Large-scale project to implement SAP S / 4HANA remotely: lessons we learned

Introductory part

Implementation of the system is not an easy task, and implementation “remotely”, also in another country, even at an enterprise under construction, is even more so!

Over the entire period of the project (it is still underway), we have learned a lot of lessons, because the implementation of the system is a whole story that cannot be told in one article, for this we decided to publish a series of articles at regular intervals.

If you do not understand this, then this article will be useful to you in any case in the future, because the digital world does not stand still, the number of companies transferring employees to remote locations is increasing, and the main question remains – how not to lose this same efficiency? You will also find the answer to this question in our articles!

The customer is one of the first integrated gas chemical complexes in the Eurasian space, which will be engaged in the production of polypropylene.

What is Polypropylene? It is the main material for the production of modern types of plastics, it is used in the food, mechanical engineering, medical industries, it is the basis for the creation of packaging materials and pipes, office equipment and furniture.

The main goal is a deserted production, a digital factory. The first step towards the goal is the implementation of the SAP S / 4HANA system with the maximum use of the standard.

Project scope

Implemented SAP products

  • SAP S / 4HANA

  • SAP Fiori LaunchPad (Digital Window)

  • SAP HCM

  • SAP BPC

  • SAP MII

  • SAP PO

Automated processes

  • Budgeting

  • Finance

  • Supply and Sales

  • Manufacturing and repairs

  • Personnel Management

  • Single digital window

Features of work in remote mode

Key user training

Transfer of knowledge at a distance

How to effectively engage users in training without ever meeting them? A question that has become very relevant for our project. We did not meet with the client’s team, although by the time of training we had learned to recognize each other by their voices. But solving operational issues and presenting status remotely differs from distance learning, all other things being equal. It is necessary to keep the focus of users’ attention throughout the training, in our case, this is from 2 to 4 hours in a row.

In the course of the trainings, we identified several good practices for organizing and conducting distance learning for working in SAP. They can be combined into the following blocks:

Training preparation:

  • For distance learning, we used the MS Teams tool, which is analogous to the sensational ZOOM, but more corporate. This tool allows you to make a video recording of a call, which users will also be able to use in the future to repeat the material covered.

  • We used MS FORMS to answer control questions and collect feedback. A very handy tool that allows users to see their grade at a glance and saves trainers’ time to check. With it, you can create a test, and even upload its results in Excel format, which makes it easy to track statistics and create pivot tables. Plus – there are no restrictions on the number of forms (tests).

  • We formed groups for training in the amount of no more than 10 people. And accordingly we calculated the time of the trainings. In case of an increase in the size of the group, the training time increased.

  • For each training, 1 main trainer and 1 assistant were appointed, who during the training sent the necessary links and names of transactions to the training chat.

  • It is better to check the Internet connection in advance, both on the side of trainers and on the side of users, so that there is no desynchronization of voice and screen broadcast.

Organization of user workspace:

This is also an important point. The more conveniently the user’s workspace is organized, the less he will be distracted by technical issues and, accordingly, the better will he assimilate the information from the training.

  • To make it more convenient for users to look at the trainer’s screen, which demonstrates the work in the system, and at the same time to perform actions in the system, it is advisable for each user to install 2 monitors or 1 large monitor, where you can open two windows in parallel.

  • It is necessary to install all the programs necessary for training on users’ computers in advance, to log in to them for the first time and remember your credentials. We were faced with the fact that some users simply did not have the software installed, and therefore it took a lot of time to install it and to solve this problem. This will significantly save time during the first login training.

Organization of the educational process:

  • It was good practice to turn on a camera at the beginning of the training to greet the participants and explain the purpose of the meeting. So users and trainers began to recognize each other not only by their voices, but also by sight.

  • To save time, users performed steps in the system at the same time as the trainer. In case of problems, the user shared his screen, and the trainer suggested what steps should be taken to solve the user’s problem. It also helps to make the training more interactive. During the training, each user can share their screen and show their progress.

  • It is more convenient for users if the trainer does not just show on his screen, but sends to the meeting chat the name of the transaction being studied and the data for the exercise (for example, the name of the materials or the contract number for each user).

  • Since we had an adult audience in training, it was possible to effectively hold attention for about 1 – 1.5 hours. Then it was required to take a break for 10-15 minutes. This should be taken into account when scheduling training times. The maximum duration of training during the day for one group of students without losing the quality of training is 4 hours.

  • There should be a clear management of the training time. It is necessary to start and finish the training on time, because besides the training, the operational work is planned for the users. If they did not meet the allotted time, then it is necessary to clarify with the users whether they can be delayed, and if not, then appoint additional time on another day to complete the training. So we will avoid the heat of passion.

  • It is very useful at the beginning of the training to outline the goals of the training, and at the end – to make a summary of what you went through. If the training is divided into two days, then the second day begins with a summary of the first day. So that against the background of operational work, pleasant memories of yesterday’s training return to users and a pleasant awareness of how much has already been completed.

Life hacks, or our lessons learned:

  • Despite the efforts of the coaches and the interactivity of the trainings, we also had lagging students. But we wanted to help them, so we organized additional sessions for small groups. In such sessions, users take turns showing the screen and performing the necessary steps in the system on their own, relying on user instructions and hints from the trainer.

  • In practice, we have made sure that it is not worth combining employees from different departments, where strong leaders are present, into one group. Each of the leaders will “pull the blanket over themselves”, which will lead to a protraction of the training and a decrease in its effectiveness. In this case, it is better to conduct trainings separately for each department.

Summarizing the above, we can say that the transfer of knowledge at a distance is not a myth, but a reality. And it is in our power to make this reality better. You just need to take into account some of the nuances of remote interaction, carefully plan trainings and be patient.

System functional testing

How to test the functionality of the system remotely at an enterprise that is still under construction?

To answer this question, let’s figure out what the goal was, and what types of testing we used on the project.

The plan for conducting tests of the functionality of the system was built on the basis of the schedule for launching functional areas into productive operation, the readiness of settings and developments. As in the planning of activities for the entire project, the waterfall approach was used for the testing activities.

The purpose of testing the functionality of the system is to check its compliance with previously agreed business processes and requirements. For this purpose, within the framework of the project, three types of testing were used, we can say “from simple to complex”:

  • Functional is the local testing of the system’s capabilities. With such testing, the system is checked within the framework of the objects of the functional direction;

  • Integration – allows you to check how correctly the functionality works when interacting with adjacent functional areas;

  • Acceptance – testing of functionality by the Customer, which is allowed to make sure that the system meets the stated requirements directly to the applicant of this functionality.

  1. Organization of the testing process:

    SAP Solution Manager was used as an accounting system for recording the results of passing the steps of test scenarios and identified comments. SAP Solution Manager preconfigurations assumed the existence of an agreed testing concept with a description of the necessary reference books and criteria for testing completion, a list of business processes, scenarios with steps of the necessary detail.

    The remote format of testing using video broadcast of the process was assumed as the main one. MS Teams was chosen as a tool for organizing video conferences.

    For the tests, separate landscapes of the system were used with prepared data obtained during the migration cycles.

  2. Integration:

    After completing functional tests, scenarios for carrying out Integration tests were formed on the basis of the target diagram of business processes. The terms of readiness of settings and development of related functional modules were taken into account. The sequence of scenarios was built in such a way that their execution would be an interdependent chain of events in the system. This testing approach allowed us to test the joint operation of functional modules across the entire hierarchy of business processes.

  3. Acceptance:

    Acceptance testing is one of the crucial activities preceding the productive start of the system. Testing was carried out directly by the Customer’s employees according to pre-agreed scenarios and taking into account the job responsibilities that were taken into account when assigning roles and powers. Upon acceptance, the system must meet the stated requirements, and the positive results of such testing are the main factor in making the Customer a positive decision about the start of the productive operation of the system.

    Of course, there are certain nuances in conducting testing remotely, you cannot sit side by side, shoulder to shoulder, and jointly consultants and business conduct operations in the system. Eye contact and psychological support are very important at this crucial moment. Therefore, we have learned to withstand as much as possible these invisible lines of business support through the channels available today, primarily MS Teams, in which, without exaggeration, we all “live” on the project.

Early start concept:

Is it realistic to implement the system so that some of its parts are launched earlier, and some later? Yes!

During the project, it was decided to split the start of the project into 3 starts – Early (Corporate functions), intermediate (Planning and Budgeting) and Basic (Production, Repairs, Digital Window). The concept of an early start implies the start of individual parts earlier than the start of the entire system as a whole. This concept greatly facilitates migration, integration, simplifies the gluing of HR and Accounting reports at the beginning of the fiscal year, allows you to focus on the tasks of the Corporate functions before they are stabilized, and then on Production and Repairs.

The project used the classic Waterfall approach, which implies mobilization, analysis and design, implementation, testing, post-launch support.

For a separate direction “Digital Window” the Scrum methodology was applied.

Hybrid Agile will be used to manage the development of the system after an early start.

In this part we looked at the bulk of the project, the learning and testing processes, and the concept of an early start, wait for the next part, it will be interesting!

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