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Is It Possible for a Project to Thrive in the Time of COVID-19?

It’s a question of weighty implication and no real certainty to its answer – how can an implementation project carry on to success in a world where so many things have changed? From businesses closing doors, to workforces confined to home and most seriously, the adverse human health consequences of our pandemic, there are obstacles-a-plenty for SAP S/4HANA Cloud implementation projects.

In this piece, I consider a current customer project experience, lived during early 2020, a time I’m sure will be long remembered.

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Whilst the project is not yet fully complete, its lessons are valid and worth sharing. It could be the case that these observations will serve as guidance or even hope for others they come to terms with our contemporary realities.

SAP and the customer are implementing core financials and logistics for government, replacing on-premise SAP ERP, integrating to a great many legacy systems.

Aside from the initial shock, the sudden jolt to mandated and universal remote work, was something that we adjusted to quickly. A new mode of working was established out of necessity, and whilst not everything that came out of it was intentional, this recalibrated approach yielded a number of advantages:

i. One rhythm It’s often the case that for those team members billeted away from the project site, a tyranny of distance constrains their ability to be productive, contribute and be recognised. When everyone is remote, there are no longer two classes of project members, instead, a single project rhythm emerges. Those remote on the teleconference are no longer forgotten. We found this simplification liberating and reassuring.

ii. Coverage and agility Aside from those blessed with inordinate budgets, it’s usually the case that a project is limited to dedicated expert resources. This traditional approaches garners focus and certainty, but also comes with the limitations in bandwidth and expertise breadth. In our project experience, we substituted some dedicated resources with a virtual on-demand equivalent, giving rise to both extended working hour coverage and access to highly specialised expertise when we needed, in both cases an advantage to our objectives.

iii. Productivity tool byproducts Project collaboration is made possible, in large part, with the use of productively capability, with SAP Jam and Microsoft Teams being prime examples. Whilst technology cannot substitute the valuable tactile interaction of physical meetings, it can provide for an important and often overlooked feature, digital capture. These artefacts, which can include meeting recordings, notes, media and discussion forums provide a non-trivial boost in productivity by eliminating the need to rerun a meeting for a missed attendee or repeating a demo.

iv. A setup for success Whilst projects are often characterised by an abundance of in-person interaction, the Run Phase exploits myriad remote and asynchronous activities including participating enablement for new releases, consuming SAP Preferred Success offerings including Meet the Expert and learning with SAP Education. Adopting a remote consumption mindset during our project sets our customer up for success on the way to Run.

Even though we’ve weathered the unplanned change in the way our project collaborates, and enjoyed some pleasant side-effects, it can’t be said that it’s all plain sailing. One conspicuous feature of the non-virtual workplace we’ve seen is the ability to benefit from the incidentals. There’s less chance of overhearing an conversation and therefore course-correcting or airing concerns at the water-cooler with a remote workforce. These are things to understand.

I hope this reflection has been worthwhile reading. I’d love to hear your own experiences.

Lastly, do take a while to look at the highly worthwhile Customer Community Virtual Collaboration content, where expert collaboration and other knowledge resources especially relevant right now are available.

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9 Comments
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  • We are definitely living in challenging times!

    To play devil's advocate though - are we sometimes doing work face to face just because this is the way that things have been done traditionally? Can we in fact successfully deliver more work remotely?

    I agree that collaboration and video conferencing tools are at the heart of doing this successfully. We also need to re-think how we work. For example, using vido conferencing, we probably need to break down sessions into smaller pieces. I think the secret is also that such interactions require a lot nore preparation.

    There is a lot to explore at the moment - but I think with the right approach, projects can cretainly survive - and quite possible thrive.

    • I agree, Clare Campbell-Smith! It could be that we only try something out of necessity, only to eventually favour it to its traditional alternative. There's no substitute to good preparation and clever use of the tech is so important. Thanks for sharing the thoughts.

  • Very timely blog!

    We can share that SAP brought a customer live this weekend with their S/4HANA Cloud solution after an almost one year implementation project. All teams, customer, DBS (implementation partner), PSCC team and various executive leaders were fully remote with the exception for the customer team in the warehouse (sadly enough they do not have robots yet ;)) Although different it felt very natural, all teams were highly engaged and enabled, of course it took some more time, we spend 2 full days for the "soft" Go live in which a variety of 30+ orders were fulfilled from end to end ... to only result in a successful first Go live Monday with almost 700 orders fulfilled, more than 400 shipped, and no critical issues identified! Of course they still have work to do but overall the Go live was a success! With thanks to all the teams being open for a new way of interacting. Very proud of everyone involved.

  • Hi Gerard,

    Great insights!

    I would probably add:

    keep low touch conversation using personal connection, and show empathy by not only providing continues support but offering more value-add suggestions.