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Top ERP Success Factors

Based on a combination of the academic literature [FN1] and my personal experience I have put together the following SAP and ERP Critical Success Factor Responsibility Matrix. The large “A” indicates a primary responsibility, a small “z” indicates a secondary responsibility, and a blank field indicates no direct responsibility.

This is part of the continuing series on managing the SAP vendor relationship to help ensure SAP project success.  This can be achieved by reviewing the SAP critical success factors, how responsibility is divided, and tactics for managing them.

You want success, they want your money, MAKE SURE THEY EARN IT!

The small “z” indicates that the party has a very strong influence over that factor but may not be in the position to ensure that it is successful. These small “z” areas are often the key areas where parties with more of a primary responsibility tend to try to lay blame on the other party when a project runs into trouble.

No. SAP or ERP Critical Success Factor Company Integrator
1 Senior Management Support (and steering committee makeup) A  
2 SAP project champion A  
3 Empowered business project team decision makers A  
4 Company SAP project team (quality and time allocated) A  
5 Experienced SAP consultants   A
6 SAP project success criteria, goals and objectives A  
7 SAP implementation strategy z A
8 SAP project management A z
9 SAP tools, templates, and resources   A
10 SAP scope development z A
11 SAP scope management A z
12 Strong SAP project and business communication (inward and outward) A z
13 SAP change management A z
14 Business process engineering – interdepartmental cooperation A  
15 Sufficient SAP training (user and project team training) A A
16 SAP system vendor and customer trust   A
17 SAP system design decisions  z A
18 Amount of custom ABAP or other SAP coding  z A
19 Appropriate SAP software configuration (system settings)  z A
20 SAP system change control process   A
21 SAP data analysis and conversion A z
22 SAP test planning A z
23 SAP test development z A
24 Company end-user involvement and end-user testing A  

Legend

A = Primary Responsibility for the success factor
z = Shared but secondary responsibility for success

During your SAP or other ERP project it will be critical to pay very careful attention for you as a customer to those areas where the system integrator or consultants have a primary responsibility (the “A” areas) and where you share the responsibilities (the “z” areas). Those are generally the activities that many of the “con”sulting companies and unscrupulous integrators will take advantage of you and lay blame on you for activities they should be more carefully managing. If your project really goes wrong you can bet that in one way or another, you as a customer, will be shown to be somehow responsible for their primary area of responsibility.

SAP Vendor or System Integrator Responsibilities

On the other hand, you as a customer also need to be aware of, and careful about, the areas where you have the primary responsibility. And especially the areas where there is a shared responsibility with the system integrator and they only have a limited ability to influence your activities and success. Those areas should not be blamed on an SAP consulting firm or the consultants if it can be shown they tried to encourage you to do the important tasks to ensure success.  Keep in mind, at the end of the day, as the customer, you are always primarily responsible for your own success.  If risks, problems, or other issues arise and you as the customer do not take corrective action then no system integrator or consultant can change that.

SAP Customer or Client Responsibilities

For those shared responsibilities where the system integrator is tagged as a “z”, if they failed to let you know ahead of time, in a timely manner, a) what to expect, b) how to deal with it, and c) the risks involved, they may not have the experience they sold to you. Keep in mind that does not mean they will be able to spot every issue, every time, ahead of time or have the answer for every situation. But if that foresight is consistently lacking then caveat emptor, or, buyer beware in your engagement with that vendor.

List of ERP or SAP System Vendor Request for Information (RFI) Requirements

One great area to start out your SAP vendor selection process is with an RFI, or Request for Information from the vendors you are considering. I suggest you ask them to respond on how they will handle any and all of the key shared responsibility areas. In the table below you might want to reproduce it and remove the responsibility assignments (see the example below).

At the end of the day, as the customer, you are always primarily responsible for your own success

SAP system vendor RFI’s should include a list of each shared responsibility from the list above, who the vendor believes should “own” that responsibility (the large “A” or primary), and what resources they have to facilitate success.

