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8 steps NSG Group took to blueprint an S/4HANA business transformation - not just a system transformation

NSG Group SAP Roadmap Case Study

NSG Group is one of the world's leading manufacturers of glass and glazing systems. Founded in 1918, NSG acquired the leading UK-based glass manufacturer Pilkington plc in June 2006.

Like many big companies, NSG’s SAP ECC system is approximately 20 years old and is now showing signs of old age - it’s become inflexible, stuck in its ways and struggles with the modern world.

NSG recognised this and wanted to know how they could migrate to a new SAP S/4HANA solution. However, unlike many businesses who view S/4 as a little more than a technical upgrade, NSG used the move as an opportunity to start again with ERP.

They would take their 20 years experience with their existing solution — knowing what works and what hurts — and use it to transform their business through an S/4HANA migration. It was a once in a generation opportunity.

Here are 8 steps they took to make it happen.

Resulting brought many years of industry and product expertise but uniquely a very creative and agile approach to the challenge. The result was a polished, professional and compelling ‘Playbook’ that was pivotal to us successfully achieving the level of buy-in and sponsorship required for the transformation journey ahead.”

Martin Lea, Head of SAP, NSG Pilkington


1. Developed their S/4HANA roadmap without an SI to keep control of their ERP future

Typically, one of the first things people do when migrating to S/4 is find an implementation partner.

Often, due to outsourcing and poor staff retention, many companies find that their internal SAP knowledge isn’t strong enough to run a major SAP project by themself.

Choosing a Systems Integrator to run a big project like an S/4 migration takes away a lot of risk and means you don’t have to worry about bridging knowledge gaps. Basically, they take the problem off your hands.

Sounds like a good deal? Well not always.

Unless you’re a huge company (we’re talking Google or Amazon big) chances are the team your SI send aren’t the head honchos. Rather than listening to your business strategy and coming up with a custom approach to enable it, they’re going to push for the head-office-approved cookie-cutter approach to S/4 migration.

While this may work, it won’t be optimal.

If you find yourself with little SAP maturity you might have no choice but to go down this route. For NSG however this wasn’t the case.

They had a strong internal capability when it came to SAP, and they understood what they wanted to achieve with their S/4HANA migration.

Had they chosen a Big SI as their implementation partner they would have given up control of their S/4 migration.

Instead of working with an SI, NSG made the most of their strong internal capability, bolstering their knowledge and bridging gaps by working with Resulting IT - a smaller, independent consultancy - to help guide their team and plan their S/4HANA move.

While this flies in the face of the “no one gets fired for hiring IBM” philosophy that permeates the industry, it is actually risk averse. It allows you to keep knowledge and control inside your business - while still getting the expert advice you need from a consultancy.

2. Created an agile roadmap so they can benefit from S/4HANA straight away

Like many big companies NSG group have grown over decades through a series of acquisitions and diversification. That means today NSG is a vast, geographically complex organisation.

Rolling out a new SAP system waterfall-style at once across the entire business would take years, if not decades.

Given that their existing ECC system was already being pushed to the limit, waiting 5-10 years to start benefiting from a new, modern ERP system wasn’t an option.

Instead, NSG group created an agile S/4HANA roadmap that let them benefit from S/4HANA quickly as possible.

Instead of trying to roll out the core ERP company wide at once, NSG first focussed on rolling out key modules that would address the biggest problems they were facing. This allowed them to see the maximum benefit from the smallest amount of work, as quickly as possible.

This was important for a number of reasons.

It meant they could start benefiting straight away, and it meant that the wider business could see S/4 in action early on. This would improve business buy-in for S/4, as well as adoption by end-users once their team was moved on to the new system.

As our SAP success report showed, adoption focus is key to a successful ERP implementation. NSG’s Agile roadmap and deployment of the new System increasing the likelihood end-user adoption is a big plus.

3. Didn’t wait for S/4HANA, and got Value Now from the SAP ECC system

The reason NSG chose an agile roadmap to S/4HANA was to deliver value from the new system as quickly as possible.

However, there was an even faster way for NSG to benefit from ERP, and that was to get more value from their existing system.

While SAP S/4HANA is the newest SAP product and does have some cool new features, when it comes down to it, in a number of areas, it’s not that different from ECC.

