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In Conversation with Thomas Butelet

Global, Staffing

Thomas Butelet joined Jet Aviation Basel Completions in January 2017 as an aircraft coordinator. Fast forward five years and our global SAP S4 Program Director has just led the company’s first successful global implementation of SAP S4 in Singapore. We spoke with him recently to learn about the practicalities of such an endeavor and its importance to the company moving forward.

Congratulations Thomas, to you and our Singapore team, in realizing this considerable milestone!  Can you tell us a bit about the significance of this achievement and your journey in getting there?

Thank you very much. It’s been a very exciting and challenging year. Going live with SAP S4 — taking it from a test environment into a live production system — truly is a huge, historic success for the company that shouldn’t be under-estimated. The past 12 months have been relentless. Everyone involved has truly earned their stripes with this one!

Tell us a bit about SAP S4. Why do we need it – and why Singapore?

20220315_image_Singapore SAP S4 Implementation_Perspectives.jpg

A tool like SAP S4 is used to stream all financial data into one system such that the CFO of a global company like Jet Aviation has a full overview of the corporate finances in a harmonized, comprehensive, aligned, and structured manner. In this sense, it helps us comply with our delegation of authority (DOA) responsibilities, ultimately improving our central governance and making the organization stronger.

We began looking for such a tool when we started to align and standardize our global systems and processes under OneJet. After acquiring Hawker Pacific in 2018, we felt it made sense to start in APAC.

As a large, diverse, and comparatively complex site, Singapore was deemed the ideal location to pilot a single implementation. With approximately 250 employees and significant volumes in both MRO and FBO, it represented an intricate enough environment to use as a starting point within our network — a place to build up the system within, learn from, and eventually extend to smaller sites before exporting it to Basel.

Tell us about the project implementation.

Implementing SAP S4 as a future-ready, end-to-end solution to support financial processes across the company is a fundamental step in Jet Aviation's digitalization journey.

First I’d like to emphasize the sheer magnitude of migrating an entire company’s data to a brand-new system — all while maintaining operations. You literally flip the switch from one day to the next and jump into a new world in which you’re still dealing with customers and suppliers, managing employee payrolls, and having to meet commitments, but without a supporting system. We literally call it the blackout phase.

“This implementation was an enormous effort for the entire organization in Singapore. Thanks to their unwavering team spirit and creativity in defining workarounds as needed, we achieved this in just 12 months — with very minimal disruption for our customers, and no complaints! It’s a truly remarkable feat, and the entire team deserves incredible credit.”

Indeed. What challenges did you Singapore team face this time round?

Well, the complexity of the project was a big hurdle. SAP implementation streamlines a variety of processes. Once we had decided on the standard — SAP S4, we then needed to understand what was required. You have to project yourself into the future, conceptualize how it can work across all sites and all within an extremely tight timeline. It’s a global solution, so you can’t just imagine how it can be integrated locally. You need to discern what and where the gaps will be, qualify them, and find solutions. And these solutions are always very technical!

With the path ahead defined, collaboration is the next challenge. As a global solution, we’re forced to work with each other, to learn and appreciate local concerns. Implementation in Singapore is the result of an intense collaboration of over a hundred individuals around the world. Specific problems arose because people don’t work the same way in different locations, and we needed to find a joint way forward. The solutions involved entirely new processes; it wasn’t just a matter of extending a best practice.

People need to talk to each other and define a common way of working. They’re expected to change the way they’ve always worked and adapt to new way of working globally. This is perhaps one of the most difficult challenges, because we have so little control over it.

Then of course there’s the data. We tend to think of tools in terms of functionality, but for SAP to function efficiently, it requires data. Previously, every site had its own projects and worked in isolation. To get harmonization, we’ve got to share date and establish business rules around it. This is how we create efficiencies and ultimately ensure governance. Managing the data solution was both extremely technical and detailed, again with a lot of time pressure. The black-out began on February 28 and we went live on March 10.

This implementation was an enormous effort for the entire organization in Singapore. Thanks to their unwavering team spirit and creativity in defining workarounds to ensure minimal disruptions, we achieved this in just 12 months — with very minimal disruption for our customers, and no complaints! It’s a truly remarkable feat, and the entire team deserves incredible credit.

It sounds incredibly intense. What now, what comes next?

Well (laughing), we still have many more sites to go! Our goal is to establish SAP S4 as the financial backbone system for all line of business within Jet Aviation, representing a global enterprise for finance. The process began last year, and completion is targeted for 2024. As MRO is our first area of focus, we plan to extend SAP S4 from Singapore to Geneva this summer, which will then be extended to Basel by year’s end.

I hope you’ve planned a break somewhere in there!

Yes, I plan to go to the Arctic for a week next month with my father. He shared his love for photography with me, which I now also love doing. This is my way of giving him something back.

That sounds wonderful. Any last words before you go?

Yes, I’d like to say that anything can happen at Jet Aviation! It’s an incredible place to learn and grow, with limitless opportunities. You can literally re-invent yourself here – and few organizations offer such opportunity. I am very grateful for the trust that’s been placed in me and the team.

I look forward to us optimizing operational synergies and ultimately reinforcing governance and compliance with each successive Go-Live.


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