Business Solutions with SAP

Series on SAP ERP Project Success Factors

December 19th, 2011 by
SAP Project Success Criteria

SAP Project Success Criteria


This is a compiled sets of posts related to SAP project success criteria


The Top 5 ERP Success Factors by Project Stage from 22 Critical Success Factors

SAP Implementation Partner or Company Selection Criteria

SAP Success Factors for Vendor Selection – Responsibility Matrix 1

SAP Success Factors for Vender Selection – Responsibility Matrix 2

SAP System Vendor Project Success Criteria 1

SAP System Vendor Project Success Criteria & Factors 2

SAP System Vendor Project Success Criteria & Factors 3

SAP System Vendor Project Success Criteria & Factors 4

SAP System Vendor Project Success Criteria & Factors 5

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An SAP ABAP Innovation Revolution Beyond HANA

December 12th, 2011 by
ABAP Development Revolution

ABAP Development Revolution

Some time back I wrote about Opportunities for INNOVATION SAP, HELLO? At the time I wasn’t really expecting a lot and I’m guessing I didn’t have a lot of influence but I do find it coincidental that many of the suggestions I offered have been adopted. Some of them, like the switched framework to improve order management processing is included in ECC 6.0 EP4.

So, one thing that I have been chewing on for a long time is how to dramatically improve ABAP development and overall application enhancements.  My own requirements were to find a way to make ABAP coding simpler, improve code quality, provide better overall system performance, and make it easier to troubleshoot. Tall order I know. Impossible? No!

Welcome to the “Big Data Revolution”

This post is more about a technical issue which SAP can “easily” address that would completely revolutionize its own internal development as well as external customer development.

The New SAP Development Revolution

I’m not an SAP ABAP coder but over the years I’ve had enough exposure to it to see some great tools, resources and improvements. This development effort has been mostly on the usage side of the existing syntax.

  • What if there was a way to revolutionize the way ABAP is coded that is 100% compatible with current syntax ?
  • What if it dramatically improved coding quality and solution development?
  • What if it improved the performance and consistency of customized ABAP solutions?
  • What if it simplified the entire coding process AND made troubleshooting easier?
  • What if it opened up a whole new world for coders to develop dramatically improved solutions?

You say that sounds crazy? Not only is it possible it would propel SAP’s place in the entire business application space to new levels.

Where Did This Crazy Idea Come From? And WHAT IS IT?

After many years working in SD (along with other modules) I had a client who needed help creating a new “smart” trade promotion execution solution. The solution had to do a LOT of things no standard SAP process handles. It needed to dynamically determine complex offers, with discounts, free goods, limits, caps, quotas, perform dynamic best price processing, provide loyalty points, etc. –, all while dynamically evaluating the customer segment and strata for offer eligibility.   The solution had to be done across a large population of order items, with multiple promotions based on the mix of products and the number of discounts or promotions that had already been given to a customer over time. The mix of products or offers could bundle multiple free goods, multiple offer discounts, or other special items, in a many to many relationship, based on the customer purchase and purchase history.  And performance HAD to be good because of the huge order volume.

The client had been asking for someone to deliver this for some time. A previous system integrator who did their upgrade couldn’t do it. I ended up spending 6 months working on a new custom coded ABAP “mini-module” in SAP that allowed them to achieve their goals by using mostly master data.

That process taught me more about ABAP programming and SAP coding than I ever anticipated. As I went through this process I was amazed at one simple thing that was completely lacking from all of this coding effort –, the amount of “VIRTUAL” SQL syntax for internal data processing in the form of loop, sort, read table (with key), append, move, move corresponding, index, etc.

Why not develop the syntax to handle all of this in the background through “virtual” select statements?  Create a new “iSelect” syntax which performs all of these functions that can be exploded.

SAP already uses internal tables in memory for processing data during the transaction stream.  By creating a new “iSelect” syntax much of this coding, looping, moving, etc., could be masked by fairly common SQL type commands. Since this would be compiled syntax the performance would likely be better and the quality would be FAR better while needing fewer lines of code to accomplish the same thing. For simplicity I will call it “internal SQL” or, iSQL.

This would be the perfect complement to SAP’s HANA in memory processing, and would help with reporting extractor and programming development of all kinds.

This type of iSQL could be developed to allow inner or outer joins on internal tables, external tables, or any combination of them. The normal SQL statements like Select Sum, Select Distinct, etc., etc., etc., could be employed throughout the entire ABAP processing stream. With internal tables in memory as well as the tables read from the database.  Still more interesting would be the ability to “explode the code” underneath this new iSQL syntax. When finer detailed control, processing, or calculations are needed, within or across joins, the underlying loop, sort, append, etc., could be exploded out and adjusted to fit the specific need. This would speed up development efforts by being able to quickly rough-out a data processing framework and then explode the code to make more detailed adjustments.

