SAP Blog

How Optimized Staffing Plays a Role in a Successful S/4HANA Journey

As more organizations look to transform their businesses leveraging SAP’s S/4HANA and other SAP applications, it is key to consider the people side of the transformation. From a resourcing perspective there are several unique challenges that business transformation projects bring to an organization. In this post, we will look at a few of these challenges in detail and provide alternatives and specific recommendations for how best to optimize staffing and overcome these challenges.

Project staffing challenges – old model vs. new model

During SAP enabled business transformation programs, the resource requirements are challenging to meet, and very often overburden organizations. If proper enterprise resource planning is not considered when embarking on your S/4HANA Journey, this can cause resources to be stretched too thin, which leads to missed deadlines, additional project risk and ultimately poor results. The traditional model of committing resources to a project while still expecting them to manage their existing jobs has proven to be ineffective, yet we still see many instances where companies do not plan for adequate backfill or the typical ups and downs of resource demands during digital transformation initiatives.

As the picture above shows, this ebb and flow can cause problems, such as:

  • The burden of too many FTEs (full-time equivalent hours) over an extended period, leading to complacency and higher costs.
  • Relying on skills-on-hand instead of targeted SAP experts, leading to less-than-optimal results.
  • Overloading key people during peak periods or unplanned events, leading to high attrition and/or mistakes and missed deadlines.

By shifting how we think about project execution and resource loading during S/4HANA implementation and other digital transformation projects, we can solve for these spikes in a more cost-effective manner and leverage a more flexible staffing model.

This flexible approach to program staffing provides many benefits, including:

  • The reduction of cost by avoiding over-hiring and continually burdening full-time employees to cover ever-increasing peak volumes.
  • A strategic model providing resource continuity, backfill capability for key resources and institutional expertise for long-term value.
  • More effective resource utilization, through the ability to flex the team up and down based on program demands.
  • Better on-demand support from subject matter experts familiar with the SAP System for unique and complex issues.
  • The ability to secure SAP experts for onsite support, where needed, with very little lead time.

Staffing for success

The key to success is working with a managed services partner to determine how to smooth the implementation cycle and drive faster ROI with reduced project risk by ensuring you have the right people in the right place at the right time. Often the best method to achieve this goal is to leverage a blend of staff augmentation to help backfill key resources and provide unique skillsets to cover gaps in institutional knowledge or special solution requirements alongside consulting professionals who can provide subject matter expertise and core consulting skills in a hybrid model to help support the business and Systems Integrator in executing the overall program and providing the ability to flex up/down to meet changing resource demands and just-in-time needs.

Leveraging managed services in an integrated model can help an organization supplement its team to meet the various responsibilities it will own during the business transformation process. Some examples include:

  • Organizational change management
  • Data cleansing and preparation for migration
  • Cut-over support
  • User Acceptance Testing
  • PMO Activities and risk management
  • Resource backfills to meet program staffing assumptions with the system integrator and many others.

How to use the model – thinking beyond the traditional model

Organizations must look to fulfill project requirements that are not traditionally well-satisfied by system integrators. Often these areas are overlooked, underestimated or assumed to be the responsibility of the company. The use of this hybrid model allows companies to deliver on these tasks in a cost-effective manner throughout the transformation lifecycle. A broader perspective on these areas as well as specific examples and use cases that should be considered can be found here.

Many key areas of consideration fall outside of the system integrator’s responsibilities, and these are often missed opportunities or executed with sub-optimal results. Understanding these demands ahead of undergoing a new implementation puts the organization in a better place to make effective decisions on where to focus time, energy and resources. A better understanding of demands also helps leaders determine whether to shift workload to a partner or staff augmentation model or to accept the risk of not dedicating specific resources to a function, instead spreading it across already available resources. This assessment will at least provide for a proactive approach to the staffing process for the transformation effort with a clear understanding of resource risk, as opposed to being reactive and increasing risk to the overall program.

Resource flexibility provides many benefits, but it requires a solid and well-thought-out governance process with an emphasis on resource onboarding, offboarding and monitoring. Resource onboarding and offboarding help resources hit the ground running as they come into the project and is critical to ensure there are no knowledge gaps when they leave the project. There needs to be discipline and structure around knowledge transfer on both ends, as well as standard materials for getting up to speed on the project and common methods for documenting work completed. Ongoing monitoring of resources is also critical to ensure overall project health and coverage as well as execution of expected activities and deliverables throughout the S/4HANA journey. Engaging an SAP services partner who understands these processes and has expertise in these areas is essential to the success of the model.

There is an old saying about being penny wise and pound foolish. Often organizations incur significant cost overruns, delays or outright failures of their digital transformation programs by overcommitting key resources, missing key skills and trying to manage with current resources while failing to address resource gaps efficiently. Each program is unique, but all face similar challenges. Resource availability and skillsets consistently rank among the biggest challenges business leaders face during an SAP S/4HANA Implementation, or other digital transformation projects, and can be among the most critical risks to mitigate. Leveraging a hybrid model with a partner experienced in SAP services who can help to facilitate resource needs through managed services is essential to running an effective program and can help to ensure any organization’s successful SAP S/4HANA journey.

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Chris Hanson

Managing Director
Business Platform Transformation