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SAP Projects – Avoiding Failures

A few days ago, Waldemar Falinski and I had an interesting discussion on the subject, started over a LinkedIn post – by a Software Litigator – about who is responsible for the project results.

  1. System Integrator, who has to execute the project and deliver the Solution,
  2. Customer, who acquires the Solution to meet some of its business needs, or
  3. Implementation Approach, which supports and ensures a certain type of project results.

We also talked about the key capabilities of SAP Consultants, which contribute to the successful deployment and usage of the solutions.

Here, in this blog, I have highlighted the key points and have copied a part of the dialog for reference.

1. Solution Selling vs Delivery

According to the lawyer, the failure is due to the mismatch between the System Integrators’ Capabilities of Selling and Delivering Solutions.

He stated,

When an ERP software system implementation fails, often the failure is because the integrator

  • either did not fully understand the user’s industry or business, the client’s relationship with its supply chain, customers and employees,
  • or how the digital transformation was intended to improve corporate performance.

Many large integrators are very good at selling their services but are not nearly as good at delivering what is in their marketing material, sales pitches and proposals. Some oversell their capability…

2. Correct Solution for Incorrect Business Requirements

I was (and am) of the view that sometimes its customer (as well) who is not clear with the exact business requirements and therefore Correct Solution for Incorrect Business Requirements are delivered.

Commenting on the post I said,

And there are occasions when customers don’t know exactly what they want. Just as an incorrect solution to a correct requirement is a failure, the correct solution to incorrect requirement equally is a factor of mismatch. Problems at both sides have to be addressed to benefit from the ERP Implementation.

3. Ascertaining the Correct Business Requirements

The business requirements can be ascertained by following the Agile approach where the business and IT teams work together to build the solution incrementally.

Waldemar presented his argument as follows:

After reading your very interested article I would not agree with the second thesis: “a correct solution to an incorrect business requirement is also a waste” as with agile method of transformation it can be – and I witnessed it in practice – that even in the case of wrong business requirements

Business requirements for a transformation are always in some extent wrong – as that is not possible to prescribe the result in great details like in construction business.

So, in the course of transformation organization is learning and correcting the course. Because the business requirements are always somehow wrong, we cannot and in fact don’t use any waterfall method in business transformations. All method we use are agile – the thing is to institutionalize the change rather than do it ad-hoc.

4. Successful Implementation requires Collaboration

To make sure a project is completed successfully and it yields the desired value, both the System Integrator and Customer have to work together. Any discrepancy, on account of the Consultants or Management, on either side, can lead it to the failure.

I clarified my viewpoint as follows:

Thanks for taking time to read the article and to provide your feedback. While I understand and completely agree with the point you have made of Agile practice where “fail early and often” does lead to aligning the business requirements and the solution, I don’t believe that in a project just the implementation partner could be held completely responsible, especially if the SON (statement of need) provided by customer is vague and can be interpreted in different ways, and that’s what I meant.

5. Agile Implementation Approach – a Solution

We concluded that it’s the AGILE implementation approach which can help both the customers and service providers on reaching an agreement on the solution. Here’s what we agreed

Waldemar, while disagreeing with the Litigator, said

Today we have very good agile methods of transformations like SAP Activate for SAP in which both sides – the customer and the consultancy starting from best practices in a kind of lean way discover the new business model they are travelling.


Please visit the following links, if you are interested in learning about SAP Activate and S/4 HANA:

  1. How to Learn and Use SAP Activate?
  2. SAP S/4 HANA – FAQ Answered

6. Learning from experience; failures and success stories

Adding to the importance of using the correct implementation approach, which was rightly stated by Waldemar, I referred to how our previous experience has led us to perform better in our latest assignments.

We all are working in this profession for many years and have learned that adopting the change is crucial. Customers now want quick time to value, which can be provided by right set of tools and skills.

While the need of robust solutions is being fulfilled by SAP and IT industry, the skills to bring these solutions to work in best-possible ways are also available in the market.

You, I, and many others have responded to the market needs and have always benefited from each other’s experience and expertise. I was looking at an old discussion about another topic where we were able to share some experiences:

OCM by SAP HCM implementation – are there well known areas?

Our discussion ended and here’s a statement extracted from Waldemar’s comments.

Thank you again for good advice! I completed it in time and budget despite many surprises, and also have learned a lot.

Do you have some additional thoughts to add?

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