If business leaders have learned one thing over the past few years, it’s this: There’s no longer any denying the importance of digital transformation. The global impact of COVID-19 has shown companies that the flexibility and agility inherent in fully transformed technology is no longer optional — or something you can put off — but absolutely necessary to survive and compete in our new world economy.
That doesn’t mean digital transformation is easy, though. Building a true Intelligent Enterprise takes focused change management efforts, widespread buy-in and commitment, and dedicated investment (of time and money). Many business leaders fear the impact of an implementation project on the business, due to its perceived speed, cost or end-of-project effectiveness. But don’t be afraid: it is possible to bring projects in on time and on budget — and to make them a success.
At SAP, we’ve seen thousands of successful transformation projects over the years. In my role specifically, I’ve seen customers in the Midmarket repeatedly embrace digital technology to leapfrog larger competitors — using the agility, speed and efficiency of a fit-to-standard approach. Look at Packable, a former brick-and-mortar pharmacy business that’s used its transformation to become a leading digital e-commerce company and the top U.S. third-party seller on Amazon. Their implementation happened in just 100 days.
So, it is possible. But how can you ensure you have an effective and efficient journey? Here are a few key things to keep in mind.
Paint the Picture
This may sound simple, but it’s true: Internal business alignment — encompassing the proper executive and line of business sponsorships for the project — is the most important ingredient of any successful technology implementation. Time and again, as Deloitte shows, fruitful projects actively realign the entire organization to a singular vision. It’s all about getting buy-in at every level, of capturing the hearts and minds of the folks on the ground. In essence, every single person involved in the project must be able to answer a simple question: Why are we doing this?
Weigh Your Options Wisely
Once you can answer that question, you can turn to the next one: What partner will we choose to help with this project?
Every technology consultant and systems integrator is going to want to win your business. But — as best as you can — it’s important to think about more than just who will offer you the fastest, most affordable option. You have to think about which is truly the best option — and you really have to think through the many layers of the word “best.” Do they have references and experience in your specific industry? Do they truly understand your business conditions, operations and constraints? Too often, what you’re sold is far less than what you actually need, leaving transformation hopes extremely vulnerable to being dashed. And by the end, to get where you need to go, you might wind up with as much cost in change orders as there were in the original scope itself.
Trust the Tech
Is there anything more frightening than the thought of a long, unsuccessful transformation? Of replacing an old dysfunctional system with a new dysfunctional system?
It’s essential for companies to adopt a ‘fit-to-standard’ mindset when transforming if they want to be successful, one focused on industry-specific and pre-configured best practices. This will help you save capital so you can enhance or modify your core business processes where it’s absolutely necessary (or where it will provide critical competitive advantages). Too often, businesses pursue unnecessary customizations during an implementation project that only serve to increase time, cost, risk and complexity of the integration — as well as its long-term sustainability.
Put simply, unsuccessful change is unembraced change. So, don’t try to recreate the same, often inefficient, processes in new software. Use the IP in the new software.
A Vision for the Future
No transformation project should be embarked upon without a clear vision of what things will look like when it’s over. Key business and transformation leaders should be able to describe to each and every member of the company how they will benefit down the line. It’s not just about winning people over with logic. It’s about earning a special level of emotional engagement, a level of engagement that is driven by purpose — and toward passion.
For the past 50 years, SAP’s been working with companies of all sizes across every industry to help them run their best. To steal an old marketing slogan, we know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two.
It is possible. You just have to know what you want to accomplish, set proper expectations, get everyone on board and really lean into the change. That’s how you turn all those horror stories into a fairytale.