Best practice – not a tailor-made suit, but a customized standard

September 27, 2019 ・ 5 minutes reading time
Digitalization, strategy

Service procurement is a specialized discipline in purchasing. In many companies, it only appears on the agenda once general procurement issues have been taken care of and service procurement becomes strategically important. In such cases, the goal is often to replace existing IT solutions because they are based on old technologies or do not have the necessary interfaces to map processes consistently and thus digitalize them. Or: The maintenance of the e-tool is coming to an end and know-how is dwindling. If a new solution is to be introduced, the question is not only which solution is the "right" one, but also which path should be taken to find a solution.

Shortening the way via best practice

Best practice in a digitalization project does not mean a tailor-made suit, but a suit made to measure – a small but decisive difference in terms of costs and time. In other words, do you want to have a customer-specific solution or are you looking for a standard that can be customized? It seems that the days of customized solutions are over. Time and costs are just two aspects, and the flexibility of standards-based e-solutions, which can be scaled as required or expanded via add-ons, has increased significantly – driven by the technological possibilities of cloud technology.    

The upcoming generational change from the SAP ERP system to S/4HANA is a good example of this. Companies most frequently associate the introduction of S/4HANA with the possibility of "restructuring and reassessing their IT landscape and interfaces", according to the study results of the HHL working paper "SAP S/4HANA. Status quo and future prospects of a new ERP Business Suite" from September 2018. Interestingly, "technical innovations such as speed" or "real-time analytics" and the "opportunity to restructure business processes", which are in fact the basis for digitalization, ranked equally high.

The opportunity to replace established structures with additional individual solutions and the resulting proliferation of interfaces between systems with leaner structures and processes is therefore increasingly being seized. The idea of best practice also plays an important role in the S/4HANA strategy in the context of simplification: Various so-called best practice packages already provide preconfigured business content with standard industry and company processes.

Creating the conditions for this will be a challenge for many companies. As a general guideline, the larger the gap from the standard due to in-house developments and adaptations, the greater the transition effort is likely to be. This applies regardless of the migration path ultimately chosen, whether greenfield (new implementation) or brownfield (system conversion).

No specifications at the negotiating table

Avoiding the classic dilemma of either selecting technologies based on existing business processes (IT follows structure) or aligning the processes with the requirements of the e-solution (structure follows IT) is not easy in everyday practice.

In requests for purchasing solutions, we often come across specifications that describe old wine in new bottles and do not take into account innovative possibilities in the requirements that are to be mapped. The focus is on a preconceived solution idea and, as a result, usually still comprehensive catalogs of requirements that demand functions in the form of bullet points - detached from an overall concept - and do not subordinate these to the overall concept in terms of value ( jack-of-all-trades).

Just as often, these specifications are created with a great deal of effort and support from consultants who tend to develop concepts at the "negotiating table" that amount to individual solutions. We often encounter this situation in service procurement where, despite all the planning that goes into the specifications, little consideration is given to the possibilities of SAP and solutions are described as shadow systems or isolated solutions alongside SAP.

In our experience, a high percentage of people today do not work with services and the item category "D" in SAP at all. The reason for this is that working with SAP in this area is too inconvenient and time-consuming. Many do not even know that services and multi-level item lists can be mapped in the SAP system. Therefore, the SAP system must also be included at the "negotiating table" in the course of a digitalization project in the area of service procurement if SAP is considered to be the "Digital Core" and consequently nothing should bypass SAP.

Thinking in terms of processes is required

Best practice as a systematic approach

For us, the best-practice approach applies in two respects: not only in the development of our solutions and their final IT implementation, but also in our consulting approach, with which we accompany and support our customers right from the decision-making process. In our projects, we have found that important decisions for the digitalization project are made at a very early stage. We specialize in using our industry expertise and many years of practical experience to support processes for defining requirements - so that the suit fits perfectly and you receive a very cost-effective solution in line with best practice.

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