Since, we (Amreli Steels Limited) have implemented a successful SAP ** project in May 2015; in record 5 months time with zero day delay as well as no case goes to Steering Committee for resolution; I continuously was thinking about to write on key factors in a successful SAP project. This is now achieved!!!

Anyways, we can break a SAP Implementation into following parts:

  1. Boot-up
  2. Pre Implementation Phase
  3. Implementation Phase
  4. Post Implementation Phase
  • Boot-up: We have to keep it in mind that SAP is the BIG_BILLER and time is money. Hence; take a deep breath and start thinking about what tools needs to get sharpen, how much time is needed, which people are essential before kick-start the Pre, post and implementation phases, What finances are required to implement that project inclusive of Hardware, Software, cost of Project insurance, Project delay cost and entertainment expenses in between the project inclusive of Project Sign-in and Sign-off ceremony.

Hence, a day lost in SAP Implementation period interprets a week delay in earlier and a month delay in later stages.

Beside the induction of one SAP Project Manager with his/her successor into your organization; it is recommended that you should segregate minimum one or maximum three experts (as of Succession Planning) for each module from each department; but keep this in mind that normally in SAP, FICO (Finance and Controlling) combines and normally controlled by a single department; however, it is very hard to manage the both ends by single entity.

Further; be sure to choose the persons as Power Users who knows the process very well and have a tendency to take decisions (in my opinions mostly those are the Line Managers) and secondly are backed-up by the end-user (who faces data entry problems (both manual or digital) in day to day process those persons will help you out in pointing out the pain areas of process. Lastly Line Managers and End-Users will further backed-up by HoDs as they are the Pilots of their departments and expert in their areas.

Moreover, you should get a market review about the implementation partner before finalizing them as your external SAP consultant. You must have a close eye on resume  of your external consultants as well as their professional reputation in the market (especially on their friendly behavior and deliverables). Any nagging entity should be avoided or it may lead to delays or worst.

Hardware analysis should be started at-least before 06 months back of staring pre-implementation phase as hardware procurement process needs 3 to 6 months or in Hanna it took more months. All required hardware should reach at destination at the time in implementation phase starts. Because delay in hardware delivery will implies serious implications on in-time implementation of SAP project.

