Orica is working to upskill SAP subject matter experts from across the business in the new SAP stack it has been deploying for several years under its 4S digital transformation program.
IT applications lead Amit Pandey told a recent SAP event that the ASX-listed explosives maker is using SAP’s Learning Hub to prepare its subject matter experts (SMEs) training.
4S is Orica’s second go at consolidating its global operations on a single SAP system.
It will eventually run S/4 HANA as its single core, aided by a number of SAP cloud-based systems that it has already implemented, including SuccessFactors, Concur and Cloud 4 Customer.
“The next step in the program is to implement some of the other important modules or products which will complete the landscape, and obviously the most critical is going to be SAP S/4 HANA which is going to be the digital core,” Pandey said.
“In addition, we will also be implementing IBP - integrated business planning - to cater to the supply chain planning solution, and also business planning and consolidation (BPC) to handle our financial planning, forecasting and consolidations.”
When completed, 4S will leave Orica with an SAP landscape that is “totally different to what we are currently used to supporting, managing and governing internally,” Pandey said.
That highlighted the importance of upskilling the IT SMEs that perform SAP work at Orica.
These staff are spread across Australia (Melbourne and Brisbane), as well as Indonesia, the Philippines, India, Sweden, Canada and Chile.
“These are our inhouse IT SAP subject matter experts who will continue to support and govern the solution once we go live with the SAP transformation program,” Pandey said.
“These subject matter experts have been with the business for a long time, so they understand the business process on the end-to-end basis. They have a very rich Orica process and business experience.
“They also have the understanding of the current application landscape - and that's not just limited to SAP but they also understand all the connectors to the upstream and downstream solutions, which may be systems of record or other solutions that are in use by business.”
The in-house SMEs also played a critical role in localising SAP systems to meet regulatory requirements in the 60 countries where Orica has operating entities.
“Orica operates in a highly regulated industry,” Pandey said.
“For example, in Europe, every explosive that is moved across the supply chain needs to be tracked and traced to meet the regulatory requirements, whereas in Latin America, the invoicing process is very unique.
“It's very, very important to have the subject matter experts who understand these regional requirements … where Orica operates.”
Additionally, given Orica’s longstanding investment in SAP - its usage pre-dates the company even being known as Orica - Pandey said it was important to “keep the integrity of the solution where Orica has invested a lot of dollars and time”, as that solution undergoes substantial change.
“It is very important for the subject matter experts to ramp up on the skill set to understand the new solution, and be ready for performing their duties.”
Pandey said the level of upskilling required varied between staff and also depended on the amount of change that the updated SAP core would bring.
He said Orica decided to use SAP Learning Hub professional edition because it offered the best access to content on S/4 HANA and SAP cloud technologies.
Pandey noted that S/4 HANA was relatively new in SAP terms - it landed in February 2015 - and therefore there was not as much of a public knowledge base available as there is for its predecessor, ERP Central Component (ECC).
“With SAP ECC [Orica’s current core], we were able to Google and find most of the answers [to any questions we had] from the other online forums,” Pandey said.
“With most of these new technologies like SAP S/4 HANA, there is not much content available out there and I think the entire community is still learning about these new products so [Learning Hub] will also help our team.”
Pandey said the training had meant some timezone challenges for local staff trying to catch live sessions run out of locations like North America.
COVID-19 had also forced the cancellation of all classroom-based training, though staff could still learn online.
Pandey said that business pressures at Orica sometimes also made it difficult for staff to train, but he said the company was “working internally to improve” this.
“We have so much going on at the moment with the transformation program and other parallel initiatives that it can become very challenging to plan dedicated time for all our subject matter experts when they can lock themselves in the room, and just do this learning, or learning related activities,” Pandey said.
“We are trying to prioritise this obviously but sometimes some of the other business priorities take over.
“This is something we are working internally to improve.”