Volker Worthmann, Associate Director S/4HANA Migration, and Tilo Platz, Senior Technology Consultant SAP, sat down with us to explain how companies can optimize their processes using SAP S/4HANA and thereby open up new fields of business.
Mr. Platz, Lufthansa Industry Solutions (LHIND) supports customers from a wide range of sectors in migrating their SAP systems. Which sectors do you find yourself doing the majority of your SAP HANA or S/4HANA projects in?
Tilo Platz: First off, that would include all of the sectors in which we support our existing customers on SAP topics within the scope of our activities as a consulting company. Some of the more important ones include the industrial sector, logistics, media, and health care. In addition to those fields, we are currently receiving inquiries from potential new customers in areas such as insurance and the public sector. The reason for this is that the Business Suite S/4Hana provides optional core solutions for almost all areas of business. The SAP platforms also allow for the customized development or adaption of solutions, which can deviate from the modular principle.
That sounds like a lot of potential for exciting experiences. Do you regularly discuss your current SAP projects with customers and colleagues?
Tilo Platz: Of course, for example, I visited the annual SAP Healthcare Forum this year, which is an SAP congress where you are guaranteed to run into all of the most reputable IT managers from SAP customers in the health care sector. Most large hospitals rely primarily on SAP, and lots of customers are currently thinking quite seriously about the right transition to SAP S/4HANA. Some customers have already made the first moves in that direction and are now looking for expert support in the implementation. It is important to take a step back and look at how successful S/4HANA projects were implemented and which best practices could be applicable for one’s own approach. Although SAP provides a large and wide-ranging construction kit, a company’s own SAP solution will always vary and have its own specifics, depending on the environment and process that is in need of optimization. I receive valuable feedback from our customers during presentations at congresses and events, and these exchanges often lead to new projects.
And how does a project become a successful project?
Volker Worthmann: In the end, business success in the field of SAP also comes down to the people involved, and that is an area where we excel. Our customers often relay precisely that point to us. Before each project, we make sure to set up our respective team in a way that is convincing to us and, more importantly, the customer. We have no walls or strict delineations between colleagues, and everyone is ready to chip in and help others.
What does a convincing team look like?
Volker Worthmann: That will always depend on the specific work order. Generally speaking, however, one can say that our team should be made up of three groups of people. On the one hand, there is the need for colleagues who are well versed in business management. For example, they will be the ones talking to the customer’s controllers about how the business processes are structured and how they will be optimized within the scope of change management. At the same time, they also need to know exactly how an SAP system works. Moving to the next level, I picture a typical module adviser who can offer in-depth and precise concepts, for example, as concerns sales and distribution. They will knows the five or six best variants with which the processes in the system can be adapted/customized. In addition, a module consultant will also be a seasoned user of SAP programs. This group constitutes the interface between the business side and the IT experts. The latter understand the technology, offer administration skills, have a wealth of infrastructure knowledge and programming expertise.
And which of these groups would you assign yourselves to?
Volker Worthmann: I am very much situated on the business side. Though I also know how to program, I never really perfected the skill.
Tilo Platz: I’m more of an all-rounder, but thanks to 20 years on the job I also have a very comprehensive understanding of SAP technology. I have also been able to acquire a better understanding of the business processes in SAP in recent years, which has ensured a more cohesive overall picture.
Volker Worthmann: Having both skills definitely offers an advantage, but the S/4HANA projects also require specialists with detailed know-how.
Tilo Platz: As an all-rounder, you can give a customer a good overview of the processes, but the deeper you go with it, the more you are going to need specialist or industry expertise. So you really aren’t going to be able to get things done without experienced experts in fields like accounting, logistics, enterprise resource planning or personnel management. Further experts can then be added should the project also include specialist topics such as real estate management, sales, or industry-specific solutions. SAP projects are always a matter of teamwork. There is no one in the world who can successfully handle a project with the complexity of a S/4HANA transformation by themselves.
The variety of expertise that comes together during a S/4HANA introduction or an SAP ERP transformation to S/4HANA also stands as proof of how versatile this platform is. It offers potential for optimization and, with it, financial savings in almost all areas of a company, whether it be controlling, marketing, finance, sales, human resources or production – and it does so across all industries.
How do you measure the success of a migration?
Volker Worthmann: The lowest-level goal is to get the agreed processes up and running in the new SAP environment and to ensure that all the necessary information is available and stable. However, one should also use the transition as an opportunity to review whether process adjustments due to changed market situations are indeed necessary. This is often the case as established processes generally tend to be quite old. At the same time, the demands of digitalization and changing customer behavior – for example through social media, online retail, etc. – are necessitating some considerable changes in IT as well. That means the greatest challenge for companies is reacting appropriately to new market situations, developing new business areas and adapting internal processes accordingly. S/4HANA constitutes a good and reliable platform for this kind of a conversion, thanks to its adaptability and high, scalable degree of customization, which can also be adapted to the rapidly changing requirements in the IoT sector. The company can determine whether this transformation is a success by defining measurement parameters. Examples of this in production, for instance, include classic parameters such as stock levels or processing times. The sales side, on the other hand, is facing completely different challenges in that it has become necessary to better understand the customer, to combine the sales channels and thereby increase sales success – in short: whether SAP processes will help earn money. We support the companies in this transformation.
Is it more difficult to implement new or changed business processes in an SAP system today?
Tilo Platz: No, there are simply more factors and an increased complexity to consider. For example, it used to be the case that companies only had a few established sales channels. Today, there are many more due to the variety in online marketplaces and other platforms. Ten years ago, social media hardly played a role in core business systems such as SAP ERP. If a company wants to start moving towards SAP S/4HANA, the people in charge should ask themselves beforehand “how have we changed, how has our environment and SAP changed, which new solutions and products does SAP now offer that we could implement or that we will have to implement in the future?” Companies often don’t have a proper understanding of the full range of potential SAP S/4HANA solutions. As an external service provider, it can be helpful for us to take a step back and look at these companies from the outside. Innovation plays a decisive role in the optimization and automation of business processes, which is why we as IT consultants are open to new colleagues who want to work on interesting projects with our SAP experts. We’re really looking for any and all interested individuals, from university graduates, to people looking to change careers, as well as experts.
And what can the new employees at LHIND expect?
Volker Worthmann: At the beginning, we’ll be welcoming you into a team where you’ll be given your own tasks and responsibilities as quickly as possible. These can also be expanded quite quickly. Our teams are made up of a good mix of youthful energy and years of experience.
Tilo Platz: The SAP projects with our customers are the most interesting and valuable projects, especially at the beginning. In short, practical experience beats theory every time! Sure, you can sit someone down in front of a demo system or send them to SAP for training, but you’re really going to gain the most knowledge through work on customer projects. That is really hands-on, day-to-day work life, that’s where you’ll gain the experience that will be valuable for your future career. That is exactly the kind of project we are offering.
About Volker Worthmann and Tilo Platz
As Associate Director S/4HANA Migration at Lufthansa Industry Solutions, Volker Worthmann works at the Norderstedt location. He graduated with a degree in industrial engineering from Hamburg. He has worked in the Lufthansa Group since 1997.
Tilo Platz works as an SAP Technology Consultant at Lufthansa Industry Solutions in Norderstedt. Following completion of a degree in economics in Hamburg, he began working for Lufthansa Industry Solutions in 2001.