SAP Activate? Oh yeah, that’s just SAP doing Agile. Isn’t it?
...At least, that’s what everyone tells me?!
In reality, it’s a bit more complex than that. I'll take a look at Activate in more detail and break it down into bite sized chunks.
SAP Activate – A very quick overview
Activate is SAP’s S/4HANA implementation toolkit. It builds on and supersedes SAP’s two previous implementation approaches: ASAP (On-Premise) and Launch (Cloud). It employs both Waterfall and Agile elements and is far more prescriptive than either of its ancestors.
Also, unlike the older approaches, Activate is applicable to On-Premise, Cloud and Hybrid implementations. Despite being designed for S/4HANA, it can actually be used for all SAP products.
This article looks at the main elements that underpin SAP Activate and structure your implementation:
- The 3 core components
- The 6 stages
- The 4 quality gates
First though, we’ll address what I think is the most significant change over previous SAP models…
SAP Activate is 'Fit-to-Standard', Not Bespoke
ASAP implementations were fundamentally bespoke. During the Blueprinting stage you’d plan out what you want your SAP system to do, and then you’d build that system. No matter how much customization was required.
I’ve seen so many complicated, cumbersome, and frankly un-upgradable SAP systems. I’m sure you’ve got ever more stories of weird and wonderful implementations. It’s fair to say that before S/4HANA, no 2 SAP systems looked the same.
Activate strives for standardization. Instead of planning a system and building, you map standard functionality to as much of your business as possible, then analyze the gaps. This makes your system much easier to implement and maintain, but you might need to change your business processes to reflect the solution, rather than vice versa.
SAP Activate - The 3 Core Components
Activate consists of 3 core components. These are primarily focused on implementing and extending S/4HANA Cloud, although they also apply to other SAP Solutions.
The components feature in the SAP Activate logo (above) and are as follows:
Core Component 1. SAP Best Practices
The SAP Activate Best Practices include Predefined processes, Test scripts, Process flows, Fact sheets, Configuration guides, and General information to call on throughout your implementation project. You can think of these as a common language and rule book to keep your teams aligned.
Core Component 2. Guided Configuration
A neat front end that lets developers quickly change aspects of the solution configuration. It automatically carries out the more complicated checks and propagation behind the scenes. Check out the video below for a look at the guided configuration in action.
Core Component 3. Methodology
The step by step approach. This is the element which supersedes the earlier methodologies (ASAP and Launch). We will look at these stages in the next section...
Learn about S/4HANA: Get to grips with S/4HANA in 3 easy steps
SAP Activate - The 6 Stages
As you can see in the image above, Activate flows through a number of stages. It wouldn’t be much of a methodology if it didn’t. Activate is a recursive process, in that each of the stages builds on the previous, then loops back on itself with continuous cycles. I like to think of it as meta-Agile. The stages are:
Stage 1 - Discover
This looks at where you are as an organisation, and where you want to get to with your SAP implementation. Discover is not focussed on tech for tech’s sake, more, how you can leverage SAP tech to get a competitive advantage.
Stage 2 - Prepare
This builds on Discover, converting those aspirations into a plan. This stage is where you get your people, hosting, and general IT needs lined up. This is also your chance to carry out training in broader concepts such as Agile or more specific SAP skills.
Stage 3 - Explore
Explore gets into the nuts and bolts of your solution; documenting everything, creating your development environments, identifying gaps (see above), and designing your UX. You will also look at the post-live operation of the solution and make sure you have the team and infrastructure lined up.
Stage 4 - Realize
During realize you plug the gaps between standard and get the system ready to roll out. It ties up the loose ends and irons out any integration, performance, or other issues. If you’ve followed the previous stages, and used the core components, this should be a lot more straightforward than with ASAP projects.
Stage 5 - Deploy
Pre-cutover and cutover. So, lots of testing, proving and any final training needed ahead of the big day (weekend?).
Stage 6 - Run
When I was a younger man, I learned to drive. At the time I was told, you only really learn once you’ve passed your test… You can think about Run in the same way. This is where you have your system in place, but it meets the real world – both internal and external. Essentially BAU ops.
Learn About S/4HANA Migrations: S/4HANA Migration – The 4 Approaches
SAP Activate – the 4 Quality Gates
Activate has a series of quality gates to help you check your progress. These also provide a good ‘external’ voice if you’re having internal challenges about what is required and what state your project should be in.
Unfortunately, and somewhat strangely, there’s not a quality gate following the initial Discover phase. Perhaps this is due to the theoretical nature of Discover, but I think it would have been a useful addition.
Quality Gate 1 - Project Verification
This gate opens when all the stakeholders have agreed on the project scope
Quality Gate 2 - Solution Acceptance
All the stakeholders agree that the in-scope processes meet the project scope and there are no outstanding configuration questions
Quality Gate 3 - Readiness Acceptance
Systems, data, and people are in place and ready to cut over from the legacy system
Quality Gate 4 - Go-Live
Cutover has completed successfully, and business operations are in place to use and support the system
SAP Activate – What is it and Why Would You Use it?
Activate is SAP’s implementation toolkit, not just a methodology. It includes elements of both Agile and Waterfall, and sits somewhere in between.
You get a vast array of elements to help you implement S/4HANA and other SAP solutions. These include 3 core Components, 6 distinct Stages and 4 Quality Gates.
You can use Activate as a common language between disparate teams. It gives you (and your stakeholders) reassurance that you’re on the right implementation path.
SAP Activate is a prescriptive approach that will simplify and streamline your SAP implementation, without reaching the velocity of a true Agile project.
When to use SAP Activate
If you’re looking for a tried and trusted delivery methodology and tools, if you have rigid requirements, if you’re in a more traditional/large scale enterprise, if you’re working with multiple partners, then Activate could be for you.