min read

How Do Rules and Behaviors Affect S/4HANA Change Management

“We’ve always done it that way”


In life, we have rules set up to guide different processes. There are rules for driving, rules for paying your bills online and there are rules that we set for our kids. Each one of these rules can be in three different states; they can either be followed, bent, or broken. We’ve all seen the outcome of each one of these states – good, bad, or indifferent. With rules, we want to try to correct behaviors. We expect that if we set a rule for our kids, such as bedtime by 8:00 pm, that their behavior would follow that rule. If you have a teenage daughter like me, then you know that their behavior will not follow the rules. We hold them accountable and try our best to change their behavior with the rules that we’ve set. This is a very familiar cause/effect process in our everyday lives. When you’re driving to the office and the car in front of you runs through a stop light, you see red and blue flashing lights indicating that the behavior is realigned quickly.

Some may ask, what does this have to do with SAP and our Supply Chain? Those of you with teenagers will most likely be smiling at this point because you know exactly where this is going. We have all done some form of breaking/bending of the rules within our SAP environments. During the Assess phase of the oVo, we see this as one of the biggest “teenager traits” at organizations. Organizations set up system rules that follow business processes. From an Order to Cash process or a GI/IR process the rules are there to be followed. What happens, is that our behaviors seldom match those rules. We turn into a teenager and do what we think is best, ignoring the rules that are set in place.

Here are a few examples that I’ve seen over the years. Have you seen the same ones below in your organization? Share your best Rule/Behavior breakdown in the comments section, I’d love to hear some!

Creating a manual order when the material has a reorder point at a certain stock level. The “I know better mentality” is one behavior that causes inventory values to rise uncontrollably. Rules are there to help us, not hurt us.

Manual planning production orders in a spreadsheet. Working outside the system in spreadsheets is the ultimate rule-breaking behavior. Our system has no idea what we’re doing, and entire upstream and downstream processes no longer have visibility.

Customizing SAP to fit a legacy business process. You may know what you are doing, but the system can’t help you anymore. One customization leads to another and soon no one will follow any rule. Users will make their own processes as they go and force the result they are looking for.

The best phrase that is often heard is “We’ve always done it that way”, is a great indication of behaviors not matching the business rules. The other side of that coin is when our business rules have changed, and the system still has remnants of the old processor does not change at all. Now we’re confusing SAP, our users, and the organization.

How do we align these things? How do we get to that level to where our rules match our behavior? Books can be written about this topic, and I’m sure there are a few already out there, but let's just touch on a few of them at a high level.

  • Map out what your business process is, one area at a time. If you haven’t done this in a while, you’ll be surprised at what process different people have been doing/following. Getting consensus is the best way to realign the business rules to reality.
  • Once the business rules are finalized, approved, and bought into then it’s time to assess the rules inside the system. Transaction by transaction, do they follow what we’ve laid out –if not what is the correct sequence of events inside of SAP to get there.
  • Hold people accountable when they do work outside of the system. What good is having rules if we don’t enforce them when they are being bent or broken.

Aligning business rules to business behaviors has its S/4HANA Change Management issues, it has buy-in issues, but for any organization to streamline not only their SAP system but their supply chain, it really is an endeavor that should not be taken lightly, it is a project and buy-in is key for success. Once the behaviors match the system rules your supply chain will start to hum and your organization is getting one step further in business maturity. Now you can tackle the larger items on the organizational roadmap, adding even more value to the business.


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