An interview with Avenai Project Leads working with a large federal government department to launch SAP S/4HANA Finance and Materiel Management
In January 2019, our federal government client initiated a project to modernize and transform its existing financial and materiel management systems and processes. The objective of the Financial Systems Renewal initiative is to move from an ecosystem of aging financial management systems to a state-of-the-art solution built on SAP S/4HANA by April 1, 2021.
A Systems Integrator (SI) has been engaged for the design, development, and implementation of the financial systems solution.
Joelle Boutros and Ron Barbeau are Associate Partners at Avenai with decades of experience delivering large IT-enabled business transformations. They are currently working with our client to support the procurement process and the implementation of the SAP S/4HANA solution.
The following is an excerpt of an interview with Joelle and Ron where they touch upon the nature of the project, the value of having procurement, project management, and change management office setup support, and lessons learned as the project has shifted to 100% virtual work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. Why was Avenai engaged to support this project?
Avenai started on the ground in January 2019, initially engaged to provide procurement, architecture and change management support. We were responsible for planning the SI procurement and overseeing the procurement process, which culminated with the selection of a winning vendor in December 2019. Prior to the arrival of the SI, Avenai planned, advised on, and supported the project’s Design Stage Readiness and Start-up activities, including standing up the Project Management Office (PMO) for the project, as well as planning and executing the initial change management “infrastructure” and activities, including stakeholder engagement and communications channels and products.
2. The Government of Canada (GC), has a lot of expertise in procuring large IT projects. Why did the client seek Avenai’s help with planning and overseeing the procurement process for this initiative?
GC Departments are usually successful at running procurements for themselves when they are below the financial authority threshold for departments, as set by Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC). This threshold is currently set at $3.75 million. Once the value of the project exceeds that threshold, departments must engage PSPC to run the procurement process. Most GC departments don’t have a lot of experience interacting with PSPC on large SI procurements, because they don’t have the need to procure these services often. Our client knew Avenai had a wealth of SI procurement experience, spanning multiple decades, that we could bring to the table to work with their existing business and procurement employees.
3. What experience did you bring to the table?
Our team brings extensive experience in large-scale business transformations in the Public Sector, including SAP implementations. Our point people on this project worked for large multi-national systems integrators before joining Avenai. They know how SIs work and understand the critical success factors in responding to competitive SI tenders. Avenai’s experts were able to help our client craft a request for proposal (RFP) that would get them what they need from an SI for the project.
We also understand the challenges of technology implementations, and we bring robust approaches and tools to minimize risk and enable project success. As trusted advisors to our client’s CFO, we work side-by-side with leadership and the project team every day, helping them build the foundation for a successful implementation with the SI.
Finally, our team has years of experience working with PSPC on other large Federal SI procurements. We understand how PSPC operates, the language they use, what they are looking for, and how that will (or won’t) mix with industry expectations. Avenai helped get PSPC and our client on the same page, accelerating the overall procurement timeline.
4. How did we bring value?
Using accelerators and Avenai’s pre-packaged templates, our client achieved a shorter RFP time to market, effectively resulting in more time available to focus on designing and implementing the solution.
Avenai was also engaged to provide change management support. Proactive communication and early stakeholder engagement increased awareness across the organization, began to build a “community” around the project, and set the organization up for a successful Design Stage with the SI. Early operationalization of governance further facilitated stakeholder engagement across the GC and maximized the value delivered through the project.
5. Were there any unexpected benefits for the Client?
What took our client by surprise was how much Avenai could help them with setting up and running the project management and change management aspects of the project, even before the arrival of the SI. Using accelerators and pre-packaged templates, we quickly worked with the client team and stood up a fully functional PMO and Change Management Office to successfully execute the procurement, pre-SI Design Stage activities and SI onboarding.
Further, the standing up of a cross-functional team to support the SI in hitting the ground running after contract award – reduced project ramp-up time. When the SI came on board, they assumed it would take 3 months to stand up a PMO, a Change Management Team, and functional workstream teams, but the client team and Avenai had already done that. Everyone was ready to go, and the SI had effectively hit the ground running.
6. How do change managers operate successfully within the GC environment? How would you describe the approach/style Avenai brought to the table, and why did it work?
Collaborative & Flexible. Avenai’s change methodology, tools and templates are not rigid. We know what the industry best practices are, and we emphasize collaboration at every stage. Most importantly though, we take the time to really listen and adapt to the needs of our clients.
7. How was the project impacted by COVID 19 stay-at-home directives?
This project team was well positioned to work as a virtual team. When the project was initiated, the CFO knew they wanted to engage their people from coast-to-coast-to-coast. Avenai proposed and designed the bid expectations to reflect that priority, asking up front what tools bidders could bring to virtual collaboration, and a project team that would be intentionally regionally distributed.
When public health officials asked federal public servants to start working from home in March 2020, this group already had their document repository and working files set up on SharePoint and they were using Microsoft Teams to host meetings, share files and collaborate
8. What were some of the opportunities and challenges posed by the shift to online collaboration?
While the team was already enabled to work remotely, most of the team was collocated in Ottawa, and they were used to getting together in person. Pre-COVID, when you had a sprint workshop with 60 people, 10-20 of them would be dialing in to the meeting, and everyone else was in the room. With everyone working remotely, there are opportunities for more equitable engagement. Everyone is using the same platform to connect, and no one is getting shut out of the in-person discussion. That said, trying to engage everyone on a 60-person video call poses a different set of challenges!
9. In conclusion, what advice would you have for GC Clients who will have to embark on this journey, but are unsure whether now is a good time to get started or not?
Get started! There are a lot of benefits to getting engaged early, so that when you do officially launch the project, you’re ready. Procurement can take up to a year, and there is a lot you can do while everyone is working remotely. Working from home shouldn’t hold you back.
If you are considering an SAP S/4 HANA implementation or would like more information on our lessons learned, please contact us.