In record time

An interview with Deloitte's Dave Lane and Kāpura CFO, Cormac Denton

Kāpura, formerly known as Wellington Hospitality Group, are a frequent contender on the Deloitte Fast 50 Master of Growth index, with continued  growth expected in the coming years. To match their ambition with their digital operations, they paired up with our Deloitte Digital team to implement a new platform - the SAP S4/HANA Cloud ERP.

Up for a challenge, the combined team decided to go one step beyond and completed the implementation in a record time of 28 days. We caught up with the project leaders - Deloitte Associate Director, Dave Lane and Kāpura CFO, Cormac Denton – to hear their thoughts on their record-breaking achievement…

Congratulations, Dave and Cormac. How does it feel to have achieved the 'world’s fastest' SAP S4/HANA implementation?

Dave Lane: From my perspective, absolutely fantastic. It was a bit of an audacious goal - I think the original proposal I put forward to Cormac had something like 12 weeks in it, so to go from a standard cloud timeline to almost a quarter of that was definitely a good challenge.

Cormac Denton: I think for my team, we want to break down and smash down a load of records, but in our day to day business, we're also just trying to do our part in advancing hospitality within New Zealand. We have an overarching view that people matter and the experience we want people to have matters too. Sure, we need to gain efficiencies as we grow, but we want our people have every tool they need to create moments of delight with our communities. 

And in terms of your partnership with Deloitte, Cormac, when did Kāpura first start working with them?

CD: We started looking at new systems back when I joined the business nearly three years ago. For the first year and a half, I was looking at a tier 2 system but when it became quite evident that our growth was exponential, we realised that we needed the ability to take a fragmented sector and roll it up in a structured manner. We had the conversations with SAP first as we are very focused on having the right tools as we scale up. Once we went through a thorough review, we then needed to find a partner who could not only knock out the first SAP S/4HANA public cloud in New Zealand, but also be up for a challenge to make the impossible possible. Deloitte were our natural choice, having the capability but also the spark to tackle something new. 

It was interesting to see perceptions being smashed as well as records. In my CFO circles, a lot of people seem to think that SAP and Deloitte look after the large end of town, so wouldn’t be able to handle a fast-growing nimble company. This partnership proved we had the right product and the right team.

Dave, how did your team approach the project?

DL: It was a little different to the usual approach. While we did follow a structure that was broadly similar to any other implementation, we put a particular focus on getting the governance clear at the start and setting an expectation about how things would be run. The short timeline increased the chance of potential issues, so we had to ensure that we were equipped to handle risk. We defined the scope to a real level of detail and during the project, Cormac's team was empowered to make decisions as they went.

CD: I completely agree - the team empowerment was both on the Kāpura side and the Deloitte side. There were times that Dave and I probably didn't know all the details  at a micro level, but we trusted the staff enough to make the right decisions.

So in a way, it was a good test of optimising your teamwork to get the project done?

CD: Definitely. Adopting a new way of working can be hard for a lot of organisations to do, as you want to keep on going back to what you used to do. In our case, the cloud product that we chose is fit-to-standard, so essentially the business must move around it, but by empowering the staff and having them in the room during important discussions, they were included on the journey and knew why we were doing it.  

DL: I think you've hit the nail on the head, Cormac. By choosing that fit-to-standard technology, it will make adoption so much easier going forward, because when you start bringing in integrations with wider systems further down the line, you're already talking a common language. It also makes it easier for new staff coming into the organisation to get up to speed quickly.

And in terms of the project for you both, did you have any particular memorable moments from it? I saw that you had a special beer made!

DL: I think that was certainly a highlight, getting the ‘Implementation beer’! There were so many highlights. Probably the biggest one for me, which might sound odd, was actually on the day that the system went functionally live and suddenly we found ourselves with some free time. To celebrate, the team at Kāpura opened up one of their bars and we went for some drinks. Past experiences have always meant that the last couple of days are full on but to see the whole team, both from Kāpura and Deloitte, just sitting around a table relaxing at a time that would normally be stressful, I think was probably one of my biggest highlights.

CD: I completely agree, and certainly that was a culmination of the whole journey. The Kāpura and the Deloitte team probably worked about 22 days at most over that period and for me that was a huge achievement. I have been on a few ERP roll outs and this one was what a project should be - well-run and an exciting experience.

And one final question - it's fairly unlikely to happen to anyone in the near future, but what would you say to anyone who tries to steal your record?

CD: It's interesting, Dave and I were discussing that question at the end of the project and I said I would love it if someone could beat us. Wouldn't this be amazing if everyone could have the same experience? System changes should be full of excitement.

But to beat the record you would need a company that's willing to go through that change process and make that big leap. The other part is the training - making sure that everyone is comfortable with what they're getting and how they're doing their job. Unless someone was actively looking to smash our record, my suggestion would be to focus on that culture change.

DL: I agree. Everyone has this misconception that implementations are about the technology, when in reality it has everything to do with the business and the people who use it. The technology is simply a medium for whatever that activity is and people need to have the right mind-set to adopt it at pace.

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