The latest episode of Ctalk, our monthly online talkshow, focused on implementation and adoption – the two phases in the digital transformation of a company. Host Fabienne de Vries met with Cras Woodgroup, a company that has recently undergone a radical digital transformation. Also at the table were the implementation and adoption partners Ctac and SAP. They shared tips on how to undergo a successful transformation.

A digital transformation takes energy. The same applies for a migration to SAP S/4HANA as soon as best practices are implemented. An intervention like this takes time and money and it changes the corporate culture and processes employees have known for years. During this kind of transformation, companies need to make some fundamental choices without losing sight of the flexibility of the organisation and the market dynamics. Everyone involved needs to be facing in the same direction for implementation and adoption to go smoothly.

A traditional company in a digital age

Dirk van Houwe is Chief Transformation Officer at Cras Woodgroup, a family-owned company with 500 employees that has been in business in the timber sector for 140 years. Among other things, the company specialises in working and purchasing wood. “It’s an exciting sector,” says Dirk van Houwe. “It is currently in transition, which creates many new challenges. It’s quite a traditional industry, but we also need to work more digitally so we can be more efficient. For me, this was the main challenge.”

A future-facing system

Cras went from an in-house bespoke system to SAP S/4HANA. According to Dirk van Houwe, this was a deliberate choice: “The old system was past its best. The company has grown rapidly in recent years and the old system was not able to do certain things it needed to be able to do, such as always displaying the right information and data anytime, anywhere.”

Tobias Pauwels, Sales Manager at Ctac Belgium, notes that customers increasingly know what they want. “When I first meet with a potential customer, 60% of their selection process has already been completed. They read up on things and conduct preliminary research on the internet. When they contact me, I look at what would suit them best. In the case of Cras, this was to switch to a standard solution.”

Training for an error-free adoption

Richard Benschop is responsible for Training & Adoption at SAP Netherlands. “In a transformation process, we start with adoption as soon as possible,” explains Benschop. It’s about creating a new corporate culture and a new way of working. In other words, you are effectively building a new company. As well as time and patience, this calls for a number of ambassadors who persuade the rest of their employees to embrace the process. These are the key users. If they believe in the system after they have had sufficient training, the remainder of the company will follow and the rest of the adoption will go smoothly.”

How should you deal with resistance?

According to Dirk van Houwe, not everyone can handle a period of change. “A family-owned company like Cras – which has been around for 140 years – has developed its own corporate culture over the years. This can sometimes mean there is resistance to major changes.” Richard Benschop understands why. “Resistance occurs when employees don’t see the bigger picture and when they don’t know where the company is heading. This creates a fear of letting go of anything familiar. This is why it is crucial to create understanding and support across all layers of the organisation.”

When is an implementation successful?

“An implementation is only successful once it is successfully adopted,” says Tobias Pauwels. “With the adoption of a new system, a company is taking a step toward the future. And a future-facing company is a company that has successful adopted and embraced a new corporate culture, with the end users using the system correctly.”

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