The following is re-posted with the permission of my friend Michael Doane, see his site at http://sapsearchlight.blogspot.com/
Through the good graces of my long-time associate Jon Reed (www.jonerp.com), I recently discovered a blog that covers the life of an SAP project: SAP: Loathe It or Ignore It, You Can’t Like It http://sapmesideways.blogspot.com/.
Shortly thereafter, Dennis Howlett posted about this blog “Your Implementations are Killing Us” http://blogs.zdnet.com/Howlett/?p=1075 and the next morning I received a frantic e-mail from a friend at SAP lamenting its posting. So I guess this blogger is gaining some buzz.
I take exception with the title of the SAP blog as I have seen countless clients who actually do like SAP. All the same, I find it a curious and worthwhile contribution. The writer maintains complete anonymity throughout. No profile or mention of his name, his company’s, the implementation partner’s identity. Mum. While this is largely understandable as a matter of the blogger’s self-protection, it also degrades the effect. All the same, the twenty-seven postings since January, 2009 vividly describe the mind-numbing frustrations, side-shows, and cul-de-sacs that a poorly-run implementation can engender.
The appearance of this blog is in parallel to some serious SAP head scratching on the subject of bad implementations. At the end of the day, when an SAP implementation project goes wrong, it is the joint fault (in varying measures) of the client and the systems integrator but it is usually SAP that gets the PR black eye.
I have been involved in SAP implementation work since 1995 and the balance of my book “The New SAP Blue Book, A Concise Business Guide to the World of SAP” provides guidance for the best practices for implementation. The book first appeared in 1998 and has been revised seven times as better practices continue to emerge. During this same time-period, I have done a considerable amount of primary research with more than 1500 clients reporting upon their SAP experiences and the performance of their SAP systems integrator.
SAP does not deserve the full black-eye for failed implementations. In my esteem, however, SAP does a poor job of policing its SAP partners. The 1500 clients reported upon the field performance of all of the leading integrators (Accenture, IBM, Deloitte, et al) and the following provider failures were chronically noted in regard to deficient project process (in order of importance):
- Poor scope/resource management
- Lack of adherence to methodology: all the systems integrators have sophisticated methodologies and tools; they just don’t use them consistently (if at all);
- Ineffective partner management.
In this research, clients cited who they considered responsible for various issue. They tabbed themselves the guilty party for:
- Over-engineered and difficult to use results
- Insufficient post-implementation planning
- Lack of client ownership.
What SAP Can Do to Address Implementation Issues
All the systems integrators, including SAP Consulting, regularly tout their client satisfaction ratings. When you scratch the surface, these ratings tend to be childish and generalized buckets for entire projects of Very Satisfied, Satisfied, and Not Satisfied. The first reaction is to ask who is satisfied, what are they satisfied with, and when were they satisfied. Many clients I have spoken to who claimed that they were satisfied added that the whole project was a bumpy nerve-wracking mess but they were finally satisfied that it was over.
In this light, SAP needs to finally recognize that implementation services are every bit as much about consulting as about software. While tools such as Solution Manager are excellent for tracking software issues, project issues relative to consulting, governance, etc. are not tracked. SAP should be working more closely with its largest implementation partners to create client-satisfaction tracking that continually addresses these issues from an SI perspective:
- Business/IT Alignment
- Governance & Control
- Human Capital Management
- Technology, Tools & Process
- Service Delivery & Operations
Short of this, SAP should create and cultivate a network of objective, third-party quality assurance units (not SAP, not SAP implementation partners) to accomplish this tracking. When such a QA unit exists, life is better for both the client and the systems integrator as in many cases the QA group can point out to clients where they are going wrong. Again, each of the systems integrators have their own internal quality assurance but it is seldom demonstrably objective. By the same token, such QA should not be undertaken by SAP.
Quality assurance can add 1% to 2% to an overall implementation budget while resulting in a 10% to 30% savings in over-all implementation costs (primarily by fending off budget over-runs).
Value to Clients of Third Party Implementation Project Quality Assurance:
- Cost containment, derived from progress monitoring
- Time adherence, resulting from continuous (phase to phase) monitoring as well as scope management
- Vision/benefits realization: assuring that the project will deliver the intended business value
- Reduced administrative and strategic burden; fewer client/SI meetings for the purpose of progress reporting, issues management, and the like
- Objective advisory as to what other services or support functions might be appropriate and desirable.
- Quality assurance reporting would be most effective if it is directed to the client, to SAP, and to the systems integration partner.
In the field, I find that systems integrators initially balk at the inclusion of third party quality assurance on the premise that it will act as an audit of only their performance. Once they understand that the quality assurance role also focuses on client performance and SAP performance, the activity yields positive results.
It should be noted that the SAP/SI partner dynamic is not the same for all partners. Clearly, IBM and Accenture are not as malleable as a small partner such as Capgemini or any number of boutiques. However, it is evident that scrolling a third-party quality assurance activity into any SAP implementation will benefit all three parties (client, SI, and SAP).
It is probably too late for our anonymous blogger. I look forward to when he fills out his satisfaction rating.
The original posting for this article can be seen at: http://sapsearchlight.blogspot.com/2009/07/sap-implementation-projects-still-crazy.html
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