By focusing on syntax that is like SQL for the internal loops, sorts, reads, sums, append to table, move, etc., the coding complexity is reduced WHILE also providing more flexibility and options. SAP would have greater control over the development of the internal / external table processing standards and programming knowledge around actual data processing would improve.  This would be the perfect complement to SAP’s HANA in memory processing.

It would allow for faster, more reliable coding efforts with a higher performance result. Small performance tweaks or changes to the underlying compiled iSQL statements, along with that ability to explode the underlying code would create a revolution in the ability to more quickly and consistently deliver SAP solutions.

What is most important of all is this could be rolled out piecemeal and stay 100% backward compatible with no negative downstream effects. As new iSQL syntax is developed the original coding standards could remain in place without change. It would just add an additional set of power processing options. Think about all of the areas this would radically affect, custom coding, data conversion, SOA development, report development, function module creation, you name it. This could create HUGE customer benefits for outstanding development.

I’m tired of crappy, poor performance, system choking code from poor development, aren’t you? Come on SAP, YOU CAN DO THIS!!!!

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7 Tips for Effective Client Management of SAP Consultants

December 5th, 2011 by
Manage SAP Consultants

Manage SAP Consultants

Over the years the most successful SAP projects I have participated in had strong client side leaders. They had some knowledge and understanding of how to deliver large, complex, or difficult projects. Not just SAP projects but large complex undertakings. Their ability to deliver projects came from their ability to manage, direct, and engage with project participants. They took the initiative to directly manage their own projects.

Many of these leaders had something else in common, they understood you can become overly reliant on consultants to deliver a project –, it creates an artificial sense of security.

One project and leader in particular stands out from my past because of the attitude about SAP project delivery. That project’s senior leader used a phrase about consultants I found a little insulting but have since learned to appreciate. He had a “rented skills” attitude about consultants and frequently referred to us in that way. Along with that attitude he and the senior leadership of the company chose very strong leaders from within the company ranks to manage each module or key area of the project. And by strong leaders I mean REALLY strong leaders. During the course of the project a number of consultants were replaced when they did not perform up to the company’s expectations. That project was probably one of the best delivered projects I have ever seen:

  • It had one of the largest SAP scope and functionality footprints.
  • That project’s first phase replaced nearly 60 homegrown legacy systems.
  • It was delivered ON TIME and WITHIN BUDGET.
  • It met every business requirement.
  • It was delivered across international company codes and business units (including foreign trade).
  • And for similar sized companies, with similar scope, similar time frames, etc., it was delivered for probably 10 – 20% of similar projects.

That project was very different because the level of automation and how smooth the go-live went, and even the post-production support issues were far fewer than any other implementation I had participated in.

I participated in this implementation’s post production support as the SD lead and to help with reporting for about 6 months after we went live. They had slightly more support issues than many companies have with “stable” SAP implementations. This senior leader went on to become CTO and nearly all of the company’s leaders involved in that SAP project went on to senior level leadership positions.

How Clients Can Effectively Manage SAP Consultants to Deliver Results

The background I just provided illustrates one of the most important factors necessary for successful SAP project delivery. The Ivey Journal published by Harvard Press about “Leading Consultants to Exceed Expectations” (PDF file) went into detail on this issue. The key is in aggressive client management of SAP projects for companies that want meaningful results and value.

For me this involves a few critical components:

  1. Develop a project or team set of values and expectations for project delivery. The expectations should be focused on action and execution.
  2. Provide a training course to client participants on the latest SAP ASAP methodology. It can be made available through Solution Manager or as a stand-alone HTML download from the SAP Service Marketplace.
  3. Define clear boundaries, tasks, and roles for all project participants. No one should have to try to figure out what they are supposed to be doing.
  4. Every client project participant should be trained in how to manage and work with consultants. Use RACI charts to help manage consultants.
  5. Every client project participant should be spelling out the specific tasks, assignments, and expected completion of deliverable for each project participant.
  6. Each person on the project, whether contractor or employee, should have clearly defined deliverables, tasks, and criteria for success.
  7. The client project participants should capture and regularly discuss lessons learned on dealing with consultants, including challenges and soliciting ideas on managing them.

Client and consulting leaders should accept responsibility for the delivery and execution of those they are responsible for. Be on guard for excuses, deflection, and blame-shifting. At times these are common consulting tactics to hide a skill, talent, or capability gap.

One key thing to consider is that any decent SAP consultant who has managed to deliver SAP project results can be difficult to manage at times. Because of their type “A” personality tendencies they need input and awareness of anything within their domain of influence. To manage high performing consultants the use of a RACI chart cannot be underestimated. Because of these tendencies project managers must activity work to solicit their input and feedback, and well as keeping them in the loop on what is happening in the project. If you fail to do this you are setting yourself up for trouble and unnecessary conflict. This is why a RACI chart is a useful tool on an SAP project.

For an overview of the key SAP project success factors, including allocating responsibility, please see this table which provides an overview of success factors:

Critical Vendor Management Success Factors for SAP Project Success

For a detailed explanation of each of these success criteria you may wish to review the series which analyzed them from the consulting selection point of view:

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