  • Pre Implementation Phase: (Before Pre-Implementation process defined here it is assumed that your SAP implementation project team is already selected including good homework before finalizing the consultants as well as SAP Licenses with their categories are almost defined.) Start with Bruce Tuckman formula (Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing) make a TEAM who will responsible for implement a successful SAP implementation and will be your in-house Consultants in near future.
    You need to take following steps in Pre Implementation Phase:
    1. Make a Steering Committee which includes top stake holders mostly consists of Directors, CFO and obviously SAP Project Manager(s). This committee will weekly review the project progress and will resolve all the issue cannot resolved by the Power Users (Internal Consultant IC),  External Consultants (EC) and the project Managers of both ends.
    2. Give a name to your SAP Project (We named it ASPIRE**)
    3. Make a PM (Project Management) Office
    4. Spare your Team couple of months before welcoming the External Consultants
    5. Train the Trainer Training; Train them well as the understandings of SAP and it’s modules is quite clear before they directly trained from external consultants. This will help you out when your power users will make AS-IS documentation.
    6. Business Process Re-Engineering (BPR) Documents: Those documents should be made by BP Experts or IT Department after taking interviews with the concerns departments and persons. (Please note that all the documents in each step should be properly signed off by the concern interviewed person, Head of the concern Department, Document writer, Project Manager and then Steering Committee’s Stake holder). This will protect that SAP project to be an IT Department’s project.
    7. As-Is Documents: This should be made by the power users with the help of IT department or the business/technical documenter after getting initial training from SAP Project Manager on SAP.
  • Implementation Phase: (Before I start Implementation Phase here it is assumed that Hardware is arrived at location and facilities for that are ready, your SAP internal consultants are aware the terms and terminologies of SAP so then can easily interact and understands the further training from external SAP consultants. Most important!!! Minimum an entity from IT department is been spare for the role of basis in SAP who also looks after the hardware and SAP applications installation and other hardware and networks related activities.) This is the main phase in which In-House Consultant (IC) and External Consultant (EC) works like one team and this should be monitored by Steering Committee by reviewing progress report and feedback from both partner’s project Manager , do the following tasks:
    1. Project Preparation (by EC)
      1. This is a warming-up stage and is bit boring as consultants are busy in training (rather re-training here), making their implementation strategies and explaining the gaming rules to the power users.
    2. To-Be Documents (by EC)
      1. That document will must create by your external Consultant (SAP Partner) after understanding your existing requirement by going through the As-Is Document and asking you the further enhancement and requirements additional to that.
    3. Business Blueprint (by EC)
      1. In Business Blue print EC will show their understandings in form or SAP modules demo with close values of your organizations and will ask your IC’s vet on their understandings.
    4. Realization (By both IC & EC): This is a Core development phase inclusive of Baseline configuration, ABAP development and Upload Templates Sharing &  Programs Development by EC with IC. However, ICs are quiet free in this stage so they should emphasis on following:
      1. Finalizing Organization Structures: In this stage (IC) power Users will define the Organization Structures (Branches) who works independently plus Sales type etc.
      2. Master Data Extraction: It is a very complex process hence recommended to start once you are going to start implementation phase so your data should be quite refine once it reaches into SAP. For this you must have an entity for MDC (Master Data Controller) Role; who will responsible to open a module related data (like Sales Master, Material Master and Vendor Master) into SAP. However, That entity should be so strong to deny to open data into SAP to any person in the organization if it was not fulfilling the pre-requisite.
      3. Authorization Matrix Initiation: A quite important area where IC (Power Users) will decide and finalizing the Roles and authorizations of all the users and HoDs in their respective module in the form of T-Codes and other Object Authorizations. Which is later on replicated into SAP by a basis users.
      4. Integration Testing Cycle (E2E) and UAT (User Acceptance Testing): This is so tedious activity where both parties have to stay long hours or some or most of the nights in the office to complete the testing in-time.
        It is recommended that SAP Project Manager (PM) should form a UAT Committee comprise of 4-5 members (1, MDC, 2 FICO Expert, 3 Asst. Project Manager, 4th and 5th persons who knows almost all E2E phases as well as individual phases).
        In this phase users will test all E2E (End –to-End) and individual scenarios with multiple iterations which is vet by all power users both partners’ SAP project Managers and UAT Committee.
        NOTE: Failed to do complete scenario testing in UAT Phase leads to CRFs (Change Requests Forms) which will impact on your deadlines, project delays and put financial implications.
      5. End-User Training Manuals: This will make by your (IC) in collaboration with your SAP Partner (EC). This will the first result which reflects your internal Consultant’s strength, understandings and grip on SAP’s respective Module
      6. Cut-over Planning: In this process all process owners should unite and in supervision of MDC and FICO (IC) and decide which data needs to be transfer as open balances in SAP.
      7. Realization Phase Sign-Off: This phase is completed once signed-off by the Steering Committee’s Stake Holders and denotes that now no further changes are going to place till ends of life-cycle.
    5. Final Preparation: This is the last step before Go-Live and comprise with following
      1. Cut Over Strategy Document: This document is based on cut-over planning and made by EC.
      2. Cut Over Strategy Sign Off: Once the document is signed-off with all concerns persons including IC, HoDs, PM and Steering Committee Stake Holder.
      3. Final Data Submission: Data should be submitted on Data templates given by the SAP partner and is reviewed by MDC.
      4. Data Migration / upload: This will done by SAP Partner in close collaboration with MDC.
      5. End User Training (Level 3): As normally this phase was crowded by EC hence; ICs (Power Users) are quite available to do training to their departmental colleagues as per defined Authorization Matrix in Realization Phase.
      6. Post Go-Live : This is the time to stop your legacy system and start entering Opening Balances and back-log entries into your Pre-PRD client and then on SAP production Server (PRD).
        Back-Log Entries: Back-logs entries are started once entries into legacy systems were stop and opening balances are transferred into SAP and both SAP and Legacy Systems are tallied.
        NOTE: Please keep this in mind that tenure of Back-Log entries into SAP should be 3 days to 7 days or maximum 15 days in worst case scenario. As a day delay in this stage replicated a week delay and a week delay replicates a month delay in SAP implementation phase. Mostly this stage’s delays leads a project towards failure.
      7. Go-Live: GO-Live is supposed to be achieved once your both Legacy System or SAP PRD is tallied, up and running. Form now both the systems have same data entry at the same time.
  • Post Implementation Phase: (Before Post Implementation Phase is defined here; it is assumed that all required SAP servers are installed, tested and ready for transactions, UAT is successfully done, all balances are transferred into Pre-PRD client and cost estimates runs on items as well. Plus SAP GUI is installed into all users’ systems and power users’ delivered initial training to their department’s users and lastly all back-logs entries are done in SAP servers and any legacy or Manual entries are replicated into SAP servers and Go-Live is done!!!) There it comes last but big phase in which you will see the transformation of SAP from a bud to tree.

Once you have signed-off and issue the Final Acceptance Certificate to your SAP Partner then the following are the further steps required to mature your SAP Project Implementation.

  1. Support (Intensive Care): Support is mostly 30 days however, it depends as if you consume those days in previous delays than it could be less or null.
  2. Post Go-Live Experiences: After Go-Live it took six months to know the real figures of following:
    1. Actual vs. Estimation in BOMs (Bill of Materials)
    2. Understandings of Work Flows
    3. Slight changes in scenarios and process in SAP in different modules
    4. Making of crucial and non-standard SAP Reports. Let this area too short; because making so much customizing reports leads to you out of the standard SAP Practice and this will put so much difficulties while you were patching or doing upgrades on SAP Servers.
    5. Leaving of any existing Legacy system. (It is as difficult as it can be to break the bottle habit from a toddler) however, people will start accepting SAP as early as they left the legacy system.
  3. Formation of SAP Committee: Moreover, it is the time to form a SAP committee who will further resolve the issues, making SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) find the solutions of the newly arise scenarios and straighten or changes the older SOPs which forms glitches in inter/intra departmental personnel.

That committee is based on all or some previous IC (Power Users) who will independently work in collaboration and under guidance of main Steering Committee’s stake holder, SAP project Manager and UAT Committee. This will help you in acceptance and ownership of SAP in respective departments.

Conclusion: I may have left some details above but I believe if an organization will follow it and derive their own steps too will see the on-time SAP implementation and may write their success story in near future too.

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*= All Core Module, Fi-Co, SD, PP, MM and HCM

** ASPIRE = Extract from ASPIRES (Amreli Steels Project for Implementation of Re-engineering Enterprise through SAP) a name given to 19 internal Amreli Steels Consultants inclusive of 8 Team Leads/power-users and 11 assistants/power-users.

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