After you have done all of the hard work, selected the vendor, and started on the blueprint path you have one more “low risk” opportunity to ensure breakthrough project success. Keep in mind here there is more risk involved in this area of the project than in the previous stages because they were fully under your control. You could directly mitigate the risk, you could decide against contracting with a particular vendor, and you could simply back away from anything up to the selected vendor beginning the project.
Now that the vendor is selected you have one more major set of tasks that is still relatively “low risk” to the business to see solid results. This is the last big opportunity before incurring huge costs to ensure that you are getting what you pay for–, that is in the blueprint phase.
Keep in mind that during or at the end of the blueprint phase of the project there are risks to changing out problem or underperforming consultants, and those risks are compounded by the size of the team covering a particular area (for example, a smaller team covering a single SAP module like SD, MM, PP, FI, CO, etc., carries higher risk than a larger team covering a single module). If everything goes well up to this point then the reason you may end up replacing a consultant will probably be related more to personality and team dynamics than a lack of skill. Some of the personality and dynamics you can work through, however a lack of skill is dangerous to your entire project. As a result if there is a risk to replacing consultants during or at the end of the blueprint phase it may still be your best course over the longer term of the project.
You may wish to define in advance with the selected implementation vendor how they would mitigate the risk of replacing one or more consultants during or at the end of the blueprint phase of the project. This way you are both setting the expectation in advance and forcing them to consider how they would actually take care of this problem. By doing this you will help to ensure that the right tone for quality and results are set throughout the project. This is your last chance to ensure that the vendor resources are the right fit and have the right skill and talent for your company.
- A proper blueprint must contain the details of the HOW the functionality will be implemented, not WHAT will be implemented. The WHAT of the blueprint is the scope. You wouldn’t consider a home plan a blueprint if it only included an exterior elevation and a few artists’ renderings of the interior would you? If the home plan didn’t have the foundation details, roof details, electrical, framing, HVAC, etc., you wouldn’t consider it a blueprint at all. If your vendor provided blueprint document doesn’t contain the translation of the business requirements into the “HOW” of the functionality then it is not a blueprint, it is just glorified scope.
- Be sure the implementation vendor provides a Blueprint Template ON DAY ONE of the blueprint phase. Ask for examples of prior blueprints (scrubbed of the client name if they wish). Ask for these as part of the proposal. If ACTUAL samples are not provided, with significant setup details then disqualify any non-responsive vendor.
- Pay close attention during the start of the Blueprint to find out whether the consultant has any idea of what meetings to schedule, what key company individuals (by job / role) need to be in those meetings, or whether they know what to do. This is a HUGE indicator of the fakes, frauds, cons, and those who do not have experience. They don’t know where to start; they don’t know what people they need in what meetings or what order the meetings should be done in.
- Be sure to sit in on the first couple of requirements gathering sessions for EVERY consultant. If they seem clueless here, they probably are. You might want to consider an IMMEDIATE change before you invest in a mess.
- If you are a large enough company that you have more than one consultant assigned to a module you will want to insist that EVERY consultant conducts requirements gathering sessions with you there to observe.
- Unless they have been clearly noted as “juniors” or otherwise made clear to you as the paying customer they do not have experience, there is no reason companies should pay outrageous rates for inexperienced but “smart” folks. And just to ensure that more senior consultants aren’t “flying cover” for them you might want to insist that they lead their own requirements gathering sessions while the more senior consultants are doing other work.
- Create a blueprint project requirement that at least one entire process string, start to finish, for a simple process area must be completed by every single module. This should include basic organization structure requirements and should be completed in less than 2 weeks after the first meeting (a really good consultant can do an entire process first pass including all documentation and requirements in a week). This is another check point where you can evaluate the quality of the consultants that the system integrator has brought to your project. IF you find that a consultant was unable to accomplish the task, or if their process blueprint documentation is so lacking in the HOW it will be done in SAP (rather than just the “what” the process is) then I would seriously consider asking the integrator to REMOVE this consultant from the project. Better to do it now and possibly hurt a little of the blueprint timeline. The alternative is to have this person possibly slow down the whole project, or make a mess out of the system design, setup, and testing, and then possibly blow the budget and timeline. And even if they don’t blow the budget and timeline, and even if they don’t make a mess out of the project, WHY do you want to pay that integrator such a premium price for some junior resource that will not add any value to your business? If that is what you want, PROMOTE FROM WITHIN! It is cheaper and it creates more visible opportunity within your own company. You don’t need this kind of high paid dead weight on your project.
- Insist that a prototype of the simple process they defined is performed within 4 – 6 weeks of the blueprint start. No matter HOW big, or complex, or far flung your company is there is no reason that a basic but CORRECT org structure and basic business process can not be set up and demonstrated within 6 weeks unless you have less than optimal consultants. This is another chance to evaluate whether or not you should keep this person on your project. If you want breakthrough business results then you had better have truly talented consultants. If you settle for less then you will also settle for less than the results you really want from this huge investment.
Obviously there are risks involved in any SAP, ERP, or technology project. If those risks are identified and addressed early on in your project you will set clear expectations about the quality of the work and what the final result should be. There are things that need to happen on the company side of the equation as well, but this article addresses your investment in the system integrator.
If you make the hard decisions up front, and if you are diligent with taking steps like what these articles define then key project expectations about success and results will be set. These approaches help you to see through a lot of the hype, hoopla, and sales garbage that is so prevalent and also sets expectations about the quality of resources you want on your project. There is no way to anticipate every avenue some unscrupulous or desperate vendor might take, but by setting certain expectations and keeping the “traps” in place early on you are more likely to eliminate those vendors from the process before they can do any damage. By being diligent early in the process through changing improper resources (and possibly demanding credits) you can help to set a tone and expectation about the quality of results you expect as well.
Four Part Series:
Achieve Breakthrough ERP, SAP, or IT Project Success: 1 of 4
Breakthrough Project Success: 2 of 4, IT Vendor Proposal RFP
Breakthrough Project Success: 3 of 4, Vendor Selection and Contracts
Breakthrough Project Success: Part 4 of 4, Last Low Risk Chance for Results
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