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INTERVIEW
 
 
 
 
 

INTERVIEW

 

Today, almost exactly one year after the SAP go-live, how do you feel about your initial decision to implement SAP at AINJ?

Without any doubt, we would take the same decision again.


For you and your company, what are the main benefits you take out of SAP?

First of all transparency: as CFO of the Japan affiliate my visibility is no longer limited to the accounting results. Thanks to the SAP process flow I can now analyze and understand the business transactions linked to each posting.
Second, due to the integration of SD, MM and FI/CO it is easier to ensure our internal business rules are really respected.
Third, centralization of all accounting activities related to Korea, Taiwan and Japan in Tokyo office without any loss of visibility or flexibility.

 

 


Xavier Bapst, CFO of Alcan International Network Japan (AINJ) and Project Manager of the SAP roll-out in Korea, Taiwan and Japan

 
In terms of business processes and organizational aspects, can you give an example of a change that has occurred due to the SAP implementation?
Our treasury department and the way we work with our banks has fundamentally changed. The data exchange for incoming and outgoing payments - both national and international - is now mainly electronic and much more secure than before. I believe that our solution is among the most advanced in Japan in this area.
 

Talking about the users, what do you feel as the major challenge for them?

The skills required to do the daily operations dramatically changed. Take the example of an accountant: it is no longer sufficient to just do the journal postings. Most of the postings being automatically triggered by SD and MM modules, accountants need to gain a thorough understanding of the integrated flow.
 

The biggest disappointment regarding SAP?

Only after the SAP go-live, we started to realize the potential benefit SAP could have brought to our company. During the project we lacked the necessary time and experience to fully benefit from this opportunity.
It reminds me of somebody who buys a car and spends the first few days trying to open the door. Having finally managed to open it and succeeded in starting the engine, the driver keeps driving in the first gear. My disappointment is that we are not yet using the third or the fourth gear and I do not know when we will be able to do so. It is a matter of enhancing our skills.

 
If today we ask the users what they think about SAP...
...the vast majority would answer that they would have preferred the previous system. Why is that so? During an SAP implementation management has no other choice but to exert pressure on users to accept shifting to the new system. The top-down approach and some natural resistance to change easily create negative feelings among users. I believe that it is very natural. And if we were to change to another system in the future, the same resistance would be seen. It is not linked to SAP in particular.
At the same time, we observe a growing minority of users who consider the new SAP system as a learning and career opportunity. They are contributing very positively to the successful SAP utilization and have a very favorable opinion.
 

I would like to talk about the project. At the outset of the project, what did you feel were the main challenges?

The main challenge for us was to create some sort of local adherence or even enthusiasm among users for a project that had not been decided locally.
The second challenge was communication - written and oral - in 3 different languages (English, French & Japanese).
The third one was coordination of the various teams in Japan, in Europe and in North America involved in the project.
 
At what time in the project did you feel that you needed a local partner in Japan to succeed in your project?

At the kick-off meeting. We organized the kick-off in our Tokyo office with the users and our internal SAP team from our headquarters. Discussing with key users I realized how worried they were about starting this adventure without a permanent support that understood their local requirements. To be honest, at first I felt their worries were exaggerated; but during the project I changed my mind. Now, if I had to do another SAP roll-out in Japan, I would not even consider doing it without on-site support.

 
Once you had decided you needed a partner, how did you proceed?

We prepared an RFP and sent it out to 3 consulting firms. One of them was Anjin.

 
What were your selection criteria?
Knowledge of SAP and of Japanese business environment were obvious prerequisites for entering the competition. The criteria for our choice:
First, flexibility in the project management approach. We needed a partner willing and able to manage the project jointly with the local project manager - myself - and our European SAP competency center.
Second, we expected the provider to make a fixed price offer. Well aware that firm scope control is inevitable, we requested to keep some leeway for minor changes that had no significant impact on the overall solution and workload.
Third, good communication skills in English.
 

Looking back one year after the go-live, do you feel you have made the right choice by selecting Anjin?

Throughout the project Anjin was transparent in its communication. Both our users here in Japan and our teams in European felt confident. If we think about the lack of confidence among our users during the kick-off at the beginning of the project, that was a major achievement. While the other contending consulting firms predicted that the project would require more than a year, we went successfully live after only 9 months. Is there anything else that needs to be said?
 
Your needs in terms of Anjin support after the go-live?

Anjin provided permanent on-site support during the first 4 months after go-live. Then, we switched to off-site support through distant accesses with communications by phone and email. The less urgent requests are now handled by our internal helpdesk and support structure. However, we have occasional needs for support on clearly defined corrections or amendments. Anjin with its detailed knowledge of our solution is the ideal partner.

Interview held on April 9th 2007 in Tokyo