The single most important factor in delivering a successful SAP Implementation is preparing. The amount of time required for preparation can be considerably longer than you may think. It is not uncommon to spend a year for a global project.  Here is a short list (resourcing not included) of areas that require thorough planning:

  1. Executives must sponsor and stay involved all the way
    Prepare all executive management and all stakeholders to be totally committed and continuously support the project. Without executive/stakeholder support, your ERP can become a transactional system for the accounting department only. Determine your company’s maturity level and ability to run the project internally or if you will need an Implementation Partner or External Consulting Knowledge. Very few companies can run their SAP project alone. Pick your implementation partner based on their breadth of business process experience. Shopping on price alone will get you a design that may not be compatible with your business. Best case: continuous business process is not possible. Worst case: you cannot produce and ship. Prepare the company culture and employees for the project and its end goals. SAP is a Business Process Tool. The business must “own” the project with IT support.

  2. Involve Business Resources or Bust
    At NB Consulting, we believe that SAP is a Business Tool, not an IT Tool. It is typical for the IT Department to manage the project, but it is critical that the business resources run the project. The best-run projects have a Business Lead in every functional area. The “3 in the Box” is the best team structure:

    – Business Team Lead from the Company
    – SAP Knowledgeable IT Team Lead from the Company
    – Consulting Firm SAP Team Lead

  3. Prepare the Go-Live Plan Carefully before the start
    Determine Big Bang or Phased Roll-Out before the project starts. It is rare that all sites can go live at the same time. One site that is not ready can derail your whole plan. Projects can get mired in making the design perfect, and go live is continuously pushed. Do not allow perfect to be the enemy of good. Just because you have a site live on SAP does not mean they can be left alone; post go-live support will continue for a very long time, and HyperCare can last three or more months. Most companies do not have the resources to support a dozen plants for HyperCare at the same time; external resources will be necessary for 10+ plant go-lives.

  4. Data, Data, Data
    Prepare for Data Transformation before the project starts. Not only can data stop your go-live, but nothing screws up an excellent business process better than bad data. It is critical that a Data Team Lead and Team are part of the resource structure. They work closely with the business and are not the same as the Technical ABAP Team. The business “owns” the data, but they cannot be successful without the specific knowledge and experience of technical data resources.

  5. Training is not an Event, it is a Process
    Prepare for training at the beginning of the project. Do not plan end-user training after testing. Training of business resources must begin when the project begins. This requires that business resources are involved in the project from beginning to end. Regular demos of the SAP software should include the business, not just the SAP Team. “Train the Trainer” is the common approach but will not be successful if the trainers are only involved after the SAP solution is built and tested. This means the business is involved in testing. NB Consulting believes that the use of a training software package will improve the training material significantly. The end product will be easy to read, consistent, and easy to update when business processes change over time. Training material updates as business processes change should be built into the Change Control Process. All too often, new users on the SAP System have zero training material available to learn the system without trial and error.

  6. Prepare for Project Governance with Protocols
    When preparing for project governance, set up protocols for team members to provide status, risk, issues, change control, data conversion, cut-over, and any other requirement needed to track activities. Protocols will ease the burden of the project team to inform project management of any aspect project management would like to track and manage. This can be done with a simple email structure with the subject line indicating the item being communicated and the body of the email with the details of the topic. Example to inform project management to add an issue.

7. Prepare for Go-Live Cut-Over during Project Prep
It is common that planning for Go-Live Cut-Over is not started until after the Training Phase of the project. NB believes that adds a risk that cut-over activities have not all been collected, and the tasks and dependencies are not fully documented. As stated in the prior item “Prepare for Project Governance with Protocols,” a protocol for cut-over should be put in place to inform project management of any task that will need to be completed during cut-over and added to the cut-over plan.

8. Prepare for Constant Communication with Stakeholders
It is often overlooked how important it is to involve all stakeholders in project status and get constant feedback from all leadership across the company. This would include all Plant Managers and Directors in any locations included in the go-live. The SAP Project Management Office should host regular (monthly) meetings and provide detailed project status and a forum for stakeholders to communicate concerns or issues. As part of this communication plan, a document stating Location Readiness should be maintained. This document will include a status of Green for Go or Red for No-Go Readiness for each location and any specific issues that must be addressed to proceed with go-live.

This short list of preparation activities, when done properly, will prove to be the most influential aspect of delivering a successful SAP Project. Keep communication, understanding and agreement across the entire project team and company leadership as a top priority. Everyone on the team should be in agreement with the methodology for each activity and how the project will be delivered

By: Chip Toland

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