Automation » Pharmanovia boosts efficiency and work-life balance with ERP upgrade

Pharmanovia boosts efficiency and work-life balance with ERP upgrade

How Pharmanovia new ERP system, SAP S/4HANA, translates to smoother business operations, increased productivity and a better work-life balance for employees

When Felipe Florez-Arango was appointed CFO of Pharmanovia in March 2021, he prioritised actively listening to his colleagues’ concerns and finding ways to alleviate their pain points.

After just a few months in the role, it became evident that the business’s ERP system was a ‘recurring topic’ and in need of attention. Florez-Arango notes his colleagues across the finance, supply chain and quality divisions had expressed the system prevented them from being as efficient as they could be; in some instances, the legacy software created additional work.

“They said system was not up to what we need, and was making their life and their job harder,” he says.

Fast forward to February 2023, Pharmanovia announced the successful upgrade of its ERP system through the implementation SAP S/4HANA across its business in the Benelux region.

The UK-based pharmaceutical firm has since completed a full SAP S/4HANA rollout across its entire organisation, marking a significant achievement for the finance team.

SAP S/4HANA is an ERP software package meant to cover all day-to-day processes of an organisation, including: order-to-cash, procure-to-pay, plan-to-product, and request-to-service. The system, developed by software company SAP, integrates functions from lines of businesses as well as industry solutions, and also re-integrates portions of SAP Business Suite products.

The new system will likely be crucial for Pharmanovia’s future success; SAP’s platform streamlines business processes, and improves and enhances overall efficiency and controls. By implementing the new ERP system, Pharmanovia’s finance function is now able to manage operations more effectively and stay competitive in the market place.

Pharmanovia is not alone in its efforts to upgrade legacy finance systems. A Deloitte study revealed a growing number of organisations were adopting automated software solutions; furthermore, those that were on a digitalisation journey had accelerated their implementation of new systems.

Why timing can make or break success

The implementation of the new ERP system was no small feat for the global pharmaceutical company. Florez-Arango recalls how he gained the board’s buy-in before dedicating the project’s first four to six months to due diligence; this included software and implementation partner selection.

He explains the system “was no longer fit for purpose” while the company was snowballing, which meant they were quickly outliving the system. Also, the previous system further opened the company up to inaccuracies and committing fraud. Hoping to resolve this, Florez-Arango and his team considered other ERP providers but chose SAP S/4HANA as it offered heavy automation and the opportunity to scale up.

“We kicked off the actual ERP implementation in mid-January 2022. By December 2022, the system was ready: it was fully built, tested and ready to go,” says Florez-Arango.

Florez-Arango and his team decided to ‘go live’ in February, starting with Pharmanovia’s small entities in the Benelux region. The choice to go live earlier in this region, he says, was deliberate given the functional currency of other legal entities in different regions was more uncertain and likely to change.

It also coincided with Pharmanovia’s plan for the end of the financial year, a time when the organisation had greater “flexibility”.

Tackling initial growing pains

The next few months saw Pharmanovia’s finance team look for defects to ensure the project’s success.

“For us, the first step was understanding what we needed to change in terms of software, meaning investigating whether we keep the current ERP system, upgrade it or replace it.

“Everything went well but as with every ERP, there’s always what is referred to as ‘defects’. We identified defects during user acceptance testing and also post go-live; this is reviewed on a daily basis during hyper care with the defects being addressed on a timely manner,” says Florez-Arango.

He explained that every morning and afternoon the team evaluates what issues have occurred during the previous day and decides how to resolve those defects; these vary from transactions queries to access issues.

While scalability, cost-effectiveness, flexibility, and improved collaboration, are some of the benefits of migrating to an ERP system, Pharmanovia’s CFO noted the improvement in work-life balance as the team worked more effectively.

“We have been on the system for two and a half months now – things are faster. Automation is making the lives of our colleagues better. That means they have time to add more value, learn, progress, grow and enjoy a better work-life balance,” says Florez-Arango.

Navigating the risks involved in making a big move

Pharmanovia’s SAP S/4HANA implementation was not without its challenges, and according to Florez-Arango, some of the team’s pain points were cleaning master data and ensuring its accuracy, building new process together before the implementation, while providing adequate training to all the colleagues.

“Before SAP, we found challenges with our master data. So while the implementation project was underway, we ran a master data cleanliness project in parallel – clean master data means you are not moving problems from one system to another, says Florez-Arango.

He adds that the company further invested in documenting processes and extensive training, which was even more beneficial. “Now we have a process on how everything around it works. This is not a high-level process. It goes to an unbelievable level of detail,” says Florez-Arango.

Effective collaboration and communication is essential

Florez-Arango says he gained valuable insights into the importance of standardisation when implementing the ERP system, explaining that customising a complex system emphasises the need for collaboration across teams.

For example, during the testing stage, a team from Pharmanovia’s India office joined the London team to help keep the project on schedule when it fell one week behind.  “Yes, the world today is more remote, but it is better to have the people present in the office around the table in this type of implementation. This helps improve and drive collaboration and team work,” he explains.

“We may need someone. We may not. But if the person is around the table, then the person will be able to help much faster,” says Florez-Arango, adding that he had also seen that collaboration makes work more fun.

Pharmanovia’s successful implementation of SAP S/4HANA across its whole organisation is a remarkable accomplishment that highlights the company’s commitment to operational excellence through automation.

The massive undertaking at Pharmanovia has not only improved efficiency – Florez-Arango’s teams no longer spend copious amounts of time on mundane tasks – but it has also improved their work-life balance.

According to Florez-Arango, this has proven the the benefits of listening to and prioritising his teams’ needs. “It comes back to the team, because the team is the one that made all this happen,” he says, adding that the project was also a valuable learning opportunity not only for the team but for him as well.

“We knew that it was not going to be easy. It was a long and hard journey, but we always knew there is light at the end of the tunnel as this would be so much easier once we get to the destination.”

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