Bringing IT and Finance together
For international fashion brand
RAYLAN was involved in the initial rollout of SAP for the international fashion brand. During the rollout, 54 company codes were brought live within 6 months. This was an immensely challenging task and RAYLAN was part of the initial project team that executed this task.
Three years later, we were contacted by the IT Manager of the same company, because the relationship between the SAP maintenance team and the Finance department had deteriorated. The IT Manager asked RAYLAN to support the SAP maintenance team and improve the quality of their service delivery, so that the communication would improve between the SAP team and the Finance department.
We agreed to assist, and when we arrived, we found a completely different SAP environment. The SAP team had grown, and additional functionality had been brought live. SAP AFS (later FMS) had also been brought live and other logistical modules had been added to the system. Interfaces with Sales Force had been added and Basware was being used for invoice validation, verification, and approval.
This whole system, including the SAP finance modules, needed to be maintained by the internal SAP maintenance team and a consulting partner. This team was being managed by the IT manager and the team was struggling. We were asked to join this team to advise on where improvements were needed and to implement these improvements. The focus was mainly on the financial business processes, because the Finance department was hugely dissatisfied by the usability of the system and Finance faced many problems in their daily work.
Together with the IT and Finance Managers, an analysis was made of the situation, and this led to three main conclusions:
There was a huge backlog of IT incidents and changes that had not been resolved for a long time (and the backlog did not seem to shrink).
There was a gap between the skills the SAP consultants in the team could provide and the skills needed to solve the issues.
This gap in skills led to a situation of miscommunication between the Finance department, which was not seeing any improvements, and IT.
Main problems we identified and needed to fix
The SAP maintenance team did not have sufficient capacity
The SAP system was not working properly
There were issues with reporting
The situation between Finance and IT had become tense, resulting in clouded conversations
We made an analysis of the list of problems and, together with Finance, prioritized them and solved them in order of priority.
The first step was to get to know the people and understand the problems they were facing. Several meetings were arranged with people from the Finance department. We sat next to them, watched their screens and saw how they experienced the problems they had told us about.
From conversations with the Finance Manager, we gained insight into the functionality the department wanted, but which could not be implemented or took very long to be implemented by the SAP team. This led to the Finance department feeling that they were not being heard or given any priority, and this resulted in plenty of frustration.
The second step was to gain a better understanding of the system and the choices being made. A quick way to achieve this understanding in an SAP maintenance environment is to go through the list of issues and changes being requested. This normally gives immediate insight into the knowledge that a team possesses and lacks. It also gives insight into the most common issues being dealt with. Another advantage is that it gives insight into the people logging the tickets and their knowledge of SAP and the business processes. Therefore, there is a lot you can learn just by looking at the list of tickets. Another way to gain this information would be to go through the documentation and process descriptions, but these are not always available. In this organization, for example, the documentation and process descriptions were largely incomplete.
The third step was to prioritize the issues to be addressed and solve them.
We faced several issues including:
The purchase order approval (or release) process was facilitated by third-party software. This was not working well and caused many problems, because the integration with SAP was flawed. We resolved this by activating the standard SAP functionality with workflow via WebDynpro and removed the external software.
The organization used BasWare as the invoice approval software. This resulted in many problems with the tax code setup for the US and Canada. Since the standard version of this software does not facilitate jurisdiction codes, this feature was built in as a custom functionality. And caused problems.
To facilitate straight through bank statement and bank file processing, a custom solution was designed and being built. When RAYLAN came in, it was partly implemented, but there were still problems that needed to be fixed before it could go live. For example, there were some problems in processing MT101 files. The new SAP team lead who was hired by the organization had the ABAP and finance skills to solve these issues and bring it live successfully.
As a result of our efforts to improve the relationships between Finance and IT and to enhance the quality of the services delivered by the SAP maintenance team, the following was achieved:
New team members were hired, and some team members left.
The most pressing issues were solved, and insight was gained into additional issues that needed to be solved. We generated a straightforward list containing issues and changes.
A new SAP team lead was hired and onboarded.
More structure was created in the communication between Finance and IT, with a better atmosphere between the two departments.