No matter what size company or organization you have the type of consulting experience you choose will have a huge impact on the results of your SAP solution. For high speed projects consultants with several small or mid-sized SAP project experiences tend to be more well rounded. They have skill at delivering the more difficult SAP solutions with standard functionality and at a faster pace than their counterparts with significant amounts of large project experience.
Why are SAP Consultants with Many Small and Midsized Projects Uniquely Qualified?
The small and midsize business segment of SAP implementations use smaller teams, smaller budgets, and tighter timelines. Contrary to popular belief a small or mid-sized company’s SAP implementation often has the same process requirements, similar industry needs, common competitive pressures, and all of the other issues that go with doing business. In other words, their business software application requirements are exactly the same as their larger counterparts. However, they must deliver similar or better results than their larger counterparts with fewer resources. Consultants who deliver solutions in this space must know their area of responsibility well because they are often one deep, without others to fall back on. They have to cover the integration touch points and other project activities together with their own module. This type of effort is usually performed by other groups and numerous other consultants on larger projects.
Consultants who have worked in the small and mid-sized space don’t have the luxury of the big consulting firms, on their mega projects, where they can specialize in one little component of a module at a time. They don’t have the luxury of massive numbers of people coordinating small, discrete components of an overall effort. Small and midsized SAP implementations often don’t have the resources or budget for large change management and training staffing, separate data conversion groups, separate testing staff, or other key areas of the project.
The consultants with many years of small and mid-sized business exposure are able to do in a few hours, or possibly a few days, what takes consultants with less exposure weeks to figure out. Even if it is a bit of a stretch, they have enough background, enough exposure, and enough experience to be able to start immediately with 80% or more of the solution. From there it is just detailed testing of different settings to be sure you have just the right combination and the process or transaction behaves exactly like you planned.
Small and midsized business consultants are less likely to need lots of custom coded solutions because they can figure how to do it with standard functionality, or how to “re-purpose” other functionality for your company’s particular need.
An SAP Project Examples of Complex Standard Functionality that Helped Avoid Blown Budgets and Timelines
I’ll provide one example here of many SAP experiences I’ve had where this experience made a huge difference in the SAP project result. The SAP experience helped save the timeline, stopped the continual circular meetings, and finally moved the process along.
SAP Cross-Company Supply
I was on a very large project that had cross-company supply issues that no one had been able to resolve for about two months when I joined. There were weekly meetings, and weekly arguments, and no one could agree on the solution. There was third party cross-company supply where one company would take the order, transfer the requirements to a separate company who would actually carry out the delivery and bill the other company who then billed the end customer and collected the payment. This was also being done in different countries, with different currencies, cross-company pricing markup, and foreign trade. After a few weeks of this dragging on after I arrived on the project as the SD team lead I knew something had to be done. All of the “Big x” consultants claimed this could not be done without mountains of custom code and that standard SAP would not work. These consultants did not have a lack of years in SAP, or large projects doing SAP, it was a lack of experience having to deliver results on a compressed timeline with standard functionality.
The SAP Blueprint was over and we were still in design on a key set of processes. After several discussions where it was mentioned this was standard functionality and strong disagreements together with claims that only custom coding would work I had enough. I took a couple days to set up and prototype the entire solution. The standard SAP functionality did over 90% of everything that was needed for every process and transaction they needed. After the prototype was set up, and without telling the other consultants who insisted it wouldn’t work (and claimed they wouldn’t support it if it did), I set up a meeting with all of the key stakeholders and the client project manager to demo the new functionality. It was a huge success and the ridiculous arguments and endless discussions to flow out processes for unneeded custom ABAP solutions finally stopped. The solution was nearly complete with almost all standard functionality. [FN1]
Big SAP Project Experience Effects on Compressed Timeline and Budgets
When you want to do a compressed timeline project with resources (consultants, managers, coordinators, etc.) who come from big SAP projects you end up with unnecessary struggles. Their “experience” has conditioned them to believe these types of projects cannot be done, they rely on too many middle layers of coordination / management, they struggle with the intense need for integration coordination, and undermine attempts to gain momentum because they are not used to the pace. These large projects often provide the “luxury” of deferring discrete components of an area to others. They provide big budgets, lots of time, each delivery area broken down into little tiny “chunks” and then handed off to others. Some (though certainly not all) of these consultants and managers from larger projects are so uncomfortable with the pace and demands that they spend more time making excuses for lack of results and look for others to blame. The idea of delivery “ownership” over an entire area is a foreign concept to them. Some of these consultants from larger implementations, with slower paces and many layers of coordination are lost without someone managing each tiny aspect of what they do.
[FN1] In fairness to the other consultants who thought this could only be done through ABAP custom coding, it does require a major amount of setup in SD, MM, FI, and EDI to work correctly. While it is all standard functionality, consultants with experience on very large projects have limited exposure to even their own module of expertise. As a result it is unlikely that the full breadth of this and other functionality has been seen outside of the small and midsized business space. In the small and midsized business space the consulting teams are smaller, and out of necessity are more knowledgeable within their module area, and because of the integration requirements with other modules they tend to gain greater application exposure to standard functionality options.
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