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Surviving a successful SAP go-live

I still remember the first time that I was a part of a SAP project that went live. We had toiled for seven months to get the Netherlands operation of a gas manufacturing company from an outdated HP legacy on to SAP. The day before the go-live saw us toil till 04:30 in the morning only to miss the opening address of the general manager over some cakes and beer. Yes the Dutch can drink beer at all hours of the day. The go-live was a rocking success but still we missed out on the free cans of beer that morning. So here is my list of things that enable companies to have a rocking go-live and not miss the beer party:

  • Proper Governance: A lot of resource and money is spent on a SAP implementation. Without a proper governance model there is no accountability and the project would fall apart. Lots of time, the upper management is way too busy in running the business at hand and the implementation takes a backseat. A proper governance ensures that the vision of the management is percolated down to the lower levels and conflict resolutions are easier. Weekly meetings with status reports go a long way in making a success story of any implementation.
  • Scoping: Most SAP projects have time and cost overruns because of improper scoping. A proper blueprinting of the business at hand and mapping the same to the solution available results in knowing the gaps that have to be bridged. Sometimes very little time is given to this whole process resulting in improper estimates and subsequent gaps being found that are critical for the business. As a result the scope keeps on creeping up and leads to an overall delay in the program. Proper documentation should be maintained about the scope and a process should be set up by the governance team about scope creeps. Best managed projects have minimum scope changes.
  • Stakeholder communicaton: Many project disasters can be avoided by setting up proper communication channels. Often there are no clear cut communications from the project management team about the expectations from the business. In turn the business has no clues about what to expect out of SAP. Communication of weekly progress and targets for the next week play a pivotal role  Most SAP implementation service providers follow a global-delivery model where custom development (ABAP coding) is done at a different location. As a result there are a lot of bottlenecks in communication. Efforts should be made to ensure that there is proper communication of requirements resulting in near zero errors. During the stage of cutover and go-live effort must be made to have status meetings everyday which go a long way in giving confidence to the stakeholders.
  • Involvement of business at all steps of the project: An SAP implementation is not only an IT software change. It involves a change in the approach of business and lots of processes need to be aligned to this new way of working. As a result, there should be involvement of the business at all steps straight from blueprinting till the go-live. Teams working in silos often face a problem because of unwillingness of the business to look for alternative ways of working at the last moment before the go-live. The involvement of business results in healthy discussions and subsequent realignment of business process becomes easier.
  • Not the onus of IT: Similar to the previous point, there should be a firm communication from the top management that the onus of implementing SAP is not only for the IT team but the whole business. This results in different ideas coming to the table and reduces conflicts during go-live.
  • Business approvals at every stage: No SAP project can be achevied without custom developments. There are local business processes that need ABAP codes to be written for certain add on functionalities. Often the developments related to such gaps go completely untested till the point of user acceptance testing resulting in major defects that can be avoided by taking the business approval from a very early stage of development. The best way is to share unit testing and integration testing results with the business and seek their approvals before hand.
  • Ease of usage tools creation: A lot of SAP processes/ transactions are time consuming and hence business users are unwilling to let go of old processes. In one of our projects, rebate processing was being done through excel sheets. It was very difficult to convince the business users to use the standard SAP functionality to create rebates because of the sheer time required to create one rebate in SAP. Similar was the requirement for having a tool for faster upload of contracts into SAP. We managed to create such tools that have gone a long way towards the acceptance of the solution by the business users. Such tools are easy to create and give the users a confidence and saves their time.
  • Exhaustive training and hand holding pre and post go-live: Usually during any implementation, user trainings are completed in tight schedules. For a novice, learning all the transactions and nuances of SAP is not easy. This can only be acheived through exhaustive trainings and hand holding sessions pre and post go-live. Most of the issues that are encountered during any implementation is caused because of a lack of knowledge. After the go-live there should be a validation of the data going into the system by the implementation team to check for errors in transactions before they become disruptive.
  • Controlling data issues during user acceptance testing: During any user acceptance testing the majority of issues are related to wrong master data. Most of these issues can be avoided by putting in place checks and controls to make the master data proper for the testing. A lot of time and effort can be saved by this step. If this step seems to be very tedious, then a subset of the data should be analsyed for errors and this should be provided to the users for user acceptance testing.
  • Managing changes: Change management is very important to any organisation and especially so when taking a giant step like a SAP implementation. A lot of processes are bound to change and reactions to change are not always positive. To ease changes there should be proper hand holding for the users and giving them the broader picture of why such changes are necessary. Human nature avoids changes and in case of a SAP implementation people are also afraid of their job security. To get the best results the governing body should address change management issues with positive reasons.
  • Motivating and rewarding people: A SAP implementation is a very complex project and people need motivation to go ahead with the work at hand. Rewarding people who have worked towards change, arranging open forums and appreciating people for their committment towards the project goes a long way in making an SAP implementation successful.
  • Managing politics: Politics is one thing that can derail an implementation and hence the governing committee should take every possible action to eliminate the politics. Hidden agendas should be brought out in open through transparent communication.

Wishing you a happy implementation

1 Comment
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  • Great work !!!

    You covered all the relavent aspects of managing and implementing project (including high level technical aspects and managerial aspects like motivating ppl & managing politics as well !)

    Excellent !

    Keep posting !

    Pratik Patel