“Rolling out SAP S/4HANA is not an IT project”

Introducing SAP S/4HANA means making major changes. So how do you establish the acceptance needed for that? Three transformation experts joined tts Managing Director Ulrich Ude at the tts Forum 2023 to discuss their experiences – Dr. Karin Stumpf, Managing Director of Acrasio, Lena Faulhaber, Change Manager at Bosch Rexroth AG, and Pierre Wettermann, Organizational Change Manager at Robert Bosch GmbH.
October 27, 2023
7 min

Ulrich Ude: We’re talking about user adoption and how important learning is for major IT projects such as an SAP S/4HANA roll-out. What are the key focal points? 

Pierre Wettermann: I believe that having a product such as the tts performance suite is becoming even more important right now, because classroom training is pretty much dead and buried. At the moment, I’m not even seeing more web-based training, just videos and step-by-step guides.  

Dr. Karin Stumpf: In our project with tts, we have about 90 percent classroom training and a little bit of web-based training – precisely the kind of mix that you don’t have at Bosch currently. On that basis, I wouldn’t subscribe to your view at all. We have a lot of production staff, and they find click-guides horrendous. 

Lena Faulhaber: On the one hand, you have stakeholder-specific training and, on the other, you have the issue of costs. You can reach and train a lot more people simultaneously using videos and click-guides. That means it’s always a question of weighing up what kind of budget you have and how many colleagues need to be trained in a specific period of time. 

Ulrich Ude: What actually is successful training? How would you define it? 

Dr. Karin Stumpf: That is a big question. For me, the aim of training is not to reach everyone, but rather to put everyone in a position whereby they can operate the new system. This is where we have to ask ourselves whether conventional methods are equally as effective as performance support directly at the workplace.  

Pierre Wettermann: The answer to that also depends on how intuitive and standardized SAP S/4HANA is in the end. We’ve got any amount of scope on that score. And that’s also what sorts the wheat from the chaff, because the less intuitive the solution is to use, the more effort you have to put into learning.  

Lena Faulhaber, Change Manager, Bosch Rexroth AG

An SAP S/4HANA roll-out is a journey that you take together. Communication is extremely important to ensuring all colleagues are on board.

Lena Faulhaber, Change Manager, Bosch Rexroth AG

Ulrich Ude: Your experience has shown you that communication plays a key role in any change project. What does it all come down to? 

Lena Faulhaber: Quickly inviting your colleagues to a classroom training session and showing them how everything is going to change starting tomorrow simply doesn’t work. Change doesn’t happen that quickly. I think it comes down to three things – stakeholder management, communication and training – and all those need to be in place from the very start of an SAP S/4HANA project. Communication is important, particularly with the upper hierarchies – the top management and executive board. That way, we secure their commitment and they promote the project in the organization.  

After that, you need to bring on board the various stakeholder groups at an early stage. An SAP S/4HANA roll-out is a journey that you take together. Communication is extremely important to ensuring you bring colleagues with you and show them, quite transparently, what is going to change, how significant the change is going to be and what can be done in the time remaining. You want to avoid the situation where you’re about to go live and then suddenly realize, “Oops, we need to train our people quickly.” You have to make a start with that early on.  

Dr. Karin Stumpf, Managing Director of Acrasio and a change management expert

If, after 20 years, we’re still talking about IT ‘projects’ and are implementing SAP S/4HANA because the IT department wants it, then we really have a problem.

Dr. Karin Stumpf, Managing Director of Acrasio and a change management expert

Ulrich Ude: But is this strong focus on the needs of staff also accepted by the management?  

Lena Faulhaber: When it comes to large IT projects, this view is shared on the whole.  

Dr. Karin Stumpf: There is one thing that troubles me and that’s the statement that an SAP S/4HANA roll-out is an IT “project”. If, after 20 years, we’re still talking about IT “projects” and are implementing SAP S/4HANA because the IT department wants it, then we really have a problem. 

Also, if it’s our job to explain to the senior executives why we need SAP S/4HANA, then something is going wrong. As consultants, that shouldn’t be our job. Instead, someone at the very top of the organization needs to say “SAP S/4HANA is important because there's a business case for it.” And, if we don’t have a business case, then we don’t need a project, either. 

Pierre Wettermann, Organizational Change Manager, Robert Bosch GmbH

Given the huge tidal wave of information, we really need to check how we can reach people and how they can get through to us. What has been proven to work is honest, authentic communication.

Pierre Wettermann, Organizational Change Manager, Robert Bosch GmbH

Ulrich Ude: The switch to SAP S/4HANA also brings changes for the processes in an organization. What would you say turned out to be a good move in your projects?  

Pierre Wettermann: The tidal wave of information that is crashing down on everyone right now is huge. We really need to check how we can reach people and how they can get through to us. What has been proven to work are brief, relatively ad hoc, free formats that are filled with content – the kind of thing we’re doing here right now. Honest, authentic communication.  

Lena Faulhaber: Timing is important, too. We showed what was changing and started with training early on. We saved a huge amount of time with the 70:20:10 model, i.e. 70 percent learning on the job. Most importantly, we persuaded our colleagues to really get acquainted with things themselves instead of sitting them down in front of an eLearning module at the end and presenting them with a fait accompli. 

We also tried to make the change tangible. For example, we organized a trade fair and used Lego bricks to demonstrate what was changing for each process chain. We then digitalized the trade fair with brief presentations. This was a major success factor, because people then understood the project better. 

Ulrich Ude: When it comes to SAP S/4HANA projects, the key users are really important stakeholders. I would say they have a pivotal function. In other words, if you don’t have their acceptance, the project won’t work either. What has your experience been? 

Dr. Karin Stumpf: For us, the key users are really important for getting the message out there because they have the knowledge and do the work of translating that for others. If we want to achieve a high level of user acceptance among them, we need to approach them directly and get them actively involved. That is the only way the project can be a success. 

Lena Faulhaber: It is also important that the goal of the SAP S/4HANA project is clear, consistent and, most importantly, communicated in a way that can be clearly understood. Are you just converting the old system or do you want to seize new potential and agree on a standard?  

Ulrich Ude: Using a digital adoption platform is worthwhile as a means of offering staff the performance support that they need for the change. Which other approaches have worked well for you? 

Pierre Wettermann: Using videos is a big part of what we do. We have a streaming platform that we fill with webinars and recordings of team meetings. One-pagers and flyers work really well for us, too. 

Lena Faulhaber: At the start, we carried out a change impact analysis at process level. That gave us a rough idea early on of where the big changes would be happening and where there wouldn’t be any changes. This helped us set the right priorities in training and communication. Wherever big changes were taking place, we started communicating at an early stage. Depending on the role or the end user, we also defined a learning journey and personalized the training accordingly.  

Ulrich Ude: For me, the most important three findings from our discussion today are as follows: 

  1. Switching to SAP S/4HANA will only work if the roll-out is seen not as an IT project but as a change project 

  1. Communication with stakeholders should happen at an early stage and be authentic, and training should be planned along the way from the very start, although not every measure and format will work equally well in every organization 

  1. Creativity is still required, as is the courage to try out new things. I find that encouraging. 

Thank you for taking the time to talk to me. 


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