I frequently hear from clients who are frustrated because they were under the impression that the ir SAP Ariba system would practically run itself once it was installed. They aren’t ready to deal with the challenges of ongoing administration, and there are a LOT of challenges there.
In the previous articles in this pre-deployment readiness series, we’ve explored ways to make your deployment as successful as possible and to minimize future disruptions and failure. However, one of our goals as consultants and Ariba partners is to prepare clients so they understand what’s required to keep the system running and aren’t surprised by its complexity down the road.
But before we get into that, let’s look at some pre-deployment tasks for Ariba Buying and Invoicing that will keep the project timeline on track.
As we discussed in previous articles in this series, most notably Supplier Management, having a clean, organized data source is crucial to avoid significant project delays. That’s because cleaning up duplicate entries and inactive suppliers/purchase organizations, commodity codes, or plant data can be a months- or years-long process by itself.
There are two types of data that are critical in Ariba buying and invoicing, vendor master data and user master data.
Ideally, when the consulting partner walks in on Day One, the client already has a standard method for managing, creating and updating their master data sources, and they can just hand that over. Unfortunately, in many cases, the data has not been standardized and there are duplicates and/or suppliers that have been inactive for many years. Cleaning up that data and targeting the top suppliers you want to enable on Ariba before deployment will help streamline the process considerably.
It’s important to identify the employees that will need to access the system to place and approve orders, create receipts and invoices and run reports before deployment begins. This requires close cooperation with the human resources department to be sure the data is current and that you’re only pulling data needed for the processes, and nothing else.
One key thing to note is that in suite integrated environments, Vendor Master Data and User Master Data are shared master data elements. If you are implementing both upstream and downstream components, you need to ensure that this data is harmonized for all parts of the deployment to avoid multiple changes, loads, and updates that may affect your upstream or downstream environment.
We discussed this component of pre-deployment readiness in greater detail in part two of this series, SAP Ariba Deployment Phase Zero: Initiation, but it’s a crucial component in getting ready for this module as well. It’s so important that Change Management has it’s own series in our blog.
That’s because to build and develop the system and collect all the master data we just discussed you need buy-in from several departments inside the organization: procurement, accounts payable, human resources, treasury, accounting, compliance and legal, to name a few.
For example, as we noted in the last section, human resources must be active in the process of building the user data files. Similarly, if you want to make a drastic change in the ordering process, such as the order approval process, you’ll need the audit department’s cooperation to make that happen.
What we suggest is having a cross-functional team with sponsors from each of the departments involved. That sponsor then gives regular updates to their department, so everyone has the opportunity to get key updates and be aware of any major changes that might be happening.
Change is hard, but it’s harder if it’s sudden and unexpected. Making sure all the key stakeholders are aware of the upcoming system deployment — which will probably change the way they manage their procure-to-pay process — will help get everyone on board.
So, what do post-production issues have to do with pre-deployment?
As a consulting firm with significant experience in Ariba Managed Support, we’ve been brought in many times to help manage recently deployed Ariba environments. Oftentimes, clients weren’t fully informed by their original consulting firm that there was a lot of hands-on administration within Ariba buying and invoicing.
The problem with being unprepared for what comes after go-live, is that it can upend people’s time and ability to carry on with their regular tasks and cripple user adoption.
For example, if you decide to set up 300 suppliers at deployment but will eventually need to onboard another 500 (or more!), there needs to be a system, and a person, in place to do that. In addition, if you still have many suppliers in your OLD system, then you’re effectively still running two systems, the old one and the new one. Ideally, one of the processes the consulting partner will prepare you for is figuring out how to fully transition to one system.
There may also be other challenges, such as dealing with changes in master data, error messages that might pop up, work issues in queues that no one can figure out how to resolve, to name just a few more possible issues. Having a well-prepared staff, or bringing on post-production support resources, beforehand can save a lot of confusion and frustration down the road.
Staying in touch with department deployment sponsors will be very beneficial. Keeping those lines of communication open and ensuring that any system or master data changes they are planning, policy or process changes on the horizon or even regulatory changes, allows the Ariba Administrator to be proactive rather than reactive and avoids any system disruptions.
This article series started by questioning the idea of Best Practices as they relate to SAP Ariba deployments. There are many best practices that can be applied to the downstream solution: including preparation of master data, standardization of processes, and by helping to create org charts for ongoing administration.
In other ways, though, there isn’t really a “Best in Class” out of the box solution. Ariba has the framework and with the help of an experienced consulting partner, you will be able to make the best practices work best for you.