No. SAP or ERP Critical Success Factor Company Integrator
5 Experienced SAP consultants   A
7 SAP implementation strategy z A
8 SAP project management A z
9 SAP tools, templates, and resources   A
10 SAP scope development z A
11 SAP scope management A z
12 Strong SAP project and business communication (inward and outward) A z
13 SAP change management A z
15 Sufficient SAP training (user and project team training) A A
16 SAP system vendor and customer trust   A
17 SAP system design decisions z A
18 Amount of custom ABAP or other SAP coding z A
19 Appropriate SAP software configuration (system settings) z A
20 SAP system change control process   A
21 SAP data analysis and conversion A z
22 SAP test planning A z
23 SAP test development z A

Legend

A = Primary Responsibility for the success factor
z = Shared but secondary responsibility for success

You can use this table as a first pass method to disqualify ANY system integrators that are non-responsive and those vendors that attempt to avoid any accountability for what they deliver. If any SAP system integrator is going to try to make you solely responsible for the success of every facet and phase of the project what do you need them for? In other words, if they are not willing to “own” any of the responsibility for your project’s success maybe you should be looking for different vendors.

How to use the SAP Vendor RFI Shared Responsibility Matrix

Use this table for gaining insight into a vendor’s operations and project approach. For example you might wish to use it in the following way:

    1. Send the proposed system integrator a list, similar to the one below, with BLANKS under the responsible party column and ask them to fill out who should be responsible for each success factor.
    2. SAP ERP Critical Success Criteria Table for Vendor RFI processing.

     

    Resource
    Y / N
    SAP or ERP Critical Success Factor Company Integrator
      Experienced SAP consultants    
      SAP implementation strategy    
      SAP project management    
      SAP tools, templates, and resources    
      SAP scope development    
      SAP scope management    
      Strong SAP project and business communication (inward and outward)    
      SAP change management    
      Sufficient SAP training (user and project team training)    
      SAP system vendor and customer trust    
      SAP system design decisions    
      Amount of custom ABAP or other SAP coding    
      Appropriate SAP software configuration (system settings)    
      SAP system change control process    
      SAP data analysis and conversion    
      SAP test planning    
      SAP test development    
            Additional Vendor SAP Success Criteria 1    
            Additional Vendor SAP Success Criteria 2    
            Additional Vendor SAP Success Criteria n…    

     

    1. Pay special attention to those vendors that might offer ADDITIONAL success criteria from what you send them. These vendors may understand and appreciate your focus on project success. If nothing else it will at least indicate they are giving it serious thought.
    2. Indicate in your RFI that failure to adequately address the critical success criteria section of the RFI will automatically disqualify that vendor. Why deal with ANY integrator, no matter how cheap or how supposedly “experienced” they may be if they are not willing to focus on your project success?
    3. Under the “Resources” column ask the vendors to indicate if they have specific approaches, tools, methods, or other resources to help ensure success.
    4. In your RFI ask them to include in a separate sheet any of the “Y” answers, and to be ready to demonstrate those approaches, tools, methods, etc. during any future sales presentation.
    5. For any Resource answer with an “N” (no resources) ask the vendor in their RFI to propose some method to manage the risk associated with not achieving that success factor.

    In other words, this exercise does a number of things that are helpful to you as an ERP services buyer from an SAP system integrator or SAP implementation vendor:

    • It focuses every vendor on project success criteria even before they engage in their sales pitches.
    • It helps to separate some of the less reputable vendors from the process by exposing the vendors who do not believe they have any stake in your project’s success.
    • This approach ensures that the prospective SAP system vendor or SAP consulting company provides tools, resources, methods, and approaches to mitigate risks associated with not addressing each of the success criteria.

    As we continue through this evaluation of SAP software critical success factors in future posts we will look at methods, tactics, and strategies for managing each of them to promote success. After all, you want project success, ROI, and business benefit, they want your money so they should earn it. Take some time and review the following posts for more background on vendor selection and vendor evaluations.

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    [FN1] This table was developed from a combination of factors found in a graduate student’s submission, from peer-reviewed academic literature I’ve previously written about, and from my own experience with SAP since 1994 and business systems since the mid 1980’s.

    Bhagwani, A. (2009). Critical Success Factors In Implementing SAP ERP Software, University of Kansas Graduate School. http://www.r3now.com/literature/2009-Bhagwani-SAP-Project-Success.pdf .Somers, T., and Nelson, K., (2001) The Impact of Critical