Transitioning from a private partnership to a global public company gave Accenture the opportunity to create an ERP strategy from a clean slate and lay a new IT foundation. At the time, Accenture made the strategic decision to create a single global SAP® system instance and undertook a journey to leverage this instance and determine how to operate on it.
From the beginning the approach was less about the technology and more about how Accenture wanted to operate its business. Accenture made decisions that have served it well and gained valuable insights along the way. Today its ERP operations are better, faster and more cost-effective than ever. Accenture passes its insights along to others who seek to take a similar journey.
A look back at Accenture’s journey to creating a single global SAP system instance reveals several key guiding principles that continue to steer the company today.
Accenture decided that it would need to align and operate its IT in a globally consistent way and to enable IT to provide the applications to support the business.
Accenture then defined its ERP strategy to be flexible to evolve with future changes and to operate Accenture’s business with a single global SAP system instance.
Accenture’s governance structure closely mirrors the way the company works and aligns with how overall governance functions within the company. Business leaders involved are responsible for strategy, planning, programs and projects, and operations.
Rounding out the governance model is a cross-operations team composed of business process and IT resources. They work across three support tiers to track service level agreements, measure production support effectiveness and monitor benefits.
Over 18 months, business processes were rigorously standardized across business units and countries to arrive at a set of global business processes and global data model to enable the single-instance ERP.
The resulting standardization has driven consistency across the diverse internal functions that use the SAP system today. And it provides much greater visibility into the business at a greater level of granularity. Standard processes also facilitate more rigorous internal control procedures.
Accenture strives for a “theme of one” in every area of SAP applications and operations. Less is always more, and one is always preferred.
Rationalizing applications enabled a single source of the truth, as opposed to multiple applications with different data. Wherever feasible, Accenture standardizes, consolidates and strives to come as close as possible to a single instance of every technology tool it uses.
Accenture’s guiding principle is to minimize modifications to the core SAP code. Minimization provides benefits, including reduction of operating costs, faster and cheaper upgrades ensuring Accenture is keeping its solution current, and greater flexibility to support the dynamic nature of Accenture’s business.
Initially, Accenture deliberately chose to be a fast follower of SAP versus leading edge. This was done to manage risk by waiting until new solutions were tested and proven before implementing them.
Today, with the fast pace of technological change and Accenture’s growth, Accenture has chosen to be leading edge in implementing SAP capabilities.
Now, Accenture often breaks new ground in implementing SAP solutions, such as moving SAP Business Warehouse on SAP HANA® to Microsoft Azure and upgrading to SAP S4/HANA®.
Accenture treats SAP as an asset, and looks at the power that a single global SAP system instance can bring to bear to successfully operate and manage the business.
Accenture views an upgrade as a key step on its SAP strategic roadmap—an opportunity to deliver value to the business and to establish new capabilities sooner than the competition, while maintaining full security at all times.
The way in which Accenture designed its ERP system and business with standard structures, toolsets and business processes leveraging standard SAP application functionality wherever possible produced benefits by driving efficiencies.
Even though Accenture has added significantly more capability and increased usage of the SAP system over time, IT costs have been reduced by reducing the number and size of support team.
In addition, about 70 percent—an industry-leading average—of the support team is drawn from cost-efficient locations across the Accenture Global Delivery Network.
Organizations are challenged in deciding when and when not to use an ERP for the business. One size does not fit all. There are times when a single instance is a fit and times when a multiple instance is a fit.
Whichever is the case, it is important to have the organization’s instance strategy aligned to its business strategy. Different business situations drive the decision.
“Many organizations believe that attaining a single instance involves making significant trade-offs,” says Dan Kirner, Executive Director of Accenture’s SAP Program. “But Accenture’s experience has shown that we can attain high flexibility, quality and performance at a low cost. Today, we are able to position Accenture for the future better, faster and cheaper.”