Implementing SAP? Here is how to succeed

signing documents

SAP or any ERP Implementation is a tremendous task with high failure rates. The statistics will tell you the same. Here is how to be the exception to that. Take care of the following and be the few successful ones.

Set up a strong Project Management Office

The successful implementation and delivery of any SAP project (indeed any ERP system) depends largely on how the project management function is carried out. Therefore, the proper resourcing of the project Management Office (PMO) tasked with the successful delivery of the project is of utmost importance.

Have a Proper Project Governance with clear line of reporting

A clear and unambiguous Governance Structure is of utmost importance in timely and successful delivery of ERP Projects. Your project governance should provide clear lines of reporting and delegation of Authority. It should give sufficient authority to the PMO in Resourcing, Procurement, and a well-defined forum for quick decision making. A structure that allows for quick decision making is important.

Let your PMO have easy access to the Project Sponsor and to Top Management

The PMO should have unhindered access to the Project Sponsor and to Top Management without having to go through unnecessary bureaucratic bottlenecks.

Set up a Project Steering Committee

Your project governance should provide for setting up of a Project Steering Committee that should be chaired by the CEO/President of the Organization. This is especially helpful, if you are dealing with a huge implementation and big budget. The Steering Committee can meet at regular intervals to review progress and be updated on overall Implementation progress, and also on issues and risks on which decisions have to be taken.

The PMO should also be availed with the opportunity to request for special sessions of the committee if urgent issues that are above the authority of the Project Director are to be brought to the attention of the Steering Committee.

Give your Project Director sufficient authority to carry out key functions

Around the issue of the project governance, it is of paramount importance that, the Project Director to be given sufficient authority to carry out key functions (like Recruitment and Procurement) without having to refer back to management or even the Project steering committee. Key resources, both internal and external may leave during critical stages of project implementation. The authority to hire project resources without going through a lot of bureaucracy can,to a very large extent, save a lot of implementation time.

Have a politically powerful Project Director.

The importance of this in my view cannot be over-emphasized (especially in bureaucratic organizations), because this means direct and easy access to management. With that, budgets gets approved relatively easily, resources (in the right quality and number) are made available, and Top Management Sponsorship are assured throughout the implementation. Also some powerful people that are not convinced of the change can be carried along or at least resistance from their side to the successful delivery of the Project can be properly managed.

Have a Properly structured project Team

Have a properly structured project Team sufficiently resourced with dedicated Subject Matter Experts in the various Business areas affected by the implementation.

The team structure and reporting line should be adequately defined in the project governance to avoid unintended conflict.

Select /recruit sufficiently experienced and competent project Team Leads

Selecting /recruiting sufficiently experienced and competent project Team Leads to take care of delivery of defined project deliverables, holding them accountable and adequately motivating them helps in successful and timely delivery of ERP Projects.

Have an excellent Conflict resolution mechanism

Early identification and resolution of conflict within the Team is also of paramount importance. Conflicts within a project team can be a major cause of delay or even a clear source of failure. Team harmony/cohesion encourages innovation and ensure timely delivery of projects. The presence of a strong Project Director can prevent or reduce the occurrence of Team conflict.

Set up an excellence change management structure and Team with sufficient knowledge of the Organization’s Business Process and culture

It is important to have a strong change management Structure and Team for the important task of making the Organization change ready and willing participants in the project delivery. “One of the big lessons is that change has no constituency. People like the status quo. They like the way it was. When you start changing things, the old good days looks better and better” (Jack Welch).

Manage resistance from powerful quarters

The change management function may not be that extremely difficult to carry out if resistance is coming only from the lower cadre of the organization. Unfortunately, the Change Management Team has to contend with some very powerful figures in the organization, who for one reason or another wants the status quo to remain. This is where a strong Change Management Team under the supervision of a strong Project Director becomes critical for the successful and timely delivery of the project. Resistance has to be addressed or at the very least managed from the very start of the project implementation right through to the end of project delivery, otherwise the project will be heading for failure or at best delay in delivery.