For NSG, and in the case of many businesses, a lot of what they wanted to achieve with S/4HANA could be achieved already with their existing system.

After a certain amount of time - say 5 or 10 years - many companies treat their ERP system as an entrenched, old piece of software that they can no longer change. They think they just have to shut up and deal with it.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Any ERP software should continue to be reviewed and reappraised throughout its entire lifecycle to make sure it still provides as much business benefit as possible. This could mean looking at new releases to see if there’s any new functionality you could be benefitting from.

And, it could also mean looking at your business, business strategy and operating model to see how this has changed since you implemented your ERP.

If the way your business runs has changed significantly - and more likely than not, it will have - there will be many things you can change within your ERP system that could benefit you. There could be functionality you’d already paid for that you aren’t using because it didn’t have a use-case during implementation - but it does now.

NSG acknowledged the potential of their existing system and, alongside implementing their agile roadmap to S/4, looked at ways they could release value now from SAP ECC.

This has the obvious benefit of getting more value out of the system, but it also means you’re better prepared for the move to S/4.

An example of this is the bold decision to address 20 years of master data with a comprehensive plan of cleansing and improvement.

This was a requirement for implementing the new S/4HANA system, but it would also benefit the current ECC system - helping them to use it more efficiently and get more value from SAP.

Getting value from your ECC system means better aligning it with your business strategy, which is what you should be looking to do with your S/4 migration. Doing it now with ECC makes it easier to move to S/4 when the time comes.

S/4 isn’t some magical new software that will change your business. It’s just more, slightly newer ERP software. Any principles you can apply to S/4 could be applied to ECC - so why wait?

4. Made the project business-led to ensure S/4HANA delivered the business strategy

Often The Business and IT pull in different directions.

Your typical IT guy may prioritise logic, making decisions with a ruthless and robotic efficiency (or simply with the aim of reducing risk and change).

The business know what they need but are put off by the complex and arcane world of enterprise IT (which in many cases suits IT just fine).

This results in The Business having no investment in ERP, no sense of ownership of the processes they use, and a feeling of having a system forced on them that doesn’t support their job.

In retaliation The Business create offline workarounds and implement disparate, satellite systems that undermine the core ERP.

Keen to avoid this, NSG made sure their S/4 migration wasn't just an IT project.

From the off, they wanted to showcase their vision of the future. They wanted to gain business buy-in and get them on board early to make S/4 a success.

And, Involving the business early would ensure that the S/4 roadmap met the needs of everyone. After all, NSG were aiming for business transformation, not just a technical upgrade.

NSG thought about the business processes that S/4 would run from a business perspective.

Instead of treating all processes as equal items on a long boring list, they thought about processes from a top-line and bottom-line perspective, differentiating these from the processes which were just commodities - ones that need doing but which don’t add value.

This made the IT team understand what the business would really care about when it came to their new S/4HANA system.

NSG also identified the key strategic thrusts that needed to underpin the definition of the roadmap. This ensured any decision making was strategic in supporting overall business goals, and not simply reactive to the needs of different departments or those who shouted the loudest.

They made sure their S/4 roadmap would win business buy-in in the short term, enable business transformation in the mid term, and drive competitive advantage and market share in the long term.

5. Created a BPOC to understand what they did as a business and why it mattered

To better understand how the business is run, and the business processes that would need to be supported by the new S/4HANA system, NSG made the important decision to create a Business Process Optimisation Catalogue (BPOC).

A BPOC is like a business process master list, but as well as listing processes hierarchically, the BPOC augments each process with business relevant meta-data that supports strategic decision making.

Each process in NSG’s BPOC was annotated with characteristics such as Value-Add, Process Variability, Operational Frequency. Transaction Volumes, Complexity, Isolation (vs. Integration), User Volumes, Change Impact, Workarounds, Usability and Defects.

This meant that NSG had a clear understanding of how their business was run, at a deep process-by-process level. They were able to understand how the current system was failing the business and what the key business requirements were for both the ECC Value Now programme as well as the new SAP S/4HANA system.

For any company that is struggling to create a business case for SAP S/4HANA, a BPOC is a great starting point.

6. Interviewed execs and major stakeholders for a deep understanding of S/4HANA requirements

To ensure that their S/4 migration project was led by the business, NSG went beyond looking at strategy documents to understand what the business needed from SAP.

