Return to ‘SCM first principles’ before scheduling more SAP training


StevenFreemantle2.JPGWith daily technological advances in the SAP world, focus tends to fall on the next-best technology and users forget that they already use a set of powerful basic supply chain management (SCM) tools. In fact, users may have never known about these SCM tools, and if they did, they may have ‘lost’ them through staff attrition over the years.

While adopting new developments may be key to keeping up with the times, users must not forget that any addition to a SAP suite of tools relies heavily on the original technology, says Steven Freemantle of SweetThorn Thought Leadership in this month’s SmartProcurement.

Freemantle advises that supply chain managers keep this mind when their teams call for more SAP training; and must consider that it may be a refresher on the basics that is required.

However, when considering such a programme there are three key focus areas that need to be addressed to ensure that a back-to-basics intervention succeeds – the aim is to challenge the thinking around what needs to be done to re-establish basics in your SAP-driven supply chain,” says Freemantle.

1. Train

Training is a good starting point. From an SAP point of view this is often the ‘click-here-click-there-save’ stuff. It is very necessary, but you rely heavily on the trainee to go back into the work place and apply their new knowledge – mostly they do not.

Another challenge is to figure out what training you need, which is very hard to do if you do not know what you do not know, in other words you are unconsciously not competent. It is advisable to seek guidance on what it is you need to know – which in itself can be another challenge.

Once you have figured out what you need to know, Freemantle strongly advise that you link your training to a very tangible business objective – something that you can very easily measure. Yet, another challenge…

2. Educate

Education is the next level of training. This is about building capacity in your supply chain that empowers your operators to analyse their outcomes and decide on an appropriate course of action when these outcomes are not being met (for example, customer service improvement is a measure to link your training and education efforts to).

By implication then; buyers, planners, MRP and inventory controllers need to be equipped to make decisions and then to update the relevant SAP rulesets (mostly dynamic master data) to capture these decisions. This moves the operators in your business from being virtual paper-pushers to individuals who add value to your business, using SAP to understand and fix the cause and effect.

This is not a quick process and requires high levels of confidence, from operators and their managers. Internal customers will also need to trust the supplier’s decision making, which most likely will require some serious change management.

3. Change manage

Research shows that between 40% and 70% of change management efforts fail. This is because change needs to move from banners, balloons and a game of paintball style interventions, to ones that are deliberate, disciplined and measured. If you have been live on SAP for more than 6 to 12 months then you have the mechanisms at your disposal to make this kind of change stick, says Freemantle.

Change has to move away from been a warm, fuzzy theoretical journey to one that is driven by cold, hard facts. Your company’s SAP system has data (extracted through standard reports) that can be used to measure individual contributions to your supply chain’s effectiveness – good behaviour, bad behaviour and how behaviour in the supply chain affects daily outputs.

It is this data that is used to drive tangible, sustainable change.

Business maturity optimisation

Throw into one pot this kind of training, education and change management and you have what we call business maturity optimisation (BMO).

The fundamental technique of BMO is to use standard SAP tools and reports to extract information from your live SAP system to identify, drive and measure supply chain optimisation programmes. BMO has clearly defined, non-negotiable steps (deliberate); entrenches strict routine and leading practice habits (disciplined); and reports weekly on delivery against SAP’s supply chain KPIs (measured).

As you tackle your back to basics initiatives, remember the departure point: figure out what it is that you do not know and understand what tangible benefit you will get from knowing what you will get to know.

For more information on streamlining SAP in your organisation, please contact Steven Freemantle of SweetThorn Thought Leadership, on

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