Transformation in 3, 2, 1

With the support of T-Systems, the DLR is launching the next stage of its digital transformation

January 18 2023Christian Peter Spazier

Migration toward the future

From electric airplane to the next lunar mission: At the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the technologies of tomorrow are being researched today. To ensure the transition of elementary business processes continues on the precalculated course, the DLR is relying on the practical focus of the service provided by T-Systems in the implementation of preliminary projects for the SAP S/4HANA transformation.

Mars Express meets Business Transformation

Businessmen sitting in a conference room.

The DLR is one of the world's leading aerospace research institutions. Extraordinary work is being done here: The center not only conducts research into sustainable kerosene and satellites for Earth observation but is also responsible for planning and implementing Germany's aerospace activities. The DLR's budget is as vast as its fields of research: Housed within the DLR, the German Space Agency alone received an annual budget in excess of one billion euros in 2021. These aspects, coupled with the international significance of the DLR, make transparent and efficient management of business processes a must.

Currently, this is still done using SAP ECC 6.0 EHP8. However, since support for the ERP system is due to end in 2027, the DLR is soon to migrate to SAP S/4HANA. The many customer-specific programs that are currently operated using the SAP ECC system represent a particular challenge here. This will make the transition even more time and resource intensive since they must all be adapted during the SAP S/4HANA transformation. Planning, keen instincts, and know-how are required here, as the IT service provider must work hand in hand with all departments, including IT.

Preparation for the test flight

To ensure that the course is set for success right from the start, the DLR issued a public invitation to tender for consulting services regarding technical transformation issues in the lead-up to the transformation. T-Systems secured the tender for the SAP Finance, Materials Management, and Sales modules. This is not the first time that T-Systems has impressed the DLR in a tender process: The transformation from SAP R/2 to R/3, maintenance of SAP systems over many years, and the conversion to the euro were all facilitated with the help of T-Systems experts. As a certified SAP partner and established end-to-end service provider, T-Systems has the necessary product expertise at its disposal, in addition to experience gleaned from 1,000 successfully completed SAP transformation projects each year.
This well-founded SAP experience is essential for the success of this type of resource and time-intensive transformation project, as IT service providers need a deep understanding of the customer's processes, framework conditions, and stakeholders – in the case of the DLR brief, a successful match for all involved.

We have been working alongside the experts from T-Systems for many years already. Tasking them with the implementation of the SAP modules Finance and Controlling, Materials Management, and Sales was the logical step."

Torsten Nagl, Transformation Project Manager at DLR

360° view of the processes

Part of T-System's brief was to plan and implement the necessary preliminary projects in the areas of Finance, Materials Management, and Sales. When preparing for an SAP S/4HANA transformation, it is necessary to choose a suitable approach:

  • Greenfield – the migration from a non-SAP system or another ERP system to an SAP system
  • Brownfield – the customer is already using the SAP Business Suite and wants to update this to the latest SAP S/4HANA release
  • Bluefield – the middle way between Brownfield and Greenfield, also known as selective data transition.

Ideally, experienced service providers ascertain early on, whether the system is to be operated on-premise, in the cloud, or as a hybrid model.

Within the scope of the DLR brief, T-Systems also addressed SAP Fiori in more detail. The new user interface is designed to provide a more consistent, improved user experience (UX), by ensuring that the interface for business applications is comparable to those of frequently used consumer apps. In this way, companies can personalize and simplify the UX for their SAP applications on any device.

Structured advice gives the project wings

In order to quantitatively and qualitatively classify the changes in the individual specialist modules, such as Finance, Material Management, and Sales that result from migration, T-Systems employs its specialized Value Consulting. After a questionnaire on selected core processes, there follows clarification workshops with the DLR departments and the respective SAP business analysts. This serves to address any open questions and provides space for feedback from the customer.

In further workshops, T-Systems presents the concrete changes that result from the transformation. Here, particular focus is given to issues that require a preliminary project to be carried out due to technical necessity or for the purposes of streamlining the actual migration process. This frequently enables potential savings to be identified along the transformation journey. The next step entails the creation of the final documentation, in addition to recommendations for sensible preliminary projects.

Roadmap to transformation

Now the DLR must implement a technical SAP S/4HANA readiness assessment and

  • put the technical transformation readiness of the current ECC solutions to the test,
  • prepare a detailed roadmap for the entire project, and
  • plan measures for a seamless transition to the new system.

Not every SAP S/4HANA transformation will be a success story. In cases such as this, companies frequently underestimate the resources and preparation needed – a lack of oversight can result in the project spiraling out of control. This is why the structured analysis of the assessment results is all the more important. Experienced T-Systems experts are on hand here to assist the DLR using iterative processes. This approach is based on the simple fact that well-reasoned decisions concerning the overall SAP S/4HANA transformation can only be made on the basis of the preliminary projects.

The starting shot for a successful transformation at the DLR has thus been fired and as soon as the necessary preliminary projects have been completed, the DLR will tender the actual SAP S/4HANA transformation project. The countdown has begun – it is important not to lose sight of the home stretch now.

About the author

Christian Peter Spazier

Offering Manager, SAP Financials, T-Systems International GmbH

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