Life after implementation


Lachelle van der Merwe, Nedbank

Following a massive SAP-based transformation at South Africa’s Nedbank, Lachelle van der Merwe shares her experience of the challenges that are inevitable post-implementation… and how they overcame them. Freya Purnell reports.

In 2015, South African bank Nedbank undertook a major transformation to bring its entire organisation onto SAP ERP. With a finance stream and human capital management (HCM) stream running in parallel, the program involved reposting 14 million daily transactions through 60,000 rules to ECC7, Real Estate, Project Systems, Asset Accounting, Accounts Payable, HCM, BW, BPC, and cloud solutions SuccessFactors and Ariba.

By any measure, it is an enormous undertaking simply getting such a system in place. But as Nedbank’s finance operations head, Lachelle van der Merwe, will explain to the Mastering SAP audience later this month, achieving stability and ‘business as usual’ post-implementation was even harder – and it’s an area she believes is downplayed.

From the outset, she says, Nedbank set itself up for success, with core business involvement throughout the entire implementation.

“This wasn’t  SAP consultants coming in and developing a solution with minimal business involvement. In many respects we were trying to make sure that the business learnt as we moved along the implementation lifecycle,” she says.

Nedbank looked to world best practice to inform how they should structure their shared services operations around the ERP and a change management team was engaged to manage the change within the business – crucial given the organisation was also undergoing a major structural transformation as the system was being implemented.

Even with this considered approach to the project, however, van der Merwe says they still didn’t fully appreciate what life after go-live would bring.

“I physically did the FI implementation, and I knew I would be taking over the implemented product, but my focus was on getting the thing working, it wasn’t on once it was working, how we were going to use it,” van der Merwe says.

“At Go Live, we had existing staff, using a new system, reporting to new management in a new structure. Even with change management this was a lot to absorb. Business process on the new system was not well documented so staff did not fully understand their role, it was utter chaos. “

Training also focused on SAP functionality, but not necessarily how Nedbank had implemented that functionality within its own business.

“Our implementation was a classic example of the system working but process and people not aligned, and I would say at least for the first six months, we really struggled,” van der Merwe says.

“Up-skilling is a long journey. If you’re going to conquer this, you need people with the right skills on the ground day one. I think we overlooked that in our implementation.”

Post go-live, the company ended up pulling in some business experts with SAP knowledge to help to work through the teething pains of clearing backlogs and getting people up to speed. BAU was evident after about 18 months.

For those interested in undertaking a hybrid implementation of cloud and on-premise solutions:

“What we have found is that the products on their own work perfectly but integration to core SAP has its challenges. One of our biggest frustrations is seamlessly moving data to and from cloud,” van der Merwe says.

In her Mastering SAP presentation, van der Merwe hopes to give insights into some of the challenges around implementing a large solution and how they overcame them.

“I feel that in the way the project was set up, Nedbank had every component that was required for a successful implementation, yet we still struggled. So I’m going to share the experience and what we did to get to a point where things were at least stable enough to start looking to enhance.”

Lachelle van der Merwe will be sharing her lessons learnt in two sessions on Nedbank’s implementation experience at the Mastering SAP Conference to be held in Melbourne from 21-23 May. For more information and to register, visit Inside SAP is delighted to offer a Special Super Saver Offer (save $700 on the standard rate) – simply use code InsideSAP when registering for Financials, HR & Payroll or Technologies.

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