Expect a New Approach to ERP Implementation

The remote approach to ERP implementation may be more effective and well-suited to what today’s companies want—and need—in their digital transformations.


Historically, SAP ERP implementations have taken shape in a certain way. A team of consultants from a systems integrator will move on-site, spending months and months — if not years — migrating data, training users and preparing for the go-live of a new overhauled system.

Things began shifting toward cloud delivery in recent years, but it wasn’t until COVID-19 that they changed irrevocably.

Overnight, nearly all projects became remote ones, as in-person meetings turned into Zoom calls and hands-on training sessions turned into virtual walkthroughs. But ultimately, as we saw in our work at SAP Services, just about all of our projects stayed running, full speed ahead.

How did clients adjust to this fully remote world? Well, from what they’ve told to me, they really liked it.

Pivoting to the Cloud

As it turns out, the remote approach to implementation may just be more effective and well-suited to what today’s companies want — and need — in their digital transformations. By pairing this approach with a modern cloud delivery model, businesses can reimagine the entire transformation process, reorienting old objectives and reaping new benefits that wouldn’t have otherwise been attainable.

Think about it: In the cloud, businesses can take on remote and episodic technological improvements as needed, rather than bringing consultants on site for months or years on end. In other words, they can upend the typical calendar-based approach to implementation and embrace a work-based one instead. Our SAP partners can then serve clients in the way that best serves them, saving them time and money along the way.

This approach can also enable:

  • More purposeful and planned-out interactions and engagements
  • Better access to executives and key project leaders
  • Improved project fluidity and design innovation
  • Reduced costs in travel, workspace rental and miscellaneous expenses

By refocusing on the individual elements of a company’s digital transformation in the cloud delivery model, the entire project becomes laced with greater purpose and intent. And each and every action becomes not only more important, but more impactful.

The Best Practices Battle

One point of tension in the way things are now is that between the way customers like their systems to work and the things they need their systems to do.

As a result, at SAP, we’re increasingly turning our focus toward the development of preconfigured software solutions that lean into industry best practices, in order to help companies cover 80 percent of what they need to do. Automating this part of the process allows for the removal of even more time, labor and complexity in the implementation process. And it helps businesses avoid scope creep, over-personalization and overpaying.

Even better, it frees them up to focus on the 10-20 percent of technology and software capabilities that can differentiate them from other companies.

Look at Chipotle. You’d think their business would take a hit from closing restaurants during early lockdowns — but, in fact, they did the opposite. Chipotle worked with SAP to launch a new mobile platform, improving online deliveries and creating a loyalty program for devoted customers. As a result, both their stock and online sales rose by more than 70 percent in 2020.

I wanted to share an anecdote from my colleague Mark Lancaster, project and program manager for SAP Services, “Aside from the obvious benefits of remote working – reduced travel and increased time with my family – shifting to virtual client meetings have been the catalyst for shorter agendas, crisper presentations, more inclusive conversations and broader exposure to key client stakeholders and internal experts.”

He also shared, “Virtual collaboration tools like Zoom and Teams have also leveled the playing field across clients. I now have the opportunity to ‘see’ and hear from individuals at different levels, not just the leadership team, which has ultimately increased my understanding of my client’s experience and goals at all levels of the organization.”

A Newer Normal

For well over a year now, people have been talking about the desire for things to go back to “normal,” the way they were before last March. But, maybe, just this once, we shouldn’t want things to go back to the way they were before.

Maybe, when it comes to ERP implementations, we’re better off the way things are now.


As head of Services for SAP North America, Michael Mahoney oversees the sales and delivery of all consulting and premium engagement services across SAP’s solution portfolio with a focus on driving innovative business outcomes for its customers. Through a balance of strategy and execution, and with a team composed of strategic experts, project managers, software technologists, and process and industry specialists, Michael’s mission is to enable customers to realize the power of SAP’s suite of products by delivering transformative and outcome-oriented services.