It is common for organizations to have the goal of implementing SAP as-is, out-of-the-box, and vanilla. From a simplistic standpoint, this is a great place to start your project. However, this is not always realistic for organizations to implement SAP pure vanilla. Doing so may require a high tolerance for a generic solution, a large budget for training, acceptance of error correction, expectations of rework, and willingness to make the additional effort to adjust to standard processes to replace their not so standard business processes. Some critical business rules require user training and clearly defined policies that people need to remember to follow. Even with these guidelines in place, users still make mistakes or spend additional time doing it the right way. Any misses or errors can lead to poor data quality, snowballing into more significant road problems. Implementing and using SAP should always be done to use standard everywhere practical. It's also useful to evaluate the return on making SAP easier to use when following the intended processes and policies.
The fit-to-standard approach helps identify where you can use the box, vanilla SAP, which should cover most of your business. After all, companies continue to choose to buy packaged software instead of building it themselves. Companies don't tend to differentiate themselves in the market based on their accounts payable processes.
Implementing vanilla SAP should feel more like buying off the rack clothing rather than going to a tailor. Finding a size and style that fits you is very important. With this scenario in mind, here are a couple of thoughts you can apply in your SAP implementation.
Don’t Fit Yourself for a Custom Suit
The suit is too big for the child in the picture at the top of this blog. What do you do? You could tell the kid to tough it out, and life's just hard. We've all heard someone say, "they'll use it because it's their job, and we pay them!" Alternatively, you could decide that the kid should get his custom suit fit and tailored. We've all heard someone say, "But we're different than everyone else, so we need this custom…" While this would solve the fit problem, purchasing a custom suit would be costly and time-consuming. Not to mention impractical. Will the child appreciate it and use it? And even if they do, the chances are that the child will quickly grow, and styles will change. Pretty soon, the expensive, custom suit won't fit at all, and a new suit will need to be purchased as the costs mount.
Similarly, even though a tailored ERP system can be made to fit your business perfectly, it would be a costly endeavour, especially over time. As your business continues to grow, and new technologies are released, you will likely require significant updates to keep up. Each update will cost you more, and more, and more, for technology testing, training, and onboarding measures for your team.
Staying in Dad’s Suit May Cost More
In most cases, you'll be just fine using the standard vanilla process. However, there are situations where remaining perfectly standard is not necessarily realistic or the most cost-effective over time. Most often, these are situations that are
- Widely used (incredibly infrequently used), and
- Critical functions for your business as a whole when considering downstream departments and processes.
Referring to our suit analogy, as the child continues to run around the house showing off dads' suit, he might trip and fall on the long pant legs. This can lead to a rip, stain, or injury that will need some help. After a while, letting a kid wear a suit that didn't fit right might cost more because of the data process and other errors and additional human effort to accomplish everyday tasks.
Likewise, plain vanilla, out-of-the-box SAP might leave important details like checks and validations to make sure things are done right up to people remembering to follow potentially complex combinations of actions. This means those often-tedious multi-step processes that must be carried out with precision can be missing or incorrectly filled in fields. Imagine hundreds of staff who need to follow complex purchasing policies, completing SAP purchase requisitions using ME51n. The training for the policy and system use needed is non-trivial. Think of the costs of the lack of clarity and the velocity that's lost. This will require more time to go back and correct unless you've made it easy to use and follow (have you seen how we've helped make this easy?).
In SAP, many steps require initial accuracy to ensure that the downstream processes continue to run smoothly. Failing to do so often creates significant rework in other departments and poor customer experience. These added expenses of additional human time to document, train, execute, validate, and correct complex manual steps can add up quickly. This can make using plain vanilla SAP more expensive and inconvenient than it might appear.
Even worse, users may struggle or resist this new way of doing things because it's challenging or time-consuming. The result? Low adoption and a reduction in the realization of the return on investment. SAP is a powerful tool if users are willing to use it.
Roll Up Your Sleeves
Now imagine you are Ted from procurement wearing an off the rack SAP suit that doesn't quite fit right. As you walk in front of a tailor's window, you wonder, "If I could roll up my sleeves and get my pant legs hemmed, could I run faster?" With this question in mind, you decide to open the front door and ask for yourself. Once the tailor approaches, you let him know about your idea, telling him that you want to run faster, but purchasing a custom suit is too expensive. The tailor agrees this is a costly endeavour, and perhaps he can help with your SAP suit's functionality by adding safety pins and a few small stitches to make the suit more usable.
Making these small alterations to off the shelf SAP takes only a short time, can be done in ways intended and are, in fact, customarily encouraged practice. Yes, we said it out loud, SAP is designed to have your sleeves and cuffs altered, so they fit right. Just don't ever try to change the big stuff (this means don't muck with the core!).
Ted now has a very functional suit at a fraction of the cost of a custom one. This makes it a worthwhile investment. When considering your own SAP system, small customizations such as validations to help people get things right the first time, workflows, or installing out-of-the-box add-on applications for larger items can offer low effort and low-cost fixes that make your system more functional. Get the tailored fit without paying for the custom suit or dealing with the upgrade costs long-term. While the apps may not be custom-tailored to your business, they greatly improve your team's work while not adding a major expense to the project. These are "small-c customizations" that are intended. Our view of this sort of customization is that it's done in a way that keeps the core SAP system clean.
Run The Marathon with Small Customizations
We love how much capability is in plain vanilla, and SAP does a lot on its own. Yet if we forget to plan for and execute some essential low cost, upgradable alterations, the suit's wearer could end up with pants too big around the waist, legs too long, and no belt. Good luck running fast in that. Even with a noble effort, running the marathon of business in such an outfit would be inconvenient and slow at best.
To learn more about "small c – customizations" that ConvergentIS can support you with, ask us about how to smooth out, clarify, and speed up widely used critical functions in SAP and realize the adoption you intended. To learn about our SAP applications, which function the same way as standard SAP applications, check out our app catalogue. These apps are installed like any other SAP app, which means no lengthy integrations!