Felix Marx, Managing Consultant at valantic, provides insights into the challenges of an international S/4HANA project for a customer in the food industry. He also tells us the story of how he, as sub-project manager, successfully implements the agile valantic project methodology for the SAP Finance area.
Hello, Felix, please tell us a bit about yourself!
My name is Felix, I hold a Master of Science Business Administration – AFT with a focus on finance and controlling. I grew up in a small town called Wartenberg, which is near Erding, and I now live on the edge of the Bavarian forest in Schwarzach. In my free time, I like to spend time with my family and focus on sports and nature. You’ll often find me running, on a racing bike/mountain bike or in the mountains.
For about two years, I’ve been in the SAP Division of the valantic Group as Managing Consultant for the Finance and Controlling modules. I support our customers at the interface between financial functions and IT. This involves helping companies of all sizes and in all industries master current challenges in finance and controlling. We are engaged in numerous projects for corporate groups and also for medium-sized customers, who are currently focusing heavily on the digital transformation of finance and controlling. Here, the topics range from the digital core S/4HANA to automation solutions with RPA to IT strategy projects.
What does one of your projects actually look like? What kinds of questions does the customer have for you?
Currently, I am working on a complex SAP end-to-end project in which the concern is the transformation to S/4HANA.
The focus of the first step – with regard to current processes and the IT environment – was to work with the customer to determine which approach makes the most sense for the S/4HANA implementation. Essentially there are two approaches for the transformation to SAP S/4HANA: a complete new implementation (greenfield) or a conversion of the existing SAP system (brownfield). The customer selected a greenfield approach; that is, we will build the system from scratch.
Typical for valantic processes in such projects is the agile project methodology, which we map in and with JIRA. Here, we work in a so-called “dual track,” in which two processes run in parallel. We begin with the first SPRINT in the discovery phase. Along the way, we make clear to the customer the standard SAP procedures using SAP best practice processes, e.g. Asset Accounting (J62) for accounting, and we make adjustments if necessary. The process from the discovery phase accepted by the customer in approval then moves to the delivery phase. During the delivery phase, the concept from the discovery phase is implemented in the system. Parallel to the delivery, there is another sprint in discovery. Thus, starting in the second month, two phases per sprint always run in parallel.
This project is very complex, since we are not only handling SAP FI and SAP CO, we are also implementing SAP ERP areas as an end-to-end process. From the very beginning, we have been using an integration board. This board ensures that the sub-areas proceed in coordinated fashion, that there is maximum transparency, and that dependencies and responsibilities within the end-to-end processes are clear.
Using best practices as a guideline for individual customers helps the still inexperienced team members in particular; they can gain relevant process knowledge quickly and make an active contribution to the projects. For our SAP trainees, this provides a very good introduction to the practical phase.
What was your personal challenge on this project?
Previously, I worked on smaller projects with a finance focus, and development on through to complex end-to-end SAP projects with agile project methodology was a very exciting step for me. I am passionate about finding the best possible solution for customers and offering them the best mix of highly automated processes and practical tools, and this across the whole finance spectrum and with regard to topics such as main and auxiliary accounting, asset accounting, monthly and annual closing activities, and controlling.
Regardless of this project, it is always a challenge to get the customers completely on board. Expert, goal-oriented customer advising is only possible if you stay on the ball with new technologies and tools and combine this technological knowledge with existing process knowledge from previous projects.
How large is the project team and precisely what is your role on the team?
In this project, I am sub-project manager for SAP Finance and I am working closely with a junior consultant whom I am training on the project. I share my experiences with young colleagues with an eye to preparing them so that they can assume responsibility as sub-project managers in the future.
Furthermore, I am responsible for sprint and topic planning and the moderation of the workshop when the concern is connecting the specialized and technical topics. I have two main contacts for finance topics at the customer; we coordinate with one another regularly. These two people are part of our “core team.” The whole team consists of 15 people, who on the customer’s side are relevant specialists from different countries.
What are you especially proud of? How have you made customers happy?
In summary, I can say that the cooperation on the team and with the customer is working very well. I was able to familiarize the customer with the agile project methodology, which is necessary because most customers don’t come from this world.
The mood is very good and up to this point there hasn’t been a challenge that we couldn’t overcome.