Many Polish companies face the challenge of implementing a standard SAP system while operating under a corporation. Increasingly, they are not only the recipient of the system used in the international headquarters of the corporation, but they are the owner of the template system (regardless of the fact whether they are original Polish companies or the Polish subsidiaries of international corporations).
The implementation of such a project is an organizational and communication challenge both for the parent company and for the local company, particularly if both companies are located in different countries. The parent company is interested in the maximum possible adaptation of the local company to the corporation’s processes, above all due to the requirement of process unification in accordance with the company’s best practices.
The second essential aspect is the optimization of the implementation, and hence its costs. But regardless of how much the parent company would like to see the template as a consistent whole, two types of differences will occur:
- Legal gaps – specific legal regulations, particularly in the financial, sales and human resources areas (e.g. correction invoice in Poland and credit/debit memo in Germany);
- The differences in the local business process (local gaps) – particular companies may have their own business processes that do not appear in the template (e.g. the unique production process in the corporation) or other specific requirements not resulting directly from the legal regulations, but which are critical for the business activity (e.g. a special discount system for the key customer who has a large share in the company’s turnover).
Many people participating in the project believe that each difference will increase the implementation budget. However, this does not have to be the case. However, it does mean the possibility of selecting how it is processed: implementation in the SAP system, leaving in the external system, manual processing outside the IT system, or organizational change that eliminates the given requirement and presentation of the selected method to the employees from the local company. Simply being aware of the difference does not automatically mean that it has to be implemented in the system. Experience shows that such an attitude builds confidence in the new system (“my needs are not ignored”), which essentially makes it more likely for employees from the local company to engage in subsequent project activities.
Prior the Fit & Gap analysis, the parent company should determine which areas of the system will be subject to the analysis. This depends on the business profile of the local company in particular.
We already know that the differences exist, but how can we define them? How can we avoid problems during the implementation that result from not identifying the local needs? The Fit & Gap analysis may be helpful here – a standard element of the SNP Go Forward methodology for rollout projects.
Prior the Fit & Gap analysis, the parent company should determine which areas of the system will be subject to the analysis (implemented in the local company as a target). It mainly depends on the business activity profile of the local company – if it is a dealership, for example, then the logistics processes will be included in the scope of the analysis, and the production processes will be excluded.
The Fit & Gap analysis may be performed by the parent company organization or by the implementation partner. If the partner is responsible for the execution, training courses for the consultants in the area of the existing template may be necessary prior the analysis (particularly if the documentation of the template is not available).
The Fit & Gap analysis is divided into three stages
Stage 1. Preparing a solution template for the training courses. This stage includes gathering the template documentation (business blueprint, manuals, technical documentation) and preparing the training system (e.g. on the test system). The sample data (e.g. materials, customers, vendors) should be obtained from the new company and loaded onto the training system. This should enable the employees of the local company to better identify the discussed processes.
Stage 2. Training the project team members (key users) to work with implemented processes in the template system. The owners of the template business processes present the functionality available in the system to the users from the local company. The implementation consultants should participate in such a training course, and particularly the consultants who are familiar with the local legal regulations.
In particular cases, if there is a problem in the local company when communicating in the project language, this stage may be divided into two sub-stages: Training the implementation consultants to work with template processes executed by the owners of the processes in the project language, and then training the members of the project team from the local company by the implementation consultants in the local language.
Stage 3. Sessions of project teams devoted to determining the differences between the presented processes and local needs. Based on the knowledge gained during the training courses, the employees of the local company indicate the differences between the process modelled in the ERP system and the process currently used in the company. It is necessary to indicate all the perceived differences.
The decision whether the difference will be implemented in the SAP system or an organizational change by the company will be required, or whether the process will remain in its existing form, should not influence the fact of registering the difference. The reported differences should be registered using the project tools applied in the organization (e.g. a list of differences in the SharePoint portal or at least a common Excel sheet available in the network directory). Each difference should be described by means of the following attributes:
- ID of the difference (GAP_ID) – numeric identifier
- Module – specification of the area where the gap was identified (e.g. MM, FI)
- Process that it refers to – specification of the process that this difference refers to (e.g. purchase of the raw material)
- Reporting person – full name of the person reporting the difference
- Business need – business justification for the existence of the given difference
- Type (legal, local) – information on whether the given difference results from the legal regulations
- Priority (high, medium, low) – information on the significance of the difference
- Estimated workload to implement the changes in the system (e.g. number of days of consultant work) – this allows users to compare the significance of the change with the workload for its implementation
Additionally, the tool used for registering the differences should enable the changing of the difference status (e.g. accepted, rejected, under analysis) and tracking of the change history.
“I do not understand the standard”
During the Fit & Gap analysis, it is necessary to consider several factors that may adversely influence its course.
In international projects, one of the challenges is to determine the project communication language (usually it is the English language) and select a project team comprised of people who can use this language effectively. If one of the key people does not communicate in the project language, it is necessary to devote time and budget to translating the project documentation into the local language and again into the project language. Additionally, the presence of the local consultant who knows the language may be necessary to perform the analysis in the given area (in this case, it is best to exchange knowledge about the template with the local consultant at an early stage).
A key factor negatively affecting the success of rollout projects is the fear of the changes that the new system will bring to the company. Holding training courses on the template system, which are elements of the Fit & Gap analysis, is a good practice to overcome these concerns. Additionally, making the system available to the members of the project teams and encouraging them to execute the processes themselves facilitates further communication.
Another factor is the fact that international consultants may find it difficult to understand the local circumstances. “We are already integrated with this bank, so it will surely also work in Poland” – such a sentence is often heard from corporate consultants. They do not consider that the same bank in different countries uses different file formats for integration. Unfortunately, we are often confronted by similar simplifications and erroneous assumptions that are identified only during testing or after going live. The engagement of the local consultant allows the occurrence of this risk to be minimized.
Why do we need a local consultant?
As illustrated by the examples cited earlier, the involvement of the local consultant is one of the key elements of the success of the Fit & Gap analysis (as well as of the entire project). What can and should be expected? Below, we present three major tasks:
- Delivering the list of gaps that occur most often during the implementations in the given country and/or in the given industry (ready material for the discussion with the local company; checklist to ensure that we have not missed something that might be important).
- Verifying the requirements placed by the members of the project team on a current basis (with regards to the legal requirements), and suggesting solutions generally applied in other local companies instead of the corporation’s consultants “reinventing the wheel”.
- Better level of communication with the employees of the local company (elimination of the problems resulting from the language barriers).
We have differences. What’s next?
Each of the differences registered during the analysis should then be examined to identify the reason why it appears:
- Does the current mode of operation result from the legal regulations? If yes, it is likely to take this difference into consideration in the system. In specific cases, it may be decided to implement the given functionality outside the system.
- Does the current mode of operation result from the local organization? If yes, what happens if the process is changed to comply with the corporate one? If the current process is better than the corporate process, two scenarios are possible: Decision on implementing the change in the system, but only for the local company, or decision on changing the template process (it cannot be excluded that the corporation will also learn something from its subsidiaries during the rollout).
The entire Fit & Gap analysis should last from two to three weeks, depending on the complexity of the implementation. Its result should be a list of all registered differences along with information on how to execute them after the implementation. Since implementing these differences may influence the processes that are already operating in other countries, it is necessary to remember to plan tests of these processes prior to going live (known as regression tests) for other countries using this system. But this step belongs to the next stages of the project – stages that will run much more smoothly thanks to the Fit & Gap analysis.