NTT DATA Business Solutions
Chris Jaques | August 19, 2020

Organizational Change Management: 5 Actions to Make Your SAP S/4HANA Projects More Successful

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(3 min read)

Despite best practice development approaches and deep expert knowledge, many SAP S/4HANA projects still “fail”. Why is that? IT projects do not only affect the technical infrastructure in a company. They also bring changes to established business processes, organizational structures, employee ways of working and interactions with customers and business partners. Learn how professional Organizational Change Management (OCM) can make your project a success and speed up your return on investment (ROI).

Patchy business adoption and low returns from major investments in technology have been common historically despite the best efforts of project teams. Recent studies continue to point to an underwhelming return from IT projects and many of the business leaders that we talk about their SAP S/4HANA initiatives are still finding it difficult to get the business value they expected from a very significant investment of money and resources.

If you are still having problems realizing the business potential of SAP S/4HANA despite having developed a best practice solution and nailed the data and integration challenges on your project, then your problems are probably rooted in a lack of focus on business engagement and business change.

With challenging timescales and lean resources, it is easy for a project team to focus on the technology and solution critical path, to underestimate or ignore the impacts of SAP S/4HANA implementation on business operations and as a result underinvest in managing business change. But even a ‘lift and shift’ brownfield migration to SAP S/4HANA can bring big changes to existing ways of working and if you are taking the opportunity of the move to SAP S/4HANA to harmonize processes across diverse business units, like many of our clients are doing right now, the impact is significant and the business risks real. This kind of project is really hard work in most ways and needs careful business change planning and real business involvement to manage the impact, ensure a safe transition, achieve effective adoption and mitigate the potential risks for business continuity.

In this blog, we outline 5 actions that you can take to start to meet the business change challenges of your SAP S/4HANA project, improve the balance in your delivery approach and achieve better business results from your investment in ERP.


Action 1: Develop Great Sponsors

Time and time again proactive sponsorship comes top of the list in what makes the difference between success and failure in complex change projects. You get back what you put in, so invest project time and effort in identifying, engaging and coaching the business leaders who can swing their business area behind your SAP initiative, resource and support the project and local change teams and focus the attention of busy operational managers (your extended change team) on business readiness and adoption of SAP S/4HANA.


Action 2: Manage Business Readiness

A successful implementation of SAP S/4HANA needs two things, a quality solution and a well-prepared business. Reaching benefits realization targets is near impossible without these two sides of the delivery equation. Projects don’t leave critical path activities like testing or data migration to chance, so why neglect business readiness? If you understand the business impact of your project, know what business readiness means in terms of outcomes and apply the same kind of rigour to business preparations that you would apply to any other activity on the critical path, you are travelling on the road to benefits success.


Action 3: Invest in Training and Performance Support

Most IT project managers understand the consequences of a solution that does not meet the business requirement or is not tested properly, but they tend to think less hard about the impact that low budget and poor quality training and performance support has on user adoption and operational performance. Competent and confident users who are well supported are quickly self-sufficient, enabling safe transitions to new roles and fast and effective adoption of new ways of working. So think beyond Go Live and invest wisely in training and performance support to put in place some of the key drivers of benefits realization. Your operational colleagues will have enduring gratitude.


Action 4: Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Actually, don’t. A tsunami of poor or generic communications is likely to reduce stakeholder confidence and deflate any early enthusiasm for a project just as much as no communication at all. Know what you want to achieve with each of your communications and engagement campaigns and deliver targeted, high value communications that are in step with the project lifecycle. If you get the right information to the right stakeholders at the right time and stay alert to feedback, you will be surprised at the levels of enthusiasm and ownership you can inspire.


Action 5: Pull Organizational Design out of the ‘Too Difficult’ Draw

Obviously if a Target Operating Model has been discussed and agreed before a project starts, this is hugely beneficial (like an early Xmas present for the project team!) as it informs and guides so many aspects of delivery. But you don’t have to redraw the operational world to make a big impact on the success of an SAP S/4HANA project. Give smaller organizational design issues some air and try to make sure that decisions, such as which business unit owns what function, what services (if any) will be collocated, who will own data or processes and how will they be managed, are made early. Fast, inclusive decisions on organizational design, reduce noise, increase clarity and let delivery and business teams move forward effectively. Certainty has significant value.


This blog and its five actions are based on some of the key themes in NTT DATA Business Solutions’ approach to Organizational Change Management (OCM). Our approach has been developed from our experience of delivery success and the OCM tools and methods that we know work on SAP S/4HANA projects.

We believe that OCM is not a “nice-to-have” but an important discipline that is at the heart of all SAP S/4HANA projects that deliver against their business objectives.

If you are interested in finding out how to make your SAP S/4HANA projects more successful, please get in touch. We would be delighted to tell you more.

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