SAPPHIRENow 2019 - MOD Pizza goes the early adopter route with S/4HANA Cloud and SuccessFactors together

Profile picture for user jreed By Jon Reed May 8, 2019
At this year's Sapphire Now, SAP doubled down on their S/4HANA and SuccessFactors integration plans. I got a hands-on view from ASUG Board Member Tara Gambill of MOD Pizza, one of the earliest adopters of the S/4HANA cloud and SuccessFactors combo.

Gambill of MOD Pizza at SAPPHIRENow.

MOD Pizza is one of the most intriguing customers on the "green field" side of S/4HANA. They run on the S/4HAHA Public Cloud, integrate with SuccessFactors, and their Senior Director of Enterprise Systems, Tara Gambill, sits on the board of ASUG, the North American SAP Users' Group.

Managing a cloud landscape while in growth mode is Gambill's purview. MOD Pizza is a "fast casual" pizza restaurant chain based in the United States. Founded in Seattle, Washington in 2008, MOD has grown to more than 400 locations across the U.S. and the United Kingdom.

It's a new twist on a classic food option: artisan pizzas "made on demand" cooked in stone ovens for three minutes, made with organic dough and gourmet ingredients (that's way off my diet but sounds fantastic!). MOD Pizza currently opens 1-2 stores per week, which means Gambill must be able to provision new locations quickly inside S/4HANA (each store is its own profit and loss center).

So I asked Gambill: what made her decide to go the early adopter route with S/4HANA cloud? "In all transparency, I don't think we really realized what we were early adopting," says Gambill. At the time, Gambill's team was choosing between NetSuite and S/4HANA. She says that concerns about NetSuite's acquisition by Oracle, which was announced during that time, were one factor that led MOD Pizza to go with S/4HANA. One thing was certain: cloud was non-negotiable. Gambill:

That architecture was required and significant for us. It was part of the strategy so we could keep a really lean tech team and go forward. As we continued to investigate SAP, it had all the capabilities we were looking for, and certainly fit that architecture.

On go-live and employee adoption challenges

Fall of 2017 was a vigorous time for Gambill's team: they went live on S/4HANA in September of 2017, and live with SuccessFactors in October. Though the S/4HANA users are a smaller group of super users (100 or so total), SuccessFactors touches most employees in the organization (6,000+). So how are the users doing?

I often remind my team of the Gartner Hype Curve. I definitely feel we are pulling out of the trough of disillusionment, and we're headed to that plateau of productivity.

How have they succeeded in getting users into that productivity zone?

For the S/4 side, given that it's your more back office function, really it's our accounting team. For them, it's really just to be a servant leader, if you will. It was just to listen and really be there to understand what their chief concerns were. When you're trying to evaluate their concerns, you've got some of that, "I just don't like it because it's different and new." And sorting through that. And then when they are tripping on things that are gaps in processes or things like that, then we can continue to work with SAP; we can continue to work with our SI to make it better.

Building a different kind of employee culture

Change is a constant process: "It's a journey with no end. And so we have seen just a dramatic amount of change internally and from SAP, since we've started this." MOD Pizza's SuccessFactors platform supports a different approach to talent and recruiting. MOD Pizza has a recruiting ethos to live up to:

We practice what we call second chance impact hiring. We take great effort and concern with partnering with organizations that we can provide opportunities to people who have traditionally faced barriers to steady employment. It runs a range. Whether it's people who've been incarcerated, whether it's folks on the autism spectrum. It's a matter of creating a relationship with an employee, a real partnership, and having them be a part of this impact.

In a high turnover industry, culture matters. After the hire, MOD Pizza gives employees a sense of belonging through programs like the Bridge Fund, where you can apply for loans or grants if you find yourself in need. This can help employees through difficult transitions. Gambill:

It can be as simple as a bus pass for a month just so they can get to work, to maybe even helping a single mom with a child get some housing because something has gone terribly wrong, but she needs to keep her job. So they come to work, and this is their family. They bring that to customers.

Giving back to others is another cornerstone. MOD Pizza has an alliance with Generosity Feeds, which supports meal packaging programs across the U.S for kids that are food-challenged. At their annual Meeting of the MODs employee event, 1,000 MOD Pizza employees took a break from meetings, donned hair nets and gloves, and helped with a Generosity Feeds meal packing event.

S/4HANA and SuccessFactors - leading the integration push

On the back end, Gambill says the SuccessFactors and S/4HANA integrations are important to supporting their teams. At this year's Sapphire Now, SAP doubled down on their plans to integrate S/4HANA Finance with SuccessFactors - a crucial undertaking when you consider the advancements of competitors like Workday, and their integrated finance and HR solutions. Gambill:

You know that really piqued my interest in the keynote. That's where we will be leaning in, absolutely.

For Gambill, integrating S/4HANA cloud with SuccessFactors also meant coordinating two SIs, one that supports SuccessFactors and one for S/4HANA cloud. Gambill:

This was also kind of groundbreaking for those two product interactions. We still, I understand, are one of the only shops that have this type of native integration.

Currently, the integration is a single direction of employee data from SuccessFactors to S/4HANA. The automation has paid off: 

It creates what S/4 calls business partners. That is the document we can then use to, for example, pay people on their expense payouts. And so it fully automates that creation of all of those records.

The wrap - on ROI and lessons learned

And what about the ROI question? How does Gambill see the benefits from SAP so far?

Especially from my background in other implementations, just the speed in which we were able to implement, to me is quite remarkable. And that's being an early adopter. And that's having a multitude of challenges with our SIs and SAP, having to sit down and figure out something, or some of the quarterly releases that happened while implementation that had some dramatic effect on our design.

For early adopters, creativity is a must. There isn't an S/4HANA restaurant edition. To get the right configuration, each MOD Pizza store is configured from S/4HANA's manufacturing plant template. And that works?

For what we need to do with it, it seems to be doing the trick.Each of our stores is a profit and loss center. So every time we open a new store, we're creating a new plant in S/4, which was some interesting early days as well, because you don't have a lot of manufacturers opening two plants a week.

For Gambill, seven months to go-live on both products was a good sign that had made the right choice:

Even though we were Greenfield, right, we did have an SAP product before. We still had to analyze what we had in the existing system. And we still had to do that level of transformation to figure out how to seed and go forward with this new opportunity.

She puts on her ASUG Board hat for this advice:

Make no mistake, it's complicated to get out of an existing, long time ECC installation. But you know, it's an opportunity to redo. It's an opportunity to rethink.

And how is that ASUG Board work going, given MOD Pizza is not a classic SAP ERP customer?

Well when I put my MOD Pizza hat on, I bring a new persona to the board. That was exciting for me, and I think that was what was exciting for the board as well.

That goes both ways, and continues here at the ASUG Annual Conference, where Gambill gets to learn from peers operating at massive scale:

I am still very much fascinated and interested and blown away by what some of these companies are doing, and what that's going to mean for their transformation to S/4. So that's where I can kind of pivot around.

Gambill knows there's more work ahead with SAP to get the most out of their S/4 and SuccessFactors play. But as she told me, scaling for growth is not on the concern list:

I don't worry about scale.

For an ambitious company in growth mode, that's a good one to knock off the list.

Note: I was joined in this interview by analyst Vinnie Mirchandani, who wrote about MOD Pizza as part of his latest book, SAP Nation 3.0: Manifest Destiny.


Image credit - Photo of Tara Gambill, Sr. Director Enterprise Systems, MOD Pizza at SAPPHIRE Now 2019 by Jon Reed.

Disclosure - SAP paid the bulk of my travel expenses to attend Sapphire Now 2019. SAP and Oracle are diginomica premier partners.