I recently had the opportunity to go to the 2015 Managing your SAP Projects Conference in Las Vegas where I am proud to say I won a total of $9.00 (move over professional gamblers, Rick is changing careers).
In all seriousness it was a great conference where I got to spend a lot of time learning about the implementation changes SAP is embarking on with their new S/4 HANA road map.
SAP is going to great lengths to change the overall approach to how SAP is implemented for its customers. Gone are the days of six month blue print phases and yearlong realization phases culminating in the first go live two years from when you signed the initial contract.
Instead, SAP is changing its implementation paradigm to provide “out-of-the-box” solutions which challenge their customers to not spend as much time envisioning their future processes but to use the processes that SAP has already configured for them and ask themselves, “why won’t these work for you?”. Then for those processes that really don’t work for you or where you need to differentiate for competitive or business case advantages, perform a gap analysis and change SAP’s pre-configured product accordingly.
Sounds simple enough? I have to be perfectly honest with you, I am a little skeptical only because just about every SI I have worked with has had their pre-configured, industry-specific “Accelerators” for the past 20 years and has tried this approach through the ASAP methodology with minimal success.
But I want to be a “glass half full” kind of guy here and pursue this approach further. You see, along with this new approach we have this whole new cloud technology and everything going to the HANA database.
For those who have seen some of the cloud companies that SAP has acquired (i.e. Ariba, Success Factors, Concur) their approaches are quite different than the way we have been implementing for the past 20+ years. They are more pre-configured with less flexibility for change and you are able to get parts of the solution up and running much faster than I have seen throughout my career. And that is why I am to look at these changes SAP is making with a fairly high level of optimism.
In order to pull this off though, SAP knew it had to change its implementation methodology to an approach that allowed for more “out-of-the-box”, less change and more (dare I say) agility. So it came up with a new methodology called “Activate”.
The Activate Methodology
The new Activate Methodology is built on a foundation of pre-configured best practices, an agile-based methodology, and a simplified guided configuration approach.
SAP has changed their Methodology from the traditional six phase approach to a four phase approach. And even though some of the names may sound familiar what is going on at the lower levels is sometimes quite different.
For example, as part of the Preparation Phase you are now essentially bring to the table a pre-configured solution provided by SAP based on the SAP Best Practices for your industry.
In the new Explore Phase, instead of envisioning what your future solution will look like, you are taking the customer through the pre-configured solution and challenging them as to why it work for their organization. For those areas, processes, procedures, etc. that will not work you are documenting those gaps in a Delta Design Backlog.
In the Realize Phase it is what you would expect, sort of. You can run your realize phase in a traditional waterfall approach, however SAP is recommending that you take advantage of some of the opportunities that are available using a more Agile approach to completing the work through the use of Sprints. Depending on your view point and how you structure and measure the work you end up getting to the same point (integration test ready) it’s just how you get there is quite different. We will explore some of these differences in future blogs.
Additionally, through the use of their new Guided Configuration approach a lot of the very complicated and repetitive configuration components of the IMG have been simplified and can be handled in the background automatically through a new user interface.
Finally, the Deploy Phase from what I can tell is pretty consistent with the former Final Prep Phase.
SAP’s Activate Methodology is the wave of the future and will be the de facto standard SAP Methodology in the coming years as SAP phases out the ASAP Methodology.
As with most things, customer adoption will most likely drive this transition. When it is all said and done I think the use of hybrid methods will be used for the next several years as SAP customers adopt to this new way of doing business with SAP. In the meantime, I would start learning more and more about this new approach to implementing SAP using their new Activate Methodology.