Just as a houses’ plumbing is integral to an inhabitable home, SAP is crucial to almost all organisations.
94% of the world’s 500 largest companies use SAP. 77% of global transactions interact with an SAP system. It has become part and parcel of basic business functioning.
But - just like the plumbing in our homes - we expect everything to run smoothly, rarely deliberating whether the system could be changed or improved, and only really consider it when something goes wrong. The ‘critical’ in critical systems tends to invoke fear of touching it. It’s high time we stopped viewing SAP as something to continue running in the background and start using the vital system to its full potential.
Why SAP requires proactive management
Embracing change is essential for organisations targeting growth, maintaining, or improving agility, and effectively managing risk. An organisation’s transformation may have accelerated in various areas, such as data storage or supply chains, but organisations must consider whether their transformation journeys could be even more effective if SAP is firing on all cylinders.
The crux of the problem with viewing SAP like plumbing - as ‘taken for granted’ rather than an infrastructure to be continually improved - is that the business will never be running at full speed, or as well as it could be. Once optimised, SAP is a powerful growth enabler, yet businesses are often unaware of the benefits optimisation holds. Instead, they settle for the status quo, and their business suffers as a result.
Realigning to consider SAP as a ‘work in progress’ and a system to be consistently and incrementally optimised can garner significant benefits. Effective management can boost an organisation’s efficiency, find growth opportunities within change, and manage IT systems in a more effective, streamlined way. Second, failure to optimise SAP maintains inefficiencies, minimises future growth opportunities, and increases the likelihood of downtime, costing valuable resources.
How to reinstate SAP as a growth enabler
Attitudes toward legacy technology
Addressing attitudes around SAP should be the first consideration. Has your organisation’s appetite to improve SAP stagnated? You’re not alone, but the earlier attitudes change, the sooner growth opportunities can be unlocked.
A lack of proactive SAP change management usually boils down to two perceptions: it’s resource intensive, and potentially risky.
Addressing resources means investing time and money into optimising SAP which of course incurs costs over the short term. But organisations are setting themselves up for significant cost savings and opportunities to increase profits over the long term, which would be inaccessible without the initial investment.
It’s the same with risk. Yes, SAP is a complex system and can induce increased risk when handled improperly. Yet, failure to optimise these systems heightens the risk of operational downtime and inefficiencies that can have a far-reaching negative impact on business growth.
Changing attitudes towards SAP starts with the C-Suite and senior IT decision-makers. Often, these stakeholders do not have oversight of SAP systems or time to gain it, and are therefore unable to accurately consider the role of SAP within their business.
To change this, IT teams must find ways of accurately and succinctly detailing SAP challenges to managers and the C-suite, who can better understand inefficiencies and enable resources for optimisations, ultimately managing change more diligently. Increasing the visibility of SAP challenges and solutions is a critical first step toward implementing effective change.
There is also the ‘magpie effect’ to consider; businesses rush to implement shiny new emerging technology without investigating what truly matters. While deploying emerging technology can provide advantages, integral systems cannot fall by the wayside as a result.
The right people with the right tools
An organisation understands it is only as good as the skilled workforce and the tools it possesses. Part of the realignment toward proactively managing SAP, and reaping the rewards therein, comes from appropriate training, upskilling, and investment into the right
tools for the job. IT departments should receive comprehensive training in effectively managing SAP systems.
Beyond this, a host of available and emerging tools can make management far easier, more accurate, and effective. Appropriate tool investment is essential in order to make changes as risk-free and with as little downtime as possible.
SAP now and in the future
Optimising SAP is an ongoing task. It is not enough to update systems and forget about them immediately afterwards. SAP optimisation harnesses too many organisational benefits to become a tick-box exercise.
To get the most out of these systems, relevant teams must view SAP as a key factor when considering changes big or small. Equally, they must stay abreast of updates or changes coming from the vendor, such as the 2027 deadline to migrate to S/4HANA.
In doing so, organisations set themselves up for future success, ensuring that the plumbing that underpins their infrastructure is improving the efficiency of all operational touchpoints.
Managed correctly, SAP can be the engine driving growth across the whole of an organisation’s operations. While it may be likened to a home’s plumbing, you can do a whole lot more with SAP than simply turn on the taps. In today's competitive landscape, the advantages of a high performance SAP system cannot be ignored.