A look at Accenture’s journey to creating a single, global SAP system instance reveals 10 guiding principles that continue to steer the company today.
1. Align business strategy with IT and ERP strategies
The first critical step Accenture took was to align business and IT strategies. 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. The next step was to define Accenture’s ERP strategy, which emerged from discussions with the business at many levels, particularly leaders and internal customers throughout the organization. From these discussions, the decision was made to operate Accenture’s business with a single, global SAP system instance.
Defining the ERP strategy helped establish what Accenture wanted to accomplish with its investment in SAP applications in line with the company’s overall business strategy. The ERP strategy was developed with the understanding that it would evolve with future growth and change. The resulting ERP strategy has remained flexible enough to adjust with Accenture’s changing go-to-market approaches and changing economic conditions.
2. Establish one global governance
Accenture’s services—strategy and consulting, interactive, technology and operations—are different in many respects, but all rely on shared, global core processes. For this reason, it made sense for Accenture to strive for a single, global technology footprint, governed by a single, centralized governance structure that closely mirrors the way the company works.
The governance structure for ERP includes business leaders from Accenture’s Finance, Sales, and Corporate Services & Sustainability organizations in addition to IT leadership. Together, these members 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 people, which works across three support tiers: tracking service level agreements, measuring production support effectiveness and monitoring benefits.
3. Standardize business processes
To achieve efficiency across Accenture’s core functions, global IT worked with the business to undertake a comprehensive business process standardization effort. Business processes such as record-to-report, order-to-cash, time and expense, and the close process 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.
Where necessary, global IT built upon the standardized processes where the business needed a fit-for-purpose solution. The resulting standardization has driven consistency across the diverse internal functions that use the SAP system today. It also provides much greater visibility into the business at a greater level of granularity. Standard processes also facilitate more rigorous internal control procedures.
4. Strive for one instance of SAP applications
Many organizations believe they need best-of-breed solutions in each major area of operations. Accenture experience shows that, while the best-of-breed philosophy can be right in some instances, it imposes complexity and reduces flexibility over time. Accenture’s legacy environment had roughly 600 global applications, more than 1,500 local applications, multiple networks, many data centers and multiple technology platforms. Global IT knew Accenture had to rationalize and standardize because it saw how burdensome this complexity already was, and that the problems would only keep multiplying over time.
This is why 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. Streamlining enabled Accenture to become leaner and lighter, which translates into a faster and more flexible operation that is more responsive to the business and to changing business needs.