It’s been a year since the recently-departed Leo Apotheker had an infamous outburst of criticism of, specifically, Accenture and IBM in the realm of SAP consulting. This highly-publicized moment led to an avalanche of largely uninformed blog posts (one gentleman cited SAP translation problems from the 1990’s that have long since been resolved). One over-arching theme that emerged was the need to certify SAP consultants even though various forms of such certification have been in existence since 1993. My own, belated, contribution to this particular point was a post about certifying SAP implementation partners, not just the individual consultants. (point to post).
Skip the article, read the comments…
I pledge to write more about this in a later post. For the moment, I wish to concentrate on what I believe is at the heart of chronic questions about the efficacy of SAP systems integrators: the need to move to a more evolved delivery model.
When I began working in the world of SAP in 1995, there was no SAP (or ERP) specific delivery methodology extant. Most of the larger players were using modified versions of the 1980’s style Design Build Run methodologies which unfortunately did not at all address configurable software across entire business processes. Further, these methodologies placed a very high emphasis upon the As-Is phase (which I coined the consulting partner’s Retirement Fund phase).
In the spring of 1997, SAP itself unveiled Accelerated SAP (ASAP). Despite the fact that the earlier versions of the methodology were shallow at best, there was an immediate benefit: all systems integrators began working to mutually understandable “sheet music” (which happily included a brief and intelligent verse of As-Is analysis). By 2001, through a combination of more years of field experience and SAP’s iterative improvements to the methodology, we began to see better field results, more on-time implementations, and greater client satisfaction.
In addition to the improvements to ASAP Focus brought by SAP, the various partners have all added tools and layers built around the core of ASAP in order to differentiate and to address field aspects that may not be addressed in ASAP.
In order to cut through the fog regarding “good” or “bad” implementations, I led surveys in 2005 and 2007 regarding the relative field performance of the leading SAP systems integrators. Input from 1,502 clients of the six leading SAP systems integrators for projects completed from 2003-2007, yielded over-all positive results with an average over-all client rating of 6.8 on a scale of 1 to 10 in which 6 equals “good”. Given the high number of participants in these surveys, I conclude that the SAP consulting fields are not the mess that many make of them.
The field performance of the systems integrators varied according to type of project (new implementation, upgrade, optimization, roll-outs), client size, and project size. Accenture had world-class scores for its very large clients and, um, nothing to write home about for the others. Deloitte had persistently low scores for new implementations but enviable scores for the other types of projects. CSC was consistently mediocre, BearingPoint was all over the map. Only IBM had consistently decent levels of performance.
Having said that, I do believe that the final results of too many SAP engagements are disappointing. While over-all scores were good, many of the sub-results were less sunny-side. One key provided by the 1,502 clients: the systems integrators quite frequency go off the reservation and do not adhere to their own methodologies.
Another is that the focus of most projects is adhering to time and budget. This is mostly the fault of clients and the flawed nature of Total Cost of Ownership (given that it provided only one side of the necessary measure of ROI).
The research also shows that, without a clear notion of how an SAP project is going to bring measurable value, clients behave in ways that hinder ultimate success. The syndrome is: I Said I Wanted Chicken But Now I Want Steak and Later I Will Be Happy to Have a Hot Dog.
I said I wanted chicken: while choosing a systems integration partner, clients look for a balance between potential performance and cost.
Now I want steak: once the project starts, clients add scope and extend the aims of a project
I will be happy to have a hot dog: fatigued and running out of budget, clients stumble to go-live.
Over the past eight years, the most welcome of the new tools and methodology layers have been value drivers. Which brings me to the core evolution I believe needs to be brought to the way these systems integrators engage with clients and fulfill their duties in the field: value-driven methodologies and value-driven contracting. In my next post: Once Upon a Time at J.D. Edwards.
Published with permission from the Author, Michael Doane who runs an EXCELLENT site devoted to how SAP customers can get the most from their implementations. The original post can be found here:
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