Interview with Mr. Bjoern Braemer, SVP & Global Head of the SAP S/4HANA Movement
SAP S/4HANA is the digital core that is enabling organisations around the world to become intelligent enterprises. Transitioning your organisation’s digital backbone is no small task. The Journey to SAP S/4HANA Forum is a two-day event taking place in Amsterdam on March 17-18, 2020, which is designed to get your organisation ready for the road ahead.
In advance of the event, we have conducted a short interview with the chairperson of the event, Mr. Bjoern Braemer.
To start this interview, your role as a senior vice president and global head of the SAP S/4HANA Movement clearly entails big responsibilities. Can you give us a glimpse of how you jump-start a day? What are your quick tips to improve productivity for a day’s work?
Planning and structure is everything. I leverage all the planning and categorisation features that Outlook offers, and I have a great team behind me, as well. I believe that staying focused (no disruption by mixing up 100 things at the same time) is key to productivity. In addition, building the right team is important too. High performance is usually achieved by focusing on what team members appreciate and less on what they might be perfect at. Target alignment, autonomy and trust are the development areas for all of us.
You have more than 20 years of professional experience in various executive roles within SAP, where you have headed several strategic initiatives and large-scale SAP programmes around the globe. Can you share with us the vision and inspiration behind completing these projects? So far, what are the major milestones for you at SAP?
First of all, I like working at SAP, and I am committed to the success of the company. Making projects and programmes successful (especially the most strategic initiatives) sends a clear signal to the entire market, to the industry, to other customers. It’s the best reference for SAP’s product portfolio and for the assets and services behind. My second motivation comes from working with people across the world with different backgrounds, perspectives and ambitions. Having the chance to create high-performance teams while helping individuals to develop new skills for their future work is rewarding, and here I’m talking about customers, partners and SAP employees.
As for my major milestones at SAP, the first was when I joined the company in 2006 after 12 years at Accenture. My second was managing the largest SAP EWM implementation for a global player. Third came the completion of a very challenging lighthouse programme for a great company in North America. And number four was accepting responsibility for the SAP S/4HANA Movement programme.
You are now the global head of the SAP S/4HANA Movement, where you have advised many household-name companies in rolling out and implementing their SAP S/4HANA transformation projects. What is the most important general advice you would give to a customer just starting off on their journey?
Take the time to prepare yourself for the journey. Never underestimate the challenges of a transformation. Don’t be afraid to implement changes; it’s what keeps you ahead of your competition. Don’t start the discussion based on your current status; think about your vision and where you’d like to be in 10 years from now. The vision needs to be supported by the transformation.
You’ve also acted as advisor for many of SAP’s global and large customers with regard to their system landscapes and roll-out strategies. Can you give us an example of how this digital transformation has impacted the growth and development of such companies?
Most of the large global players are in the middle of the digital transformation process. They have completed the implementation of some SAP S/4HANA engines and continue to roll out others. Based on several customer examples, we see up to 50% time reduction in reporting and data analysis, up to 15% reduction of revenue loss, an average 30% increase in on-time delivery, up to 50% reduction of time for period-end closing, etc. It’s important to mention that the implementation of SAP S/4HANA is only the first step. Companies can generate even more savings and revenue growth by leveraging all the components of the intelligent enterprise. In addition, by utilising the “back to standard” approach throughout the transformation, TCO can be reduced significantly.
The Journey to SAP S/4HANA Forum event will gather industry leaders and organisations who have already embarked on the SAP S/4HANA journey, or are about to do so. What excites you most about this event? What can the participants expect to gain from it?
Networking, feedback, support. The event helps to get direct feedback from customers about the things that work well and white spots to be addressed quickly. We can align on priorities and inform our customers about the latest improvements at the same time. Communication is everything.
Can you tell us more about the features of the SAP S/4HANA system that will transform and address changing demands in many industries, perhaps also in terms of customer experience or sustainability?
SAP S/4HANA has been built to take advantage of the HANA capabilities and address market and industry trends at the same time. Real-time data access, embedded analytics, improved data models, simplified business processes, RPA use cases, etc. are just some features that come out of the box with the SAP S/4HANA product lines. In order to get the full picture, I strongly recommend having a look at the SAP S/4HANA card game. It’s a great, playful way to link business processes with the new features and innovations of the application. I’d like to mention that each release comes with new features and industry-specific content, which means that customers can expect more to come.
