Aurelis accelerates its digital transformation – changeover to SAP S/4HANA®
© Christoph Knoch: Refurbishment by Aurelis: Kesselhaus, Triebwerk Munich
The story of Aurelis and how the changeover happened
Aurelis is a well-known name in the real estate industry. The company applies an innovative approach to the areas of project development, asset management and the acquisition of properties with potential for value enhancement. Active on the market since 2007, Aurelis has an impressive track record: developing 13 million square metres of derelict land, building commercial space for around 125,000 employees and creating new housing for approximately 200,000 people. The company decided to implement SAP S/4HANA® in order to tackle increasingly complex requirements with the aid of a comprehensive ERP system.
As a modern, digitally active company, Aurelis never actually had to ask itself whether it would switch to SAP S/4HANA®. Ultimately it was more a question of how the company would carry out the conversion and with whom. Since PROMOS was already engaged as an AMS partner at Aurelis, the logical next step was to continue this successful cooperation. In the end, Aurelis decided to move to SAP S/4HANA® with the help of the digitisation experts at PROMOS. And with impressive results: efficient cooperation between both parties has ensured that Aurelis is now at the digital cutting edge.
Three key lessons learned from the changeover
Aurelis decided to use the brownfield approach for the changeover to SAP’s operating system. This approach comprises a change process without modifications. Aurelis was very satisfied with the system introduced in 2014. For reasons of speed and cost savings, the decision was made once again to opt for the “standard conversion”: the brownfield approach. Aurelis was thus able to exercise its own control over the pace of innovation. The brownfield approach has proven successful from the company’s point of view. Three key lessons played a vital role in the success of the project: Use of SAP products, intensive project preparation and internal knowledge building at Aurelis (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Aurelis has drawn a number of key lessons from the experience gained over the course of the successful project.
Leverage SAP’s range of offerings
Fully exploiting the potential of S/4HANA® and the associated functions played a particularly important role during the changeover. The first step was to carry out a Readiness Check. First, the usage and configuration data of the existing systems was analysed, with a special focus on technical examinations of the development and production systems of the old ERP system (SAP® ERP 6.x). This data basis was used to gather significant information that greatly facilitated the transformation and created optimal conditions for setting up S/4HANA®. Unforeseen difficulties often arise in the initial phase if a large number of programs and codes must be adapted. However, with open communication and constructive dialogue, these were recognised at an early stage and quickly overcome.
Preparation is half the battle
Before the actual implementation, an extensive preparatory phase took place (Figure 2). In addition to the Readiness Check already mentioned, this phase included the Simplification Item Check and the Custom Code Check. The simplification items were assessed for relevance and consistency. All simplification items valid on the target release date were taken into account and collated in a list. Elements classified as relevant were checked and consistency errors corrected. The Custom Code Check identified how many developments need to be adapted in order to continue smooth operation after conversion. Preparation is especially important in the case of large projects carried out over a lengthy period. Problems can thus be highlighted in advance and quickly solved in case of uncertainty. Two sandboxes were implemented for increased security. These test systems were used to test the new software without (negative) consequences. They ensured that the files were protected and that actions could still be executed. Once the first sandbox had been established for five months, it was possible to set up a second sandbox based on the collected findings. Both systems operated without a hitch, thus creating ideal conditions for the final conversion.
Figure 2: In the preparation phase, the migration study mainly involved the execution and results analysis of the Readiness Check, Simplification Item Check and Custom Code Check. The technical and functional conversion then took place in the implementation phase.
Develop your own expertise
While Aurelis was supported by an extensive team of SAP® experts on the PROMOS side, the company’s own employees were especially keen to get a solid grasp on the technical details of the conversion. “Much to our delight, we found that Aurelis employees were highly motivated to gain expertise themselves. This is one of the reasons why the implementation phase was so smooth,” says Esteban Rocco, project manager at PROMOS consult, describing the level playing field of the cooperation. The implementation phase consisted of two steps: The technical conversion included, among other things, collecting all necessary software components. Once this was successfully completed, the second and final step was the functional (process-specific) conversion. In this case, standardised guidelines for customising were used.
“A modernised, fully digitised ERP system incorporating all new functions was successfully integrated into our everyday operations without a hitch. Although the new implementation is still viewed with some scepticism, especially given the rather hefty workload involved, it has been worth implementing a technologically up-to-date platform for future requirements,” says Natalie Kaminski, project manager at Aurelis, summing up the fruitful and pleasant cooperation between the two companies.
Inspired by the positive experience, the company decided to rely on PROMOS as a system administrator for carrying out maintenance and servicing of the SAP® system. Other exciting projects are already on the horizon. Apps are being planned to provide Aurelis with support in managing the account statements, balance sheet and asset history sheet. The Fiori® Launchpad also offers a greater overview and broad range of graphic settings. Project manager Esteban Rocco also expresses his thanks on behalf of the entire PROMOS team and is optimistic about the future: “We’d like to extend our sincere thanks for this contract and look forward to launching the next round of projects with Aurelis.”