Top Three Ways To Improve The Design Phase Of Digital Transformation

Raimar Hoeliner

Part 2 in a 3-part series. Read Part 1 and Part 3.

Many companies feel the urgency to make the transition to an intelligent digital core, which can help them stay current with changing requirements for today’s enterprises. This blog series identifies critical success factors for each phase of the journey to an intelligent enterprise, beginning with the planning phase. Here, we offer suggestions for the design phase to help ensure that your solution delivers the value you’ve envisioned.

Jump-starting the design process

Whether you are converting an existing environment or are pursuing a greenfield implementation, you can realize significant value by taking advantage of preconfigured solutions.

For a system conversion, you can leverage preconfigured solutions as a reference environment to get inspired for new functions or industry best practices. A technical conversion should be paired or followed by business-process improvements to add value to your organization. In a greenfield environment, you can get the best and fastest outcome by jump-starting the process with preconfigured solutions that are the closest fit to your business needs.

A preconfigured solution allows you to experience processes in a live system while you’re still in the design phase – which is much more valuable than using whiteboard exercises to understand how a process is going to work and what the user interface is like. Plus, you’ll gain documentation for your business processes so they don’t have to be written, which is a huge accelerator for this phase.

Most companies see the benefit of pursuing an implementation with minimal customizations, which not only minimizes cost and complexity but also simplifies future innovation. The benefits of using a preconfigured solution are speed, standardization, and prioritization. Based on the combination of your business value drivers and your understanding of best-practice solutions, you can decide on the areas that you want to keep standard versus capabilities that you need to gain a competitive advantage.

For example, many companies’ financial processes, such as accounts payables and accounts receivables, are non-differentiating, so you would want to stick with a standard configuration there. However, value drivers like website traffic and number and price of products sold are highly competitive. These are the functional areas where you should further invest and allow for a higher degree of solution tailoring. Again, understanding the value drivers of your organization helps you manage the scope and keeps you on track.

Get a seat at the table

From a people point of view, it’s important to involve subject-matter experts (SMEs) who understand your organization’s business processes. They understand the growth opportunities of your business and can identify what’s really needed to make the implementation successful. This often requires full-time participation from your top-tier SMEs. This will benefit your organization in the long term, so plan to backfill those positions during the design phase.

You also need a governing board of decision-makers. This should include C-level participants who can quickly approve a course of action. Once you’ve prioritized your scope of work, you need to be able to decide which items are in scope and which are not. If you have guiding principles based on value drivers going into this phase, they can really help you undergo the decision process in a much more efficient way.

Controlling complexity

The level of complexity of your design depends on how much tailoring is required. For example, are you converting an existing landscape? Are you going with a greenfield investment strategy? Are you implementing on-premise or in a public or private cloud? As mentioned before, these decisions are made in the planning phase. However, in the design phase, organizations can control complexity by limiting customizations.

Rather than changing the software to match how your organization runs, consider how your business can adapt its processes to best practices. That mindset needs to be driven from the top down with strong sponsors who advocate this on a daily or weekly basis with the team on the ground to help them stay focused and on target. It’s easy to stray from standard processes when getting together with end users and your SMEs. They have a lot of experience with what they’re doing but are also often bound by that experience.

On the other hand, this process may generate fantastic and innovative ideas. The key is to manage these ideas through an approach based on agile principles. Ideas are logged in a backlog, then prioritized based on value drivers and guiding principles. This backlog then serves as an input for current and future deployment iterations to build a digital platform that gradually becomes the foundation of the intelligent enterprise. Think bite-size pieces and quick wins on the road to digitalization. Companies that are agile-ready and want to pursue an agile implementation project plan understand that this work is composed in sprints and the effort is iterative and orchestrated.

The final post in this series offers suggestions on how to make your digital vision a reality through the building and deployment of your digital solution.

Companies that want to make the transition to an intelligent enterprise with the greatest speed, efficiency, and minimized risk can look to the service. Experts from the SAP Digital Business Services organization will lead the planning, design, and build phases of your implementation of or migration to SAP S/4HANA. This state-of-the-art offering includes outcome-focused services, proactive support offerings, intelligent tools and platforms, a global team of experts, and value-added partnerships to bring that vision to reality.


Raimar Hoeliner

About Raimar Hoeliner

Raimar Hoeliner is head of Digital Transformation, Innovation, and SAP Leonardo technologies at the SAP North America Solutioning Center, leading a team of solution architects in supporting customers to conquer their next digital frontier. Raimar is a speaker, author, and leader in topics of digital transformation, cutting-edge technology, and associated SAP engagement models. He has been with SAP for 20 years.