Alexandre Fonseca
Business Transformation Specialist
Alex is our SAP S/4HANA Finance Subject-Matter Expert and Senior SAP FI/CO Consultant. He has led multiple teams, managed project deliverables, and knows all about SAFe and Agile methodologies.

CASE STUDY – Supporting and Training a Global Life Sciences Top Performer

A global company with over a century of experience in the Life Sciences sector, and annual revenue exceeding USD 6 billion, is in the process of redesigning the core services offering following a significant reshaping of their business unit structure across different geographies.

  • This organisation employs close to 15’000 people in the life sciences sector, with dozens of locations responsible for key business areas and processes.
  • The pandemic accelerated the need for alignment in IT standards and procedures, which resulted in the identification of key pain points and topics of concern.
  • Streamlining labour-intensive processes, increasing team-based and individual performance across the board, and ensuring Best Practices are followed by all sites is crucial to the success of the company.

The Client’s Agenda & Key Objectives

  • Inability to complete end-to-end process flows due to inconsistencies in the system regarding cost object assignment and mismatched document flow. This is compounded by the fact that independent, global teams can run the same Business Process with varying degrees of completeness and success.
  • The system architecture landscape is complex and there exists a critical business-relevant process that is wholly managed by an external application in addition to the ERP suite. This is achieved by way of a two-way sync tool that allows key-users to run, analyse and report on relevant KPIs and metrics. Despite this synchronisation, one data set is only communicated one-way and requires a manual update due to business requirements.
  • Ensuring all Master Data is maintained correctly in the system with actual values and proper settings to allow for accurate financial reporting and analysis of material costs.
  • User training and documentation need to be refreshed due to frequent, recurring issues with resource capacity.

The Hats We Wore

  • Provide our expert knowledge and experience to support relevant key-users and Stream Leads in daily and monthly activities pertaining to Order-to-Cash (O2C), Procure-to-Pay (P2P) and Record-to-Report (R2R) Business Processes.
  • Incident management, which included analysing and resolving issues related to standard Business Processes, identifying Best Practices adherence, and performing guided system walkthroughs in live environments when applicable.
  • Training relevant key-users, updating training materials according to recently discovered gaps in previously designed Business Processes and creating new documentation to highlight assorted standard system processes following working sessions with department leads.

Some of the roles we took on:

  • Project Manager
  • Subject Matter Expert
  • Meeting Facilitator
  • Workshop Organiser
  • Trainer

Key Achievements

  • The relevant key-users and Stream Leads were able to conduct all necessary activities as part of their ongoing duties, culminating in a successful, uneventful year-end closure.
  • All incidents and issues identified through the course of the project were resolved in a timely manner and steps were taken to prevent their resurgence when possible.
  • Training was conducted at the end of the project to coincide with the delivery of all new and updated training materials.

Lessons We Learned (The Hard Way)

  • Changes must be thoroughly tested by all participating IT and Business stakeholders. This means that key-users must always consider Business Processes that are relevant for daily activities and monthly tasks, such as period open and closure procedures. Since testing did not account for specific client-side process flows, unexpected system behaviour was observed following a change request that was transported into Production.
  • At first glance, relevant key-users seemed to lack proper formal training in assorted Business Processes. After holding working sessions with guided system walkthroughs, we recognised that the training documentation available to the client did not consider subsequent procedure changes following the project Go-Live. The materials were updated, and new ones were created to complement what had already been delivered. Together with training refreshers, the client was able to complete end-to-end Business Process Flows without external assistance.
  • Waking up to a flurry of emails from the client is never a fun way of starting your day. It was entirely justified as the system had automatically posted millions of CHF seemingly overnight. What followed was an investigation rivalling the works of Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes. After gruelling hours of analysis, we were able to find a rogue change to Master Data, which consisted of a misplaced comma in a field responsible for maintaining the price of a material.

Our Methodology

Being around the block for many years has shown what works and what doesn’t and eventually led us to mould our experience into our own framework – PRISM. PRISM takes advantage of best practices and expert knowledge to deliver large and complex transformation projects based on a unique blend of agile methodology and ways of working while leveraging an organisation’s preexisting toolset. Agile Ways of Working Implementing E2E processes with an agile mindset and successfully exploiting synergies between an E2E mindset and agile principles is a challenge that we have succeeded to overcome. We achieve this by employing a holistic approach to the integration of all technology, people, and process activities. This in turn reduces program risk and strengthens management controls.

This methodology helps us to manage ongoing progress against the initial plan, complete deliverables ahead of time with no compromise quality, to anticipate, identify and mitigate project risks in time and most important to achieve projects goals and even exceed expectations.

  • We improve business engagement by focusing on the adoption of industry best practices and minimize time to market
  • We empower design quality and flexibility, bringing forward accurate project predictability.
  • We conduct frequent health checks to assess expectations and perform early visualization.
  • We enforce high transparency across teams which allows us to increase continuous improvement.

We take into consideration:

  • Agile Mindset and new ways of working
  • SAP Activate key-competences with SAFe principles
  • Pharmaceutical & Life Sciences expert industry knowledge

« Applying agile methods to large-scale business transformation programs in validated system environments is no plug and play. »

Key Benefits for our Clients

Applying agile methods to large-scale business transformation programs in validated system environments is no plug and play. »We improve business engagement by focusing on the adoption of industry best practices and minimize time to market. We were able to empower design quality and flexibility, bringing forward accurate project predictability. To assess expectations and perform early visualization we conduct frequent health checks. We enable high transparency across teams which allows us to increase continuous improvement.


Life Sciences

At the start of the pandemic, digital enablement became a necessity for biopharma and MedTech companies, with shifts to completely virtual models almost overnight. A recent study shows that 1 out of 3 Life Sciences execs believe COVID-19 accelerated digital transformation by five or more years. It is important to rethink how physicians engage with patients and how they can drive value through digital channels and on-demand products.

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