SAP Customer Activity Repository (CAR) is key component in any retailer’s omni-channel architecture. /N SPRO has supported many CAR projects at companies across North America, and I’ve seen the value it can drive.
Through my 30 years of combined consumer industry and consulting experience, I’ve noticed there are certain aspects that all successful CAR implementations have in common. Here are seven attributes that I would highlight:
- Retailer has a deep understanding of the technology and the value CAR can drive
While CAR is licensed as an application, in reality it is a platform—for retail planning (with products such as SAP Promotion Management for Retail (PMR)), for operational reporting, and for omnichannel services. It is a foundation for many core retail business processes and supports a wide array of capabilities. As such, it requires a high level of understanding of what the tool can offer and how it connects within a retailer’s environment.
- Strong customer leadership and solution ownership
CAR will touch many core processes within a retail business, many of which are customer-facing. As a result, it requires an extra level of focus from key stakeholders within your organization. CAR projects cannot be treated as ‘typical’ projects or they run the risk of creating significant delays since most projects require high levels of precision (e.g., sales posting, outbound offer communication) and/or very low latency (e.g., customer price display, customer available-to-promise) and typically stretch most IT infrastructures.
- Take an incremental approach consistent with your business maturity
Various levels of maturity can be supported by CAR, so don’t be tempted to take on capabilities that the business cannot support right away. I recommend assessing current capability maturity levels against future desired functionality. Then break the capabilities into small, implementable work packages and implement based on priority. Focus on what is most important and ensure each project is implemented with high quality.
- Gain strong business support for the roadmap, set clear expectations, make a clear plan for what is next
Strong business support is critical, but they must be aware of what the CAR implementation provides for them and when. CAR is a platform for enabling omni-channel capabilities. Make sure that all involved understand that CAR often starts foundational with advanced capabilities in the future. That will save some explanation later down the road, and also set you up to get buy-in on future CAR-related projects. While setting expectations for CAR, you will need to have a clear roadmap for what is coming in the future. Leverage proofs of concept to show key business leaders what the platform provides so the value is clear.
- Emphasize strong partner relationships
You can’t execute a successful CAR project alone—it will take a strong relationship with your implementation partner, platform partner, and SAP. Make sure SAP product teams and MaxAttention are heavily involved so you can stay aware of the latest innovations and receive rapid response to project issues. The CAR platform is constantly evolving and every customer’s current state architecture is unique so trying to implement CAR in your specific environment creates a whole new set of challenges. That’s why it is important to be closely engaged with all partners.
- Establish clear partner roles and responsibilities
With multiple partners who may have overlapping roles and responsibilities, it will be important to establish early on which partner is responsible for each element of the implementation. I recommend creating a detailed RACI prior to beginning the project that all partners review and approve. This way roles are clear and important project tasks are ensured to not drop nor will you have multiple partners working on the same tasks, potentially creating confusion and wasted effort.
- Partner with other customers
Other retailers have implemented CAR and are implementing CAR currently. Additionally, the CAR platform is constantly evolving to meet more and more retail needs. It is important to find one or two retailer partners that may be at different stages of their project than your company but tapping into their experience can be helpful. Collaborating with another customer, to exchange ideas and tips, is very important and will likely provide you with ideas to solve key issues or better leverage the technology.
Ensuring your project includes these seven elements will help create a successful CAR implementation that sets the stage for future success with SAP omnichannel.