Continuous improvement and new opportunities
Tom Dailey, GSAP Process Integration Manager for Shell Downstream, comments: “For the first seven years of the Downstream-One program, we rigorously tracked the business benefits, and it was clear that we had saved some hundreds of millions of dollars.
“Our initial focus was around operational improvement: better cash-flow, better credit management through an enhanced view of the customer, increased invoice accuracy, improved ability to deliver orders on time and in full – and so on.
“When the program was more mature, and with the promise of new SAP functionality to help enable our future plans, we turned our attention to continuous improvement and to the opportunities presented by big data and analytics.”
The launch of new SAP products and updates to core SAP ERP software presented the Shell Downstream team with an opportunity to upgrade its complete SAP solution landscape as part of its ongoing journey towards becoming a globally integrated enterprise.
Jan Boll, Vice President and Chief Information Officer at Shell Downstream, explains, “If you keep up with standards, you can make use of richer functionality, better performance and security, and extract more value from your investments. Moving to the latest version of SAP gives you a solid foundation for building further improvements.”
Tom Dailey adds: “We knew that upgrading our SAP landscape would also be a key enabler for new technologies we wanted to introduce around analytics and mobility. For example, deploying SAP HANA in-memory technology to unlock faster insight into operational data depended on successfully completing the upgrade.”
Shell embarked on the largest-scale SAP upgrade ever undertaken, measured in terms of number of components, users and geographies – all of which needed to be completed without causing business disruption.
Jan Boll describes the three main challenges: “The first and most obviously daunting issue was the enormous scale of the upgrade. All the changes – users, countries, different businesses, processes, software components, connections with other systems – had to be covered in one go. It felt like we needed to have 100,000 people jumping in the air at the same time!
“Secondly, the variety of technology and technology suppliers meant that we were dealing with a very diverse landscape. To address this, it was essential to enroll supplier organizations closely to help with preparation and testing.
“Finally, we needed to ensure full interaction with business users for testing and feedback, to guarantee that the upgraded software worked as expected. This included thinking of fall back positions and risk mitigation if the go-live was not successful: for example, how would we cope with non-availability of certain components.”
Shell engaged IBM Global Business Services to help design and implement the business and IT transformation program, and to upgrade its SAP applications to the latest versions.
Jan Boll comments, “Shell and IBM have worked together for many years, and IBM really understands our business objectives. For a global company such as Shell, IBM is able to provide very fast access to resources, in both quality and quantity, to help us respond quickly to a rapidly changing marketplace.”
IBM provided a full range of SAP services across design, build, configuration, testing and implementation support, data cleansing and migration support, organization change, managed test services, performance testing, delivery assurance and global project management.
To accelerate delivery, workload was split between central and local teams; the central team completed the majority of the design and testing activities, while the local in-country teams focused on implementation and roll-out. The majority of the central team were UK-based, but with a global reach. Over time, as the project gained maturity, more and more activities were migrated to India. This enabled Shell to leverage IBM’s highly skilled offshore SAP development resources, reducing costs without sacrificing quality.
From the start of the upgrade project, each Shell team member was allocated an IBM person to work in tandem – the so-called “two in a box” principle – to ensure full knowledge transfer. As work on the project progressed, Shell switched to a one-in-the-box mode, to help expand the team’s scope and to become more efficient.
As Jan Boll remarks, “When I walk around, I don’t know if I’m seeing an IBM or a Shell employee sometimes. We have a long-term relationship with IBM, and the team members understand our business environment and challenges very well. The advantage of working with IBM Global Business Services is that it can mobilize resources fast, in quantity and quality. If at certain stages you need extra resources, IBM can find them.
“IBM brought experience of SAP upgrades and applied it to the Shell Downstream project, and could call upon specific skills and expertise when any issues occurred during implementation, proving very fast resolution.
Jan Boll continues, “With such a large SAP footprint within Shell, we were able to mobilize our internal teams’ experience, too. All the same, it is wise to bring external knowledge into the organization, and seek out experts for the right tasks, and IBM Global Business Services was able to provide resources in depth as we needed them.For a project of this scope and scale, we needed a tight focus on timelines, execution and delivery. I am pleased to say that IBM provided outstanding planning and project management services, exactly as required.”
The team planned to cut over to the upgraded SAP solutions in 48 hours over one weekend, using the SAP AG Near Zero Down Time (NZDT) approach. The plan included an extensive set of key performance indicators (KPIs) to be checked and verified before go-live, and then compared after go-live. The KPIs covered the availability of the system, actual performance against plan, and many detailed business case scenarios.
“With the assistance of IBM, the SAP MaxAttention™ team and many vendors, we came in on time, with no deviation,” says Jan Boll.
“The SAP team was essential to success, providing the necessary support, technical and deployment advice, ensuring that we followed best practice to gain the optimum value from the new software.”
System go-live was 8pm UK time on Sunday 17 February 2013, with the new SAP landscape going into full production on the Monday. The upgrade provided the same or equivalent functionality, ready for solution additions and extensions over the next months. For example, Shell Downstream rolled out SAP Customer Relationship Management software in four subsequent deployments.
Jan Boll reports, “This was an immense task. The reason it was so successful was because we had a team that had worked together for a very long time and had embedded the processes and procedures necessary to make it a success.
“Although the upgrade itself was a Big Bang, the project was not a one-off, but a continuum in a series of activities.
“It is important not to treat an upgrade as an IT problem. You need intense collaboration with business users to make any IT project a success, monitoring progress of your plan and sticking to it. The upgrade had been on our long-term radar for some time, and we touched on the topic with IBM several years prior. Additionally, the project had to coexist with standard business priorities, which led us to make pragmatic decisions to help de-risk the Big Bang and reduce the business impact.
“Advice from IBM Global Business Services has been central to helping Shell Downstream standardize and integrate our systems, applications and data. The new SAP applications will help us to streamline processes across departments and locations, and we are now ideally placed to improve productivity and efficiency.”
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