How An African Safari’s “Big Five” Can Inform Digitalization Road Maps (Part 1)

Bastian Naul, Stefan Henkel and Schikeb Ezami

Part of the “Digital Finance Transformation” series that provides a framework for CFOs to move forward confidently on the journey toward digital transformation

On an African safari, the ultimate goal is to see the “Big Five:” lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo. Seeing four of the five is still quite impressive, but seeing three or fewer might leave you feeling disappointed.

We would extend this concept as a metaphor for digitalization road maps. Over the course of many projects, we have observed that the following five steps will define success (missing one of the Big Five will fall short of some expectations, limit memorable digital exploration, and result in an incomplete project):

Here are the "big five" steps to a successful digital transformation strategy.

Prepare. Align customer expectations, timelines, and requirements procedures. An aligned and agreed-upon understanding of important aspects is key. These include, for example, the company’s strategic approach; organizational, functional, and technical requirements; a suitable project methodology; and an appropriate derived timeline. They all are interlinked and build the foundation for the next steps.

Introduce best practices. The next step is to introduce best practices. Why start with best practices instead of collecting customer-specific requirements? Because starting the journey to a digitalization road map without knowing the status quo regarding possibilities, options, and restrictions will limit the ability to break up established and outdated structures and mindsets – and that’s what will lead to real innovation. It’s like setting up a wish list for vacation on a best guess without knowing what the destination is famous for.

Explore: Identify gaps and deltas (your own vs. best practices). Being aware of best practices is a prerequisite to identify gaps in the customer’s infrastructure, processes, customization, and/or master data. The idea of best practices is to come back to standards as much as possible by cutting out all unnecessary steps. Start understanding best practices from the high level on infrastructures, going deeper into processes, customizing, and master data to identify gaps between current and to-be solutions. All identified gaps are gathered and summarized in a customer repository, which serves as the basis for the project implementation as well as for tracking.

Implement: Realize, deploy, test. The exploration ends with a well-defined and logically structured summarization of customer requirements shown within the requirements repository. This is often called a traceability matrix. It’s a document that correlates any two baseline documents that require a many-to-many relationship to check the completeness of the relationships. Also, it’s used to ensure transparency, and to track and check the status to ensure that project requirements are fully met within the deployment and test phase.

Challenge the status quo: Continuously compare and improve. To ensure the success of the customer’s transformation journey, continuous comparison against the status quo is essential. This allows changes in the environment and appropriate actions to be identified. Typically, changes that must be considered are mainly related to legal requirements and new releases of systems and tools. While creating the road map, future digital trends need to be included and compared to the overall innovation strategy.

The digital world is always developing, requiring ongoing questioning of the status quo and continuous improvement. Happy journey!

In the second part of our African safari blogs, we’ll explore in more detail the five steps required for digital transformation.

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Bastian Naul

About Bastian Naul

Bastian Naul is a principal business transformation consultant in the business unit CFO Advisory within SAP, with technical and functional knowledge in the areas of finance, controlling, and SAP S/4HANA. He has worked on various projects within national and international companies to facilitate the implementation of digital transformation strategies in finance.

Stefan Henkel

About Stefan Henkel

Stefan Henkel is a senior business transformation consultant in the business unit CFO Advisory within SAP, with a focus on SAP S/4HANA Finance. In recent years, Stefan has actively driven international customers’ digital transformation projects from different industries and within different roles

Schikeb Ezami

About Schikeb Ezami

Schikeb Ezami has several years of experience in implementing SAP transformation projects in various industries. As senior business consultant, he is part of CFO Advisory within SAP. He supports clients in planning digital transformation and moving to SAP S/4HANA.