SAP Project Management: Path to Hero or Point of Failure?
About 10 years ago I decided to leave the road from being an SAP consultant. I found an opening at washingtonpost.com for an SAP project manager that was 18 miles from my house. I didn’t think anything of it – I interviewed, applied and took the position. Truly, the only thing going for me at the time regarding project management was my AcceleratedSAP certification and FI/CO certification and PS experience. I had never even been a project manager.
My first project as project manager I was able to succeed due to the following:
* hard work
* responsiveness of the customer and their willingness to adopt SAP
Additionally, I diligently met the ASAP deliverables at each phase:
* Project Prep – kick off meeting
* Blueprint – BPML & process flow
* Validation – unit test
* Realization – integration test
* Final Prep – cutover testing
* Go Live – hold meeting to “go live”
* After go live – present “lessons learned” in slides that went NO WHERE.
We even had a setback due to 9/11, but we were able to successfully work through it. I had one negative lesson learned – the customer manager was expecting a change to the bar code scanner that I said wasn’t in scope. Did we have a scope document? Hmm…
I decided I didn’t want to be a project manager; I felt I didn’t get the political support needed from management at the time.
A few years later, my manager at the time told me he wanted all of us functional analysts to take the PMP (Project Management Professional) exam. Both my office-mate at the time and I decided to take it. It turns out I had very little knowledge of formal project management. While I have experience in SAP project systems and understanding Microsoft Project, I realized I had a great deal to learn. I remember thinking “an SAP PS network is something I’m just never going to understand”.
Then, as I was studying, I finally learned that networks are not an SAP term, but really a way to manage the project activities. S-S, S-F, F-F, F-S – those didn’t come from SAP!
Fortunately, after hard study, I passed the PMP exam – you need stamina and endurance to take a 200 multiple choice question test!! Then, the interesting part came when I decided to apply the concepts I learned to the projects I was involved in at the time.
We had 2 completing projects at the time – I was on a ramp-up upgrade project for an industry solution we were using. First, we met with the project sponsor and asked him his expectations. Then we created a one page project charter, which the sponsor signed. I framed and gave it to him, so he would remember what this project was about. What is a project charter? It is an “approval to proceed”. Solution Manager has project charter templates, and good ones, but we decided not to use it and keep it simple. My favorite project charter format is from Rita Mulcahy, rmcproject.com, link http://www.informit.com/articles/article.aspx?p=1400865
A simpler charter could look as follows (source, Claudia Baca, “Project Management for Mere Mortals”)
We held a kick-off meeting and explained up front that this upgrade, while of great benefit, would require some system downtime; a master data freeze; and at some point a development freeze. We explained the upgrade phases and what was expected at each.
Then we had the project preparation phase, with an estimated timeline with expected resources. What was different this time was he had a risk management matrix, with red, yellow and green stoplights. We had a risk management plan. Here is an example of the risk matrix:
Another example can be found at http://www.docstoc.com/docs/13291351/Project-Management-Templates
During the “realization” phase, we developed a responsibility assignment matrix (RAM) to assign and manage resources. Here is an example:
Each week, we had a standing status meeting, with notes and action items. For that we (finally) used the Solution Manager template provided. The issues list was reviewed. We measured % completed by the “RAM”.
Meanwhile, we lost our key FI/CO resource for the upgrade and I had to step in and take her place; a key part of this upgrade included Finance. I felt we were never going to make it. Fortunately SAP came to the rescue and I was able to spend 30 minutes with a key SAP developer who set us on a simpler upgrade/migration path.
The other competing project failed; many people quit or lost their jobs. An independent party came in and did an assessment of this failed project:
1) lack of program management
2) lack of risk management
3) lack of formal project training for the project manager
If you had asked me 6 months before we went live who was going to succeed, I would’ve said the other project as they had a flashy, articulate “project manager”. He was well-liked. He had a beautiful blueprint document that was held up as a standard for all of us to use.
Did that failed project have a project charter? No. Did it have a risk management plan? No. Did it have a scope document? No. Did it have a resource assignment matrix? No. Did it have a Microsoft Project plan? Yes. Did it have a trained project manager….hmmm…
A key takeway is a MS Project Plan does not equal Project Planning; an MS project plan is nothing more than a Gantt chart for management’s review. My office mate, who also passed the PMP exam, and I felt we had a better understanding of the SAP Project Systems module as well.
Three months after our successful upgrade ramp-up project, SAP came in and our account rep told us we were the first to successfully go live on this industry solution/version; the customer looked at me and said “thanks to your hard work…”. It was a team effort, but at that brief moment, I got to be a hero.