Regularly reporting of project progress, risks and issue

Regular status updates/reporting of progress, issues and risks helps in early identification and resolution/mitigation of issues and risks and also consolidation of progress. Ranking/rating of issues into categories (minor, major, critical, sore stoppers etc.) also helps in the proper prioritization of issues, so that each issue can be given the appropriate attention based on criticality.

Have a strong follow up culture

Issues and risks are not only to be reported, the PMO should have a strong culture of following up issues and closing them timely. Unresolved issues can lead to surprises and subsequent delay in project implementation and delivery.

Have a strong implementation partner relationship management

SAP Implementation can be done in house or as commonly the case, done with an outside SAP implementation partner. Where the latter is the case, managing the relationship between the Organization and the outside Partner becomes one of the key functions of the Project Director and a major factor in the successful delivery of the project. Smooth or rancor free relationship can translate to a greater probability of success and vice versa.

Hire a credible Quality Assurance Partner

The Top Management and Steering Committee members are likely to be carried along much more easily if your status reports, recommendations, deliveries on key milestones and system deliveries are collaborated by an independent Quality Assurance Partner. Manage your relationship with them effectively and carry them along as partners in the implementation. Note, however, that this approach is without its risk, as any contradictory narration from the QA or disagreement on any particular subject matter may make Project Director’s work difficult in convincing management with his own narration on that subject. Therefore, the Project management has to make sure they are the same page with QA on issues before going to management.

Carry your Business Areas affected by the implementation along with you

To begin with SAP or any ERP implementations do not just happen. They are intended to address requirements of Business or user Departments in the organization. Business areas provide the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to support the implementation and provide vital business knowledge in their various areas of expertise during the requirement gathering stage right through to the deployment of the solution. They are the ones that also sign off on the solution and are the end users. Therefore it is vitally important to carry them along during the implementation to avoid failure.

Leverage the authority of Top management in pushing through difficult changes

At certain stages in the implementation life cycle it becomes very necessary for management to chip in to force through some difficult but important changes that become necessary because of the project implementation. The PMO should know when to call on management to help in pushing through certain unpalatable but important decisions.

Re-engineer your business processes to derive maximum values from any ERP Implementation

SAP implementation is not about automatic existing business processes. It is about preparing the organization to adopt applicable industry best practices. After all if the existing process and way of doing things are adequate you would hardly be able to make a business case for such an implementation. Therefore, an important part of SAP project implementation is to have a hard and frank look at your business processes with a view to aligning them to industry best practices as much as applicable. It is only in this way that maximum value can be derived from any SAP implementation.

Develop a detailed migration strategy for each area of implementation

Data is probably one of the most important assets of any organization. In most big implementations you will be dealing with data spanning over decades of the organizations existence. Extracting this data, preparing it, reconciling it, and migrating it, can be one of the major risks of failure of any implementation. Overlooking this side of the implementation means that you are heading for failure or at best a major delay in the deployment of your solutions. Assemble a very competent data management team and make sure that your Implementation Partner provide you with the best data management consultant you can lay hands on. A data migration strategy that outlines all these is a must and must be delivered to you by your implementation partner timely, without delay

Develop a detailed go live strategy

It is not enough to plan only the implementation of an SAP project and forgetting about how the solutions are going to be deployed and most importantly, effectively used. This is stage of the delivery cycle is very crucial and activities like the end user training, user acceptance testing, and switching off the legacy systems and switching on the new SAP system need to be properly managed. The planning around all these should be documented in a clear and concise go live strategy.

Now what do you think? We would like to here your thoughts on the subject. You may kindly leave a comment.

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3 thoughts on “Implementing SAP? Here is how to succeed

  1. Kindly note that SAP AG has recently released a latest SAP methodology named ACTIVATE that replaces ASAP.. its basically an enhancement but also includes project requirements i.e. Change management , Agile methods , Business analysis and amongst other ….


  2. And maybe it sounds a little oldfashioned, take serious time for a organizational workshop to have a clear understanding of the (legal) entities that need to set up in SAP!
    And keep in mind what the reporting needs are!

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