At Avantra, we always comment that the customers who need us most are too busy to meet with us. It is so common that SAP operations professionals turn up to meetings late, reschedule at short notice, or are not really present - instead, working on their laptop to solve problems. What is curious is that this is normalized, and has been going on for decades without change. How can this be? Let’s dive into this.
A generation of outsourcing
The megatrend of the last 20 years has been outsourcing, and SAP Centers of Excellence have been at the forefront of this wave. The principal of outsourcing is simple: contract the work done by your staff to a supplier who is an expert in supplying these services, and who also has employees in a lower cost base location.
There is just one simple problem with this model: the large outsourcers ended up with business models where leadership, promotions and standing within the organization are predicated by the number of employees within the span of control.
This readily leads to a business model which favors hiring large amounts of junior consultants and focusing on billable hours, rather than looking for technology solutions.
The suffering is acute, not critical
Organizations will always focus energy on critical problems - a problem with free cash flow, stagnant revenue growth, or maybe the inability to invoice customers. When problems are critical, an organization will do whatever it takes to resolve the problem.
The issue with SAP systems is that critical problems - like in humans - are usually subject to an intervention. An organization will spend money to fix the finance system, improve customer experience, or implement an employee engagement system. These sorts of problems get either capital or emergency funding, and then the world moves on.
But the problems that plague SAP operations are not acute most of the time - organizations that have mediocre SAP operations suffer from poor system response times, slower than normal projects and stressed out teams.
When critical SAP system issues arise
These problems can flare up and become critical - when poor SAP system performance means people can’t do their jobs, or team exhaustion means that operations professionals leave or go off sick. The organization then treats the critical element of it - spending money on a performance consultant, or hiring additional resources to ease the pain. Unfortunately once that critical flare up has subsided, the pain simmers back down and the organization goes back to sleep.
Fear of redundancy
In some forward thinking organizations like Google, making your job redundant with technology is a path to career success. In most organizations - and especially in the context of the outsourcing model explained above - there is a perception that investing in technology solutions to help with reducing human overheads will lead to redundancies.
What can be done?
Diagnose whether your SAP operations team suffers from the problems described above. This is easy enough to observe:
- Is your team spending a lot of time on manual repetitive activities?
- Do they turn up to meetings late, stressed out, or working on a laptop?
- Do they work long hours and weekends?
If this is the case then the solution is also simple - the team needs to be clearly prioritized to work on technology solutions, provide capital budget for investments in tooling and ensure that those who automate get promoted are not made redundant. Help your team get back on track - promote employee wellbeing and leave time to focus on innovation. Let automated SAP operations do the heavy lifting. Learn how.