I spend a lot of my time touting the virtues of a truly integrated supply chain supported by the best (in my opinion) integrated supply chain ERP system available – SAP. Too often, in searching for solutions for an ailing supply chain, people seem to be consumed by what they do not know about the SAP technology: They search only for technical solutions that involve training or quick tips on a variety of T-codes. Their belief seems to be that, with the knowledge of just one more T-code, they will be better equipped to address all the issues in their supply chain and put their company on the path to integrated supply chain success. While I recognize that, in most cases, their intentions are pure, their solution to “fixing” an ailing supply chain is little more involved than a spot fix — yet the problem may not involve a technical fix at all.Remember the title of this article? Integration requires collaboration. I propose that the primary challenge most organizations face is not to fix their SAP system. Their challenge is that they bought SAP for the integration but forgot (or were not told) that SAP requires organizational collaboration to operate it.
Why Collaboration Matters
Collaboration is achieved by a set of human behaviors that are symbiotic with the tools that we use. In other words, we need the tool — and a process for using the tool if we are to achieve integration. In the supply chain context, SAP manages the business operations of your entire enterprise and of thousands of other business enterprises across the globe. If used correctly, it is the ultimate system for the integration of an enterprise.
So my response to all the eager users and learners of SAP is this: Learn as much as you can about SAP and understand how it is designed to conduct your business and to store and report your company’s information. Learn all you can, but realize that SAP requires collaboration with people and your organization’s business behaviors to allow your supply chain to function optimally. Look for ways to enable human behaviors that align with how SAP operates and facilitates the real-time accuracy of data in your enterprise — as reflected in your SAP system. Recognize that the toughest part of using SAP is accepting that we, as humans, may have to change some of the ways we do things.
Now before all you haters jump into the panic zone and start extolling the virtues of a technical system that should change to meet your needs, recall that SAP has been created and iterated over years to include the majority of best business practices and a myriad of processes that can support your organization. And yes, I do believe that, in some cases, you may have to manipulate the system a little to get it to fit exactly. I am not saying that SAP is the one-size-fits-all solution to everything. I am simply suggesting you consider that, instead of its creating an acrimonious relationship between “IT” and “Business” where SAP is the bad guy, the system was, in fact, designed to enhance integration and collaboration. Also recognize that the primary challenge standing between where you are today and seamless integration in your supply chain may not actually be a bad or broken system. You may need to look for opportunities to adopt different human behaviors, change some of your company’s processes and reevaluate your organizational alignment. Consider spending as much time trying to learn how to use SAP (human processes that symbiotically function with SAP) as you do learning SAP (functional and technical capabilities). Embrace the potential for changing your processes as a gateway to leveraging the value out of SAP. Meet the system halfway, and you will be surprised at how much easier your life could be!To find out more about how to introduce the collaboration you need between your SAP system and your supply chain function.