At the University of Ghent (UGent), many research projects are at different stages in their life cycles at any given moment. Accurate management of these projects and their finances is key. After calling on Flexso to help with the deployment of SAP Project and Portfolio Management to link the researcher-oriented GISMO project management platform with their financial data residing in SAP, the next step was to redesign the mainly manual process of financial follow-up on research projects using SAP Fiori.
One of UGent’s main objectives in implementing SAP PPM was to create a solid foundation on which to build transparent financial overviews of university research and educational projects.
After activating the PPM module and interfacing it with other active SAP modules and the existing Java-based project management platform for research, GISMO, Flexso developers worked with UGent developers to create a brand-new SAP Fiori-based environment aimed at alleviating and simplifying the work of UGent’s administrative personnel. “As we were looking for a user interface that was simple and intuitive to use and because Fiori is the future front-end of SAP, SAP Fiori seemed like a great fit for us”, says Sara Taeymans, project lead for the ICT department at UGent.
“As we were looking for a user interface that was simple and intuitive to use, SAP Fiori seemed like a great fit for us.”
Sara Taeymans, project lead for the ICT department at UGent
Before, financial project management was mainly a manual process involving multiple Excel files changing hands often across the department, potentially leading to human error and inaccuracy. “Not to mention the time it takes to move physical file folders from one place to another”, adds Ann Koolen, SAP consultant at Flexso. With SAP PPM in place, the time was right to introduce the flexibility and power of SAP Fiori to the team at UGent.
“Prior to Fiori, university personnel worked directly in the SAP backend to manage project data – not a “sexy” experience”, says Ann. “What they wanted was an intuitive, attractive and streamlined interface to match their digital ambitions. Fiori, providing an innovative and elegant user experience to match the power of the SAP Business Suite, was the solution they were looking for.”
“What we especially like about Fiori, is that it allows us to work in a ‘push’ way”, David Vermeersch, business project manager for Finance and Research Management at UGent, explains. “Employees don’t have to look up project stats and email colleagues with next steps to take. Instead, they can rely on the system, which tracks the process automatically and sends notifications to relevant stakeholders, telling them exactly what to do and when to do it.”
Read more about ‘how to make difficult processes made simple with SAP Fiori’ in our dedicated blog post.
Together with UGent, the Flexso team developed approximately 16 Fiori applications to translate the process that employees were following to track the financial aspects of the university’s research projects throughout their life cycles. Ann: “Many workshops were held with staff, developers and analysts before it was clear which applications should be created and what features they needed to have. It required extremely close collaboration and constant interaction between the development team and end users.”
The final result has many benefits. First of all, the Fiori applications function as a custom workflow. Once the applications were created, they were all added onto a launchpad or portal that users can access to progress through all applications. Once users complete the required tasks in one application, the project is automatically sent to the next application. Another advantage is that their project data is now much more centralised. There is no more searching through files to find data – users are automatically presented with the exact data they need to complete actions within the Fiori apps.
In spite of the many benefits, the new solution took some getting used to. “Proper change management was essential to the process,” Sara asserts. “People naturally defend their current and familiar ways of working. However, we had some ambassadors at the university that helped us ensure that the end result fit their needs, and in convincing their colleagues of the benefits of the solution.”
David: “The Flexso team was very flexible: if we needed something extra that wasn’t necessarily planned, they made it work. And when things got held up – which sometimes happens in our multi-stakeholder setting – they completely understood. Flexso knows UGent and flexibly adapts to our situation.”
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