Sometimes the best way to fix an old, leaky house isn’t to continuously remodel it, but to tear it down and build a new one from the ground up. The same principle can be applied when implementing your SAP S/4HANA system. While modifying an existing system may seem less daunting, the greenfield approach eliminates old inefficiencies and builds a new system based on a standardized process. This allows you to reap the maximum benefit from your SAP system and prepares your company for the future.

ProRail decided to take a similar approach. It is responsible for the railway infrastructure in The Netherlands and relies on its SAP system for procurement, financial administration, reporting and decision-making. Due to complexity in its legacy SAP system and multiple data interfaces requiring a large amount of manual interventions, there was a need to streamline financial processes and reporting to improve operational efficiency and insights.

This close working relationship was crucial in managing challenges, like narrowing a complex data landscape down to one single source of truth. Information was being collected from many different sources and at varying levels of quality, complicating the data transformation. To solve this, we asked data owners to step up during the migration and, based upon detailed analysis, decide on transformation rules in case of any inconsistencies to ensure data accuracy and quality in the new SAP system.

What Accenture did

ProRail approached Accenture to help deliver one of the first greenfield SAP S/4HANA implementations in The Netherlands. Together, we worked to align all departments in pursuit of three goals: to standardize financial and procurement processes, simplify the financial data model and implement a future-proof SAP system.

Defining goals is important, but the real work begins when you set out to achieve them. Drawing inspiration from past transformations and accounting for the unique needs of the client, we worked with them to ensure project governance by bridging the gap between business and IT teams, uniting everyone behind common project objectives. We also made use of a change authority board, ensuring each step is aligned with the goals to manage scope and customization decisions.

"The collaboration with Accenture was exceptionally good because they really showed their experience and professionalism. If you would ask me whether I would make this choice again, for Accenture and for SAP S/4HANA, I would certainly do so."

— Henk Bothof, CIO – ProRail

People and culture

Change management was a key component of the approach and was implemented throughout the entire project lifecycle. Oftentimes, this kind of implementation can be misjudged as just an IT implementation. In reality, an SAP transformation involves so much more on every level of the business. Particularly in the case of a greenfield approach, the human aspect of the change cannot be underestimated. All at once, we asked employees to change their processes and the systems by which they’d worked for years. In order to do this effectively, it was essential to bring the workforce along the change journey and help them understand the how and why behind the change.

We implemented this change management by verifying and validating at every step of the way and adjusting when necessary. One example of this process in action was when we approached the realization phase of the transformation. Typically, this step is taken right after the analysis phase is completed, and no time is wasted in between. During the process, however, project leaders realized that process owners needed a little extra time to fully understand and accept the proposed solution. So, we implemented a four-month intermediate phase in which discussions could occur and questions could be answered to ensure complete alignment moving forward. In the end, this helped with the overall acceptance of the change and ensured a smoother transition into the new system.

"What we do notice is that the excitement significantly increased…. Because we reduced the number of manual tasks. We did not expect people to be happy with it so quickly."

— Hans van Leeuwen, CFO – ProRail

Value delivered

After a two-year transformation with close collaboration between ProRail and Accenture involving commitment on all levels, the hard work paid off. The new system is user-friendly, simplified and has one single source of truth from a data perspective—setting ProRail up for success in the years to come.

Throughout the process, the agreed goals of standardizing processes, simplifying the finances and implementing a future-proof SAP system became the backbone of the transformation. In order to stay within the project scope and ensure the desired results were achieved, the project leaders measured every decision and checkpoint against these three points, ensuring all objectives were met.

Together, we succeeded in standardizing 95% of the system, thanks to the strong conviction and alignment of business leaders and the project team. Reporting layers were decreased in complexity from 20 to two, creating a simplified, future-ready system without manual interventions.

For the first time, data was stored in one system and financial reporting was based upon one source. In all, the goals were not only achieved but exceeded. The icing on the cake came six months after the launch of the new system when Accenture and ProRail were awarded the SAP Silver Quality Award for Business Transformation.

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