What begins as a pure IT project often turns over the entire company in the course of the project. The introduction of the SAP HANA platform brings with it profound changes for companies that can only be managed with early and consistent change management. Natalie Hauser, consultant at mgm consulting partners, will report from her project experience on the success factors of such an introduction at solutions.hamburg on 12 September. In an interview with the editorial staff, she gives the first insights.

 

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mgm: Can you please briefly introduce yourself and your area of expertise?

Natalie Hauser: My name is Nathalie Hauser. I have been working for mgm consulting partners for two and a half years now. Of course, at the beginning you are involved in many different projects. Meanwhile my focus is project management, change management and communication. My favorite and most important area of work is change management.

mgm: You are mainly involved in change projects as part of a SAP HANA implementation. What does this step mean for a company?

Natalie Hauser: The changeover to a new SAP system often means a major change for the company. Of course, the impact will depend on the nature of the system put in place and the areas affected within the company. Basically, however, one can say that such changes often also have a significant impact on the processes of the company. These projects are often regarded as pure IT projects, but essentially they come out of the business, e.g. because a new strategy is being pursued and business processes are being redesigned.

The changeover therefore does not only affect the IT context; they are not purely technical projects; on the contrary, they have a major impact on the way employees work. The entire corporate culture continues to develop.

Editor: What advantages does a company have by using a system like HANA? Are there disadvantages?

Natalie Hauser: HANA is not a real system, but the latest technology from SAP. It is an in-memory platform. The underlying systems no longer use disk space, but instead use the computer's memory to store data. What sounds like a marginal change at first, however, enables the evaluation of considerably larger amounts of data with faster processes and higher performance. This enables real-time analysis of large data sets, which offers the company many advantages and new applications.

A disadvantage is that the changeover often involves a great deal of effort - a project that usually affects the entire company. Frequently, even after the go-live, there are still certain difficulties. We support this in the so-called Hypercare phase.

Editor: SAP HANA does not only mean the introduction of a new IT. Which areas of a company are particularly affected by this?

Natalie Hauser: That cannot be said in general terms, it depends on the HANA version that is introduced and the processes that are to be handled via it. S/4 HANA, for example - as was the case in most of my projects - is an ERP system that covers the entire resource planning of a company. This means that almost 90% of all corporate divisions will be affected by the changeover, and hardly anyone will be left out.

The changes in the individual areas depend mainly on two parameters. On the one hand, how the company wants to align itself in the future and how the new processes will be designed. On the other hand, however, also how the area was previously positioned on the IT system side and how large the leap is accordingly. Of course, the step from another SAP version is not as big as from a completely different ERP system. The language and the basic knowledge are already available. There is already a lot of work behind a new introduction, especially in the training of the users.

mgm: What does a company have to consider before deciding to take such a step? Where are the biggest pitfalls?

Natalie Hauser: Before a company decides to introduce a platform like HANA - with the underlying systems - it should be aware in advance which business areas are actually affected and which goals are being pursued. It's not just an IT project. Who would you like to bring on board? Beginning with the works council, the department heads of the affected areas, up to the intelligent composition of the project teams. Such a project can quickly take several years. It is important to think about which people play a central role in the project team so that everything is considered in the end.

It is important to set up change management right at the beginning of the implementation project.

Of course, change management also plays a decisive role. It is important to pick up employees at an early stage. It is optimal to set up change management right at the beginning of the implementation project. In our projects, we attach great importance to accompanying the teams in the process and supporting them in their teamwork. Right from the start, we want to draw attention to the changeover and take the affected employees with us as well as the project team. At the go-live - maybe two years after the start of the project - nobody is allowed to ask: "Oh, there's a new system now?". Everything must be known. Early and comprehensive information is the decisive basis.

So you can concentrate on the change in the concrete. With various training courses - also in the management area - that help managers to take their employees with them. You need a big lead time for the change, which then comes after a few years.

Editor: What does the introduction of SAP HANA mean for a company's employees?

Natalie Hauser: Employees often have to say goodbye to habits they have grown fond of. It is often small things like product numbers that everyone has known by heart for a long time. One knows the click paths in sleep, this is always bottom left, the bottom right. Often it is also the industrial relations. For many years I had one colleague in front of me and the other behind me in the process. Now many processes are being re-established and new working relationships are being established. We know that from ourselves, we don't like to break away from such habits. These are things that happen in the foreground.

In the background, it depends on the extent to which the new system and the corporate strategy converge. Through newly designed processes, some employees also have to expand or change their area of responsibility. They have to look beyond the previous edge of the plate and, if necessary, further educate themselves. Such changes go deep and require more intensive support.

Editor: The introduction alone is usually not enough. Are there subsequent tasks for change management that are essential for success?

Natalie Hauser: It is important for us that change management is involved from the start, i.e. with the start of the project. It doesn't make sense to suddenly start a change management 3 months before Go-Live or even when the implementation has already happened.

In retrospect, it is important to continue supporting the employees. Make sure that it is normal if not all systems are immediately fully available again. One often has the expectation: "If I have prepared the changeover for so many years, then everything has to work out 100%! This is an illusion, the complexity in large companies is simply too great for that.

Initially, perhaps only 70% will work and workarounds will be set up. Here the employees must be closely accompanied and picked up. You should know that day after day things are getting better and that after a certain time the changeover is complete. With this mentality one must anchor such a project.

Editor: What special challenges do you frequently face in change projects in the context of IT migrations?

Natalie Hauser: The greatest danger is probably to underestimate the scale of the project. Often the attitude is: "This is such a system, an IT project, a few interfaces will probably change, we will have to train the employees on that." That was way too short a jump.

It's not just an IT project. The changes are definitely going much deeper.

Employees have to cope with a new system that changes the way they work, their processes, their togetherness and their collaboration. It's a project driven by the business side, not the IT side. One should stress again and again that it is not only about an IT project. That it's not just about any new click paths. The changes are definitely much deeper and more comprehensive. Until this realization has really arrived and been internalized on all levels, it takes time.

Editor: You will give a presentation at Solutions. What will be the core message for the visitors?

Natalie Hauser: Right from the start, you should pay attention to which areas are actually affected and which processes change and to what extent. But above all, what impact this has on the way employees work. You have to look at the change at different levels to really understand what will change in addition to the obvious. And you have to work towards all these changes at an early stage, bit by bit, with certain nudges, interventions. This is the only way to prepare the organisation and all employees in the best possible way on the day of the changeover and to minimize the friction losses caused by the changeover.

mgm: What expectations do you have of Solutions as a guest?

Natalie Hauser: I am looking forward to the presentations and to the other speakers, both my colleagues and our many customers. I am looking forward to the various visitors and speakers and the challenges on their side. As I am visiting Solutions for the first time, I am also curious to see what my colleagues have put together after I have witnessed all the preparations on the sidelines!

Editor: Thank you very much for the interview!