By Douglas Brito, Solutions Architect and specialist in SAP for Start-ups

Everybody knows that ERP (Enterprise Resource Management) is vital to the areas of Finance, Sales, Purchasing, Risk Management among other business units of a company.

Regardless of verticals, size or target audience, it is important to render the ERP as a central part of the business management strategy from the beginning. 

This is no different for small companies and start-ups, which are so eager to grow. 

While large companies demand robust solutions, as they need to micro-manage all aspects of their business, start-ups, which are still growing, are looking for more affordable, scalable and easy-to-implement solutions.

That being said, I’m taking off my trouser suit and putting on some shorts and a t-shirt to get into the spirit of this article and clear up some of the frequently asked questions I get on this subject. Let's get this started.

Is it possible to implement SAP ERP (SAP S/4Hana) in “quirky companies”?

So, start-ups, unicorns, pre-unicorns, fintechs (or techfins) are “quirky companies” to me simply because they differ from conventional ones — and there is no harm in that. 

According to angel investor João Kepler, a start-up differs from a conventional company for several reasons, but mainly because of its ability to create something disruptive and scalable.

And how would it work in real life? Disruptive in which sense? Well, here we go. 

Once I heard the following sentence while working on a SAP S/4HANA implementation project at one of those companies: 

“Man, here we advance/grow/change at the speed of the age of dogs”, said the interlocutor, referring to the fact that a month in the life of humans is equivalent to a year in the life of dogs. When I heard that, I stopped and thought: “Holy sh*t! The job here is different”.

A while later, I heard another sentence that reinforced this understanding: “Here you can't do a closed-scope project or define the total scope. Changing things in a short period of time is part of our business.” Again, I put my hand on my chin and thought: “What world is this???”.

Anyway, do you know when you realize that everything you learned in years of consulting, all the techniques, approaches and even languages were in need of a new look?! Well, that's how I felt.

Undoubtedly, working with start-up is completely different from working with conventional clients — but that is a subject for another article, perhaps even bigger than this one. 

What I want to say today is that serving disruptive customers like Veloe, Dafiti, iFood and Loggi showed me that the core business of these “different companies” was fundamentally solid, technological and fluid, but the rear needed attention.

In other words, operational and strategic processes needed to be at the systems level, while microservices should be used at the cutting-edge.

No wonder we heard expressions like “our current system does not support our growth”, “we are expanding operations abroad”, “we need an ERP that assists us in this”, “our back office needs to be reorganized” and even “how can we do a basic project, fast and cheap?”. 

And that's exactly where SAP S/4HANA comes in to solve the problem.

All my ‘SAPer’ friends and experts on this system know quite well how much SAP S/4HANA conveys value and improves the flows, making everything simpler — but S/4HANA capabilities are also a conversation for another day.

Usually, start-ups run their main systems and services based on very well-structured and agile technical teams, that is, they have a talented gang taking care of innovation, transformation, portals, infrastructure, backend, frontend, etc. 

So, that speech of innovation and digital transformation that we use to convince the customer that an ERP system is important doesn't work because these people are totally digital and were born with innovative technologies, you know?

So, how do you surprise them? For me, the means to achieve this are simplicity and creativity. To make it clearer, I will list five steps that I consider essential, thinking of a simple approach. Here they are: 

  1. A good discovery (“understand me”) — Understand, genuinely, how the start-up works and what its value chain is.
  2. Technological assessment (“truly understand me”) — Map and jointly build the systems architecture, not only thinking about the ERP.
  3. Lean solution (“give me what I need and not what I want”) — Bring a creative solution proposal focused on MVP and SAP Best Practices aiming at the most standard method possible. The point here is to build the alliance between the parties with a focus on successful delivery. Therefore, be very careful with integrations, as it is a feature that is very present in projects of this type. Do this process right and never underestimate the volumetry.
  4. Room for change (“open heart”) — This point requires a lot of caution; this is where you can screw things up! It is very common for the scope of a start-up implementation to start-up change from the pre-sale period to the construction phase. And then there's no way around it: you must evaluate the magnitude of the change and discuss the points.
  5. Phase in delivery (“step by step”) — When building the differentiated and personalized roadmap, it is important to focuson the core processes of back office the back office for a first wave. And then evolve in a cadenced way, harmonizing existing technologies with solutions acquired from the SAP ecosystem.

I bet at some point on this list you thought, “Calm down, what you're saying applies to any company, not just start-ups” Yes indeed. However, the difference is in the pace of the project, which needs to be done in half the time of a conventional delivery.

After all, start-ups cannot take weeks to understand or learn what must be done for the solution to work. They need something that helps them get started and also gives them room to improve and scale over time. 

And how to make it happen? Leave it up to Numen!

We have a packaged solution for start-ups, which helps a lot with the time targets of the SAP S/4HANA implementation. And most importantly: we have experience with this type of client and their projects. Oh! I almost forgot to tell you, we also wear some shorts and a t-shirt (just kidding!).