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Author's profile photo Eberhard Hoffmann

Standardization and Industrialization in SAP Projects

Many IT service providers spend some effort  for standardizing and industrializing their services. This is of course driven by growing demand for offshoring and outsourcing, where it became obvious, that standards for

  • requirements definition,
  • documentation,
  • competency levels (e.g. CMMI),
  • service levels,
  • etc

made delivery more efficient and effective. And comparable. The trend was given a boost by the subprime crisis, and becomes important for IT service providers to increase their margins. Of course, repetitive processes or services like helpdesk support, onsite managed services, and partly application maintenance became the first candidates.

In recent times, standardization and industrialization become more and more come on track for projects.

Whereas some areas from my point of view definitely can be much better managed with standardized processes, there are some areas of doubts. Let’s try:

Where standards might help significantly:

  • One area of standardization is data migration. This was recognized long time ago, and supported by SAP e.g. via generic upload programs (BTCI) and LSMW. In consolidation projects it is a must, to define resp. to have a well defined target data structure – for all delivering (source) systems. The format and way of data delivery has to be harmonized and standardized.
  • Another area definitely is documentation.  The requirement description, the documentation of the solution, the test cases, and many more “cry” for standards. Please consider, a lot of work was done by SAP and the IT service providers for long time. The ASP methodology and the SAP Solution Manager are supporting this area of standardization in a strong, although sometimes not (yet) sufficient manner.
  • Project planning, i.e. resource plan, time schedule, cost plan are significantly supported by the ASAP roadmaps with their lot of activities and tasks.

There are some other areas to be mentioned and elaborated, e.g. the transport and correction management, naming convention for development and configuration. But there are also some areas, where I doubt, that industrialization is the golden way:

Requirements and solution definition: although there are a lot of tools, which might help to better document and partly drive the process, these are the most creative and innovative parts of any SAP project. While making it more “automatically” and standardized in the approach, we risk the best and strongest results. To find the best solution, fitting to the real business needs, we need the highest degree of creativity, which we can get from an organization. To get the best results demands for autonomy and intuition. We have to keep an eye on the risk, to kill all these attitudes by industrialization. Why is this so important? From my point of view, there are some characteristics of any organization, which restrict the applicability of standards:

  • Decentralized vs. centralized structure
  • Different attitudes and behaviors cross cultures
  • Disparity in the human interaction (e.g. visual vs. aural perception)
  • Different competency levels within each of both groups: users and consultants

To avoid misunderstanding: I do not plead in avoiding any kind of standards for requirements and solutions definition. It is just to say, there is a huge risk of loosing creativity by gaining “speed”. And I doubt, whether that would end in more effectiveness.

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