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Accenture has extensive experience in helping clients use SAP to enable high performance.
Accenture leveraged this experience and the methodologies it has created to upgrade its own massive SAP system with minimal business disruption, thus giving it the agility it needs to meet changing regulatory requirements and stay at the top of its game.
Accenture research shows that high-performance organizations are successful in extracting more value from their enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. They look to their ERP systems to support critical business functions and unique ways of doing business, which in turn differentiate them from competition.
Accenture relies on its ERP system, based on a single-instance of SAP, to successfully operate and manage its business, and ultimately deliver high performance.
In order to benefit from ongoing maintenance support and to prepare for future business needs, Accenture needed to upgrade the software supporting its ERP solution, based on SAP R/3, from version 4.6c to ECC 6.0 with Unicode. Despite the inevitability of having to upgrade their ERP software periodically, many organizations hesitate to approach the upgrade task, possibly because of the potential for prolonged downtime or problematic cutover that can severely disrupt an organization’s critical business functions.
Accenture prefers to view an upgrade as a key step on its SAP strategic road map—an opportunity to deliver value to the business and to establish new capabilities sooner than competition. Accenture approached this essentially technical task with the same rigor and levels of collaboration with the business that it would typically apply to a major release of new functionality—ensuring that there was no unplanned business disruption and that the upgrade set the platform for delivering new capabilities.
Effecting an upgrade on a system serving 6,000 full-time users and 60,000 occasional users with minimum business disruption was critical. Accordingly, Accenture’s consulting and upgrade specialists and members of its 26,500-strong team of SAP professionals worked with business users and key stakeholders to confirm business operational requirements, and upstream/downstream application consequences. This close collaboration with the business put Accenture in a strong position to understand and avoid the potential risks of the upgrade.
Engaging the business, and taking the time to align the ERP upgrade strategy with the business strategy provided the project team with the insight to identify other complementary updates that could be made concurrently with the upgrade and that would contribute to Accenture’s readiness for its future development and growth. One of these was converting all data to Unicode, enabling the storage and support of data in any language and thus improving processing.
Prior to the upgrade, the team worked with key HR and finance resources to run several practice upgrades and conversions. Based on its experience delivering ERP projects and insight into the risks and challenges that organizations face during upgrades, Accenture has created—and continues to develop and refine—a complementary set of methodologies and resources, which offer organizations a reliable approach with flexible options to deliver successful upgrades rapidly and cost effectively.
For its own upgrade, Accenture was able to leverage this bank of tried and tested methodologies and tools, including its Upgrade Analysis Tools, estimating model and work plan to undertake all of the planning, execution and stabilization of the program.
The Accenture Global Delivery Center Network—particularly the Delivery Center in Bangalore, India—provided technical support after the upgrade. Post upgrade, end-user access to SAP was restored ahead of schedule. A stabilization team was on high alert to monitor processing, performance and usage of the updated applications, fine tune the overall system performance and improve run times for transactions. With no material business disruption, there were fewer than 15 issues and none took more than four hours to resolve.
The required user training was deployed shortly before the upgrade. Approximately 3,000 end-users and 12 support teams (more than 400 people across business and IT) had completed a 90-minute self-paced training course on application changes resulting from the upgrade.
Accenture Chief Information Officer Frank Modruson commented: “One of our guiding ideas is the notion of 'invisibility.' We believe that IT should enable business performance, not get in the way. I think we can measure the success of the upgrade program in the lack of disruption we caused to the organization and the fact that during and post-upgrade, we were able to run our business—hiring people, paying vendors, closing books, etc.—smoothly."
The upgraded ERP solution is proving its value by providing Accenture the agility to respond to internal business or external market requirements. With the latest ERP software based on SAP and a more flexible solution in place, Accenture is set to enjoy significant cost savings and efficiencies through improved business capabilities, enhanced reporting and controls.
Accenture’s experience proves that an upgrade can provide a company benefits with minimal risk. Ensuring the active involvement of the business at all levels through the planning, testing, upgrade and post upgrade phases makes for a smooth transition.
What’s more, taking a business-value driven approach by consulting exhaustively with business leaders to understand their priorities ensured that the upgrade was strategically advantageous for Accenture—positioning it to take advantage of the best technology available to drive high performance.
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