What particular industries will benefit the most from SAP S/4HANA? Can you share with us a concrete example or a case study of how SAP S/4HANA has enabled a company to achieve greater operational excellence and efficiency?
SAP has a very strong installed base across industries and we focus on supporting all of them. New technologies and approaches (e.g. side-by-side extensions on cloud platforms, etc.) allow us to build customer- or industry-specific content without constantly adjusting the ERP core system. SAP S/4HANA supports the required content and features of the 27 industries and all lines of businesses without losing the standard approach. New features will be added over time and we work closely with several customers and partners to co-innovate constantly, be on top of the market, and address new trends immediately.
I’d like to share the example of one customer in the utilities industry segment, who completed the implementation of S/4HANA last year. They confirmed the following benefits in the same year:
- Single source of truth: there is one data template for accounting, controlling, etc.
- Real-time-reporting: reports can be generated any time with up-to-date data
- User interface: end user experience is improved through FIORI across all business areas and business processes
- Master data control: efficient master data management for the entire company across all continents
- Digitisation of the entire department: accounting, finance control, finance, sourcing, retail, IT, real estate etc.
- Cost reduction: TCO for system operations and management of applications is significantly reduced
- Innovation: there are new settlement models for e-mobility and other services
- Future-driven system architecture: it comes with a fast digital core and an easy-to-adjust innovation layer
What are the requirements and preparations an organisation needs to map out before their migration to the SAP S/4HANA system?
There is no black or white answer, as it depends greatly on the chosen SAP S/4HANA solution, the deployment option, the operations model and the implementation approach. In general, customers need to prepare for the transformation throughout their organisation. Business processes may change, driven by the market or the IT solution; and there are the inevitable advances in technology, along with the requirement to be able to adjust fast on all levels. The SAP S/4HANA Movement programme provides guidance for all scenarios and works on services and engagement models that support customers on each step of the journey. One last word, based on my own experience: pay attention to data quality and data cleansing activities. It’s imperative to start the new system with the required amount of clean data.
As an expert in digital transformation, what do you think are the emerging trends and developments that will redefine heavy industry, such as chemicals, energy, mining, metals, manufacturing, etc.? How can companies prepare for these changes and stay ahead of the curve?
One of the main challenges of the future is the pace of adoption; it will define success in the market. How fast can customers in those industries adjust and consume innovation? How can they handle data load and analyse information to recognise pattern or benefit from AI or RPA? I always recommend leveraging the current technology and minimising custom code in SAP S/4HANA. The extensibility framework or side-by-side extensions on the cloud platform (micro-services) are great ways to keep the competitive advantage. The ERP system remains standard and can easily be updated with new releases, innovations, etc. API libraries help to connect different applications easily and build the platform that serves the customers or industries best.
On a lighter note, we are keen to know how successful people like you spend their time outside the corporate world. Can you share with us how you usually recharge on a day off from work?
The time is dedicated to the family; I love spending time with my wife and the two kids. It’s no surprise that the kids define what those days look like. Travelling the world and riding my motorcycles fill the remaining days of the year.
What do you think are the important leadership skills for the workplace of tomorrow? What are your personal views on success?
Don’t be a boss, be a leader. Listen to people and be consistent in what you do. Understand that work and life need to be in balance and ensure that your people get their time off. Work as a team and minimise hierarchically driven processes, decisions and actions. Stay curious and encourage people to leave their comfort zone and be open-minded about new things.
Thank you very much Mr. Bjoern Braemer. It’s a pleasure speaking with you.
Bjoern Braemer leads a cross-board area initiative called the SAP S/4HANA Movement, with the target of driving the adoption of SAP S/4HANA by existing SAP ERP customers. The programme addresses all the stages a customer needs to pass through, starting from business case creation (“Why should I move to SAP S/4HANA?”) through deployment planning to scaling, migration and project execution by SAP and partners.
Bjoern has more than 20 years of professional experience in various executive roles within SAP, and prior to that with Accenture. Before taking up the reins of the SAP S/4HANA Movement, he was responsible for several strategic initiatives and large-scale SAP programmes around the globe.
In the past, Bjoern has advised SAP’s global and large customers concerning their system landscapes and roll-out strategies, subsequently running the deployment projects with them. One special area of competency is global programme management for highly complex business and IT transformations with diverse product and system landscapes.
Bjoern studied International Management and Human Resource Management at the European University in Frankfurt.