projects that fail to achieve a return on investment or the anticipated benefits, run over time and budget or are abandoned, have one thing in common – a lack of leadership alignment.

​Leadership alignment starts with your senior business sponsor, whether it’s the CEO, CFO, a senior executive or C-suite level representative. This will be the person who holds the purse strings and understands that the programme is an absolute priority at the company at this time. The programme could be driven by growth, survival or regulatory compliance. If you don’t have a senior sponsor to provide their full backing, the project stands little chance of success.

​While your sponsor will see the benefits of the project across the board, this may not be mirrored throughout the organisation. It’s therefore important to understand all your stakeholders’ different levels of commitment. In cases where there are conflicting views on what a project should deliver, change management has a significant role to play in uncovering those conflicts and bringing together the people who can come up with solutions – the implementation partner, functional leads and global process owners. Change managers need to achieve alignment at leadership level when faced with conflicting priorities. ​

Once bitten

It may be hard to convince the organisation of the need for change when it has been burned in the past. Not many companies are doing greenfield implementations these days. Most have been through the pain of ERP implementations. There may be a feeling among some stakeholders that these projects are black holes sucking up information, data, resources and time, with nothing coming out of the other end. By conducting a review of its project history, you can acquaint yourself with the organisation’s past experiences and learn from them, taking steps to ensure you’re improving the implementation process moving forward.

​The people working on a project will also have their BAU jobs, so they need to see the value of the project. Ensure you tap into industry standards and best practices. As a process owner, it’s part of the role to prevent people from becoming entrenched in existing ways of doing things. ​

The 10 change management considerations for SAP S/4HANA transformations – Alex Yim

1.Change impact assessment

This in itself is not change management. On small projects, you might identify 10 or 20 impacts, but on a typical S4 transformation with multiple modules and process areas, you could be looking at up to 500. Change practitioners should bring that to life visually with graphs and charts, categorising and quantifying that change.

2.Change impact mitigation

When stakeholders have their own BAU jobs to think about, other priorities can take over. The more accessible we can make the data for change impacts and mitigation, the easier it will be to work with stakeholders involved in the change. This can be through the effective use of charts and visuals to bring it to life.

3.Change network

You might be the best change practitioner in the world, but you won’t be able to effect change without a strong change network made up of business representatives.

4.Engage with the business

Work closely with the business and keep them informed and engaged. Coach your stakeholders as they might not be familiar with the tools and techniques you use. Learn to speak their language. If it makes more sense to call the change impacts management process something like a business impact assessment, then do it.

5.Framework to demystify change

Structure and make change deliverables and activities practical and measurable to help get the budget and resource that you need.

6.Project plan / change plan

People have different ideas of what constitutes a change plan. Some will call it a change project plan or even something else. Try to align languages and concepts. In the end, use a plan that covers all aspects of change, communications or engagement activities in a conventional project plan format.

7.PMO relationship

It’s important to partner up with PMOs to make what you do measurable and integrate with other streams and teams in the programme.

8.Integration with other streams

In the context of contributing to the success of S/4HANA programmes, you have an obligation, more than the data or testing team, to integrate with other streams and identify overlaps. You’ve got the knowledge and wide-reaching business relationships to do that.

9.Cadence with sponsor

You need to have open and frank one on one discussions with your sponsor about change, whether fortnightly or monthly, to make it a success.

10.Budget and resourcing

None of this is possible without working with the right specialists to find the best resources.


Anchoring change deliverables to project stage gates and building relationships with both key programme and business stakeholders – Bernadette Cosgrove

Change management deliverables need to become integrated within the project lifecycle to create anchor points and ensure they’re not seen as standalone tick-boxes. These deliverables are there to add value, de-risk a programme and ensure the benefits are realised. Building trust with other stakeholders, particularly the PMO, is so important.

At the beginning of the project

​Have a business case, a project initiation document and at least two deliverables. One should be a high level impact assessment (roles impacted, geography, number of people involved) to help inform your change strategy, budget and resources. The other should be your benefits map, showing that the outcomes from delivering SAP will align with the business goals and strategic objectives. This helps to identify where change interventions are needed, and provides rigour and confidence to your programme director and sponsor on what the change is going to do. Without that line of sight from end to end, projects can often fail. ​

Midway through the project

​When it comes to gaining signoff for design, you need that detailed impact assessment. What are the business processes being undertaken at the moment, who carries them out and how? Your change network and superusers can start to inform that change strategy based on what they know of the business. They will identify the necessary change interventions, such as noise transfer, communications or training. ​

Good news is bad news early. That’s exactly what change managers do: identify potential risks and make sure they’re addressed early.

At the testing stage

Don’t go into testing until you’ve done role to job mapping. When you get to user acceptance testing, you want to make sure the person doing the role in the future is undertaking that testing, assessing the functionality and SAP security at the same time.

Be pragmatic and remember that change management is not a box ticking exercise. Sometimes you have to drop things you would like to do. The most important thing is building engagement with the business, and it’s especially vital building relationships with global process owners, programme directors, sponsors with functional teams and PMOs. Once you’ve got that responsibility and trust, you will have that seat at the table, demonstrate that value-add and be invited to governance forums where you can ensure decision making is based not just on technical status, but on adoption and engagement status, and the success of the overall project. Change is about making sure whatever you deliver aligns with the business goals.


In this time of change, SAP S/4HANA is a crucial tool in organisations looking to standardise their processes and instigate effective digitalisation. Yet that technological transformation must be underpinned by human relationships and clear communications on the purpose and business impacts of change – and how they tie into the business’s strategic objectives. This is where change managers can truly come into their own.

Many thanks to our panellists for an extremely engaging discussion. If you’d like to attend our next webinar or you’d like to speak to us about finding your next SAP role or hire, please contact us.