As we all know, a business strategy written on paper a number of years ago can differ greatly to the reality of the business day to day.

And, in a business as large and geographically diverse as NSG, individual business units have requirements that extend beyond those outlined in the main business strategy.

To make sure that all regions and business units were considered in the S/4 roadmap, NSG underwent a process of interviewing execs and major stakeholders from around the world to understand what different departments, geographies and business units needed from SAP S/4HANA.

The interviews helped NSG understand what the business wanted to achieve and how a new ERP could support that. They also made clear what people liked about the current system, what problems there were with the current system, and why it no longer fulfills their business requirements effectively.

They also used the interviews to get a view from the company’s own subject matter experts about what the industry might look like in the coming years. This told NSG what the new S/4 system would need to provide to keep them competitive in future. It was a no holds barred view of the NSG world.

Each interview was transcribed, and a list of common themes quickly began to emerge - the need for flexibility, the need for reliability and, in this fast-moving world, the need for agility.

This provided a much clearer and nuanced view than could be found in business strategy documents alone.

7. Created an S/4HANA roadmap playbook that fascinated it’s target audience

In our SAP Success Report we discovered that adoption was the most important factor when it comes to running a successful SAP project.

To make sure that their new S/4HANA programme was adopted by the business, NSG made a big effort to get business buy-in for the project from the start.

This meant going above and beyond the typical, boring 200 page powerpoints that are normally used to explain IT projects and systems architecture.

Instead, NSG group created a visually striking, eye-catching playbook.

The playbook was unlike anything you would expect to find as part of an IT project - in fact, it talked about IT as little as possible.

Instead, the playbook focussed on setting the context for the project. It cleverly told the story of the ever-changing, technologically advancing industry NSG found themselves in, and contrasted that against the 20 year old SAP system they were fighting against.

Then, without technical jargon, NSG painted a picture of a future where ERP would enable the business not just to survive, but to thrive, leading the way in their industry.

They told a story about a system that was technologically advanced, and that was ready to leverage new technologies like AI, Blockchain and Robotic Process Automation to future-proof their business.

And, rather than sharing this story in a bland powerpoint pack, they invested in a professional design team to create a suite of documents - both physical and digital - that shared the story in a bright, colourful and engaging way using modern graphics and professional photography.

It was the kind of document you’d expect to accompany luxury consumer products - not a boring enterprise IT programme. It rebranded the S/4 migration from just another IT project into an exciting opportunity to transform the business. It became something everyone would want to be a part of.

The playbook clearly outlined the business vision and was used to convey that vision to every audience across the global business.

Investing in such a high quality document early on ensured business buy-in for the project. It was an early but important investment in adoption that would help to maximise the chances of the project's success.

8. Maintained communication with the business for a better, long term S/4HANA plan

NSG’s investment in their playbook shows their commitment to communicating their S/4HANA project to the wider business.

However as we all know, transformations like these are big projects which can take many months or years, especially in a business as diverse as NSG.

This meant that communication with the business needed to be a continuous effort - not just the playbook.

After the playbook had been distributed, multiple follow-up sessions were held with the business to gain feedback and clarify any questions and concerns.

This allowed NSG to allay any fears about the S/4 roadmap, and to incorporate any useful feedback into their plans.

As the programme continues, NSG are committed to keeping communication clear and constant to ensure that the business is happy with what is being delivered by the IT team with ERP.

This will make sure the business continue to see their new S/4HANA system as a tool to transform NSG, and it will ensure NSG Group’s continued success in the years to come.

Create your own Agile ERP roadmap and playbook Creating an agile ERP roadmap can seem like a daunting task when you’re used to a world of waterfall and stage gates - but it’s well worth doing. We supported NSG group in the creation of their agile S/4 roadmap, and we can do it for you too. And, we can do it for any ERP system - not just S/4HANA.

I have worked alongside the Resulting team and it has been an overwhelmingly positive experience – no battles, no hard sell, no exploitation of opportunities just a desire to deliver a level of output that exceeded my expectations.

Martin Lea, Head of SAP, NSG Pilkington


If you’re thinking about a major ERP project and need an engaging and dynamic way to sell it to the business, we can help you create a modern, dynamic project playbook that will engage the audience within your business to buy-in to your ERP project.

Find out more about how Resulting can help you build your S/4 roadmap here.

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