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Safeguarding S/4HANA: 3 steps for a high-quality SAP implementation

Safeguarding S/4HANA: 3 steps for a high-quality SAP implementation

Dean Hanson

We all start every project with the best of intentions. All too often though, we get bogged down in the detail, focused on one aspect or another. We take our eye off certain areas.

On software projects, quality can be one of those forgotten areas, until it comes back to bite you.  

This article looks at why you need to maintain a quality mindset throughout your S/4HANA project, and gives you 3 easy steps to follow for a high-quality SAP implementation.

What Do We Mean by Quality?

This might be obvious, but it’s worth stating - Quality software meets its requirements, both functional and non-functional.

Essentially, a high-quality S/4HANA solution does what it needs to do.

There’s Is So Much to Think About on S/4HANA Projects

You have a lot to think about when you’re starting your SAP S/4 HANA journey...  

You've got your underlying business requirements and the technology stack, as well as interfaces to all your legacy systems. You also need to take care of the people in your team, plan and manage your project phases, organize implementation workstreams, build environments and design processes that will make your business more efficient.  

With all of this going on, it can be easy to deprioritize software quality, at least early on - after all, you can just document and test everything at the end then train everyone in production, can’t you?

Quality Can’t Be Bolted On at The End

There might not be much to test at the start of your project, but an early and consistent focus on quality deliverables will reap huge rewards in later stages. As they say, a stitch in time saves nine.

Quality isn’t a tick box exercise; you can’t just mark it as done. For a high-quality SAP project, you need to develop a high-quality mindset across your whole implementation, and this is where the real challenge lies.

All Projects Are Siloed at Some Level

No matter how integrated we try to make them, projects will always end up siloed to some degree; the business analysts mapping out business processes, the functional team writing specifications, the testing team documenting test cases and the training department designing training scenarios.

When the business changes a process, even a small failure of communication will result in out-of-date functional specs, defunct test cases and obsolete training material.  Needless to say, your solution will be very low-quality – It won’t do what it needs to.

3 Steps to Prepare for a High-Quality SAP Project

With so many moving parts, how do you maintain quality throughout your project lifecycle?

To start with, you need communication and alignment. These are key to avoid time-consuming rework and hitting go-live on time. Tools such as Qualibrate are vital for consistent quality, but once you’ve chosen the right tool you need to start developing that quality mindset.

Below, I'll cover 3 simple steps that every project can take to prepare for a High-Quality S/4HANA implementation.

Step 1 - Involve Testing Early – Build Quality in

Test teams are the gatekeepers of quality - they need to know that they're running the right tests. Sure, your business users should help define the test scope, but there's no substitute for first-hand knowledge.

While the test manager might not be able to help the system specifications and design, they will validate that your solution is testable, and that the specification conforms to the requirements. More importantly, they will build up an understanding and personal investment in the functionality, they'll know what your system should do and how it should do it. This will reap rewards throughout your project

Step 2 – Keep information up-to-date and and easy to access

People get busy quickly, documents get updated frequently, and solutions change dramatically. This is SAP project life, it will always be like this.  

No plan survives contact with the enemy; even the most well thought out implementation will change throughout your project. The problem is though, it's hard to keep everyone up to date. Even the slightest gap in understanding could have a hugely detrimental effect on your quality.

Streamline your software

The best way to keep information up-to-date is to streamline your project software – the more tools you use, the more chance of changes slipping through the net.  

Let’s look at the typical lifecycle of one of just a single business process. We’ll use ‘Sales Order Processing for EMEA’ as an example:

As you can see, lots of different teams, each using a different tool to describe the same business processes in slightly different ways.

One careless change to say, the business process at step 2, and all of a sudden you build, test and train against the wrong process! Yikes.

Use Modern Centralized Tools

Modern tools like Qualibrate centralize information, and keep it up-to-date across your entire SAP lifecycle. Instead of having multiple different steps, multiple project members, and multiple tools - you just create your functional documentation and then run it as a manual test, automated test and training scenario.  

With this single source of truth, when your EMEA Sales Order Process changes, you just update it once and everyone is back on the right track. Phew.

Step 3 - Add performance testing to your plan

But HANA is fast, and it's all in the cloud? Sure, but it's still an extraordinarily complex and unique solution, with myriad integrations and configurations. There are a lot of moving parts that come together in an S/4HANA implementation. Not only is your system complex, but it’s very possible that users will be accessing through a variety of front-end solutions, whether GUI or Fiori, laptops, or mobile devices.  

In my experience, when it comes to performance testing there are 2 distinct types of SAP project:

  1. Projects that know they need performance testing
  1. Projects that discover they need performance testing

Performance testing is not optional. The only option is whether you plan it into your schedule. If you don’t make time for it, there will come a time when you finally realize that it’s essential. You’ll try to squeeze it in, probably before functional testing has finished, with an unstable solution, and unleash a cascade of issues.

Just plan in a few weeks of performance testing, it’s leaner and faster than it used to be.

Prepare For Your High-Quality S/4HANA Implementation

While your tools and approach are critical, there’s more to quality. The 3 steps above will help build quality into every SAP project.

Looking for inspiration? Check out our customer success stories to see how we’ve helped build high-quality SAP implementations or watch a demo.

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