Learnings from the Field – Extending Business Value Assessments with Usage Scenarios

By Jim O'Farrell on October 25, 2011

As we have been evolving our Business Value Assessment (BVA) program, we are now in the process of extending the insights gained from the BVA to business-use case scenarios. How can clients know what potential opportunities exist within their entire organizations, where they have hundreds, thousands or even tens of thousands ERP system users conducting an even greater number of transactions on a monthly basis? To gain an understanding of possible business usage scenarios requires “getting under the covers” of those MM01s, VA02s and tens of thousands of other SAP transactions.

As we have conducted a series of value assessments for a broad range of clients, a few interesting observations have emerged.

1. Overall awareness of types and volumes of business processes transacted

Almost without fail, value assessment sponsors are generally aware of where the majority of activity within their SAP environment is taking place, especially in terms of modules (e.g., FICO, Sales Distribution, etc.). However, the value assessment’s exposure of users and transaction levels at a more granular level is an awareness-raising event for most SAP administrators and business management. Often times, exposure of certain pockets of transaction usage is both surprising and enlightening. Additionally, usage volumes, frequency, and assortment are higher than generally expected. The transaction usage assessment also sheds light on the amount of churn, exemplified by large volumes of lookup transactions such as VA03 (Display Sales Order) or ME23N (Display Purchase Order).

2. Enormous amount of unnecessary rekeying and faxing of information (“process churn”)

Despite the availability of technology to streamline transaction processing of all types, many organizations still rely on faxed orders, telephone interchange for transaction detail confirmation and enormous manual rekeying of transaction information. Even more interesting is the use of electronic forms and spreadsheets to capture the initial transaction detail, only to have these forms faxed or emailed to the transaction entry specialist to rekey the information into the system.

3. Centralized process interactions vs. distributed process innovation

Shared Service Centers and other organizational strategies have been implemented over the last 15-20 years as a mechanism to deal with optimizing the management of ERP data entry, lookup, change and maintenance. Despite the advantages of centralizing processing, separation from process origination often introduces issues related to transaction churn, data accuracy and system performance.

Now, some organizations are applying technology to decentralize transaction processing right to the person most directly involved in the process (i.e., think a salesman processing an order for his customer, a production analyst entering purchase requisition for production goods, or an employee updating her 401K benefits elections with her iPhone, iPad or Android device). These companies are using externalized workflow solutions that interact with SAP in a manner that still respects SAP governance framework, while providing a cleaner way to get the right data at the right time and reduce data entry issues. Of course, the challenge here is being able to build these kinds of solutions with limited IT resource availability. The following figure illustrates the conceptual model for a decentralized approach to SAP business process innovation.

Figure 1 Conceptual Model for SAP Process Simplification

4. Practical approaches to time-sensitive yet critical updates (e.g., inventory allocations)

“War rooms” and task forces often have to be setup to “throw people” at data management problems. For example, let’s say you are manufacturing goods and not enough have been produced for a given set of orders. Delivery expectations force you to assemble a team to update the order quantities as quickly as possible. Advanced production planning APO technology is usually too formidable to use for this classic task, while using tools such as LSMW or eCATT requires too much time to create and test while not providing sufficient flexibility to address changing business requirements.

So, if solutions are available to decentralize processing, then why hasn’t this approach been more widely adopted? For one, I think, a typical IT team is saddled with a big charter to provide high-performing and reliable systems to support the corporate systems environment. IT is so backed up with system upgrades, major system implementations and infrastructure management that little resources are available for process improvement.

Plus, the business side of the house is often almost lulled into a state of confidence that systems are running adequately. Thus, organizations tend to address issues by putting more employees in roles of mundane data entry and managing transaction churn, while assuming that all is well as long as the issues are being dealt with. In other words, until someone raises his or her hand and asks, “Is there a better way?” everyone typically assumes that the system is optimally tuned.

A better way is emerging. Technologies such as Microsoft SharePoint, InfoPath Forms, Web services and easy-to-use workflow authoring tools create an opportunity to place SAP and Oracle process improvement in the hands of the business domain experts. With Winshuttle BVA data in hand, targeting high-volume and process-driven users and management, companies can gain a deeper understanding of the current transaction processing scenarios and effectively implement ERP usability platform authoring tools for forms, workflow and data processing, thus improving productivity and bottom line profitability.

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