SAP at WYWM - SAP ERP Data Visibility - How I saved my company millions.

Mel O'Sullivan - November 4, 2021

Reach out to any of my managers in my previous job and they will tell you that my ability to use and analyse data in SAP ERP made them distinctly uncomfortable at times. Let me tell you why.

WithYouWithMe Chief Customer Officer (and total force of nature) Tom Larter loves to deliver what he calls Truth Bombs to customers. Truth Bomb No 3 - Focus on Skills over Controls - speaks to the tendency of Big Business to rely on control heavy Big Data Management practices. It's easier to teach employees how to follow rules than it is to change their ways of working. It's also easier to segregate and control access to data than it is to embed desirable data management practices in the company culture.

Excessive organisational controls around data slow down time to decisions, increase both time to insight and customer response – slowing down the whole business. In business - as in the military - anything that slows down response times to situations can put the organisation at a distinct disadvantage.

Digitally skilled workforces reduce time to decisions, speed up response to customers (or on the battlefield) and supercharge the ability of the team to respond to insight.  In the SAP world a digitally skilled individual is referred to as a Super User.

The SAP ERP Data structure in the multinational organisation I was working for was highly segregated and tightly controlled. SAP calls it Role Based Authorisation. In the military it's called "Need to Know" - if you don't need to know it you can't see it and you aren't allowed to make decisions on it. My job was in the office doing administration - about as low as you can get - with appropriately restricted data access and management authorisations.

Normally - someone in my role would have had very limited visibility on organisational data - hence a very restricted ability to act quickly in the interests of the business. The key difference in my situation was that my composite role required direct access into most of the SAP ERP Data Silos. I could see more than I should have been able to.

In practice - all of the controls around data visibility didn't apply to me. I could see through the silo walls and I wasn't afraid to look.

In many ways I had wider and more immediate visibility on the daily tactical business data than my Managers did.

Did that worry them? You bet it did!

Did I leverage that tactical advantage in the interest of the business? You can count on it.

Did I seek permission on every data driven decision? Nope.

Did they always like it when I used that data to hold them accountable? Nearly got sacked for it.

Did I defer to their position when my military logistics/project management experience showed me a better course of action? They wish.

Did I stay in my lanes? No fun in that and no advantage to the business profitability.

Did I use that visibility to clean up data and fix business processes? Oh hell yes.

Did I use that data to cut costs and reduce wastage? What do you think?

Was I a pain in the butt? Unquestionably.

Did all that improve the bottom line?

In the millions.

One person. Using the data available.

Train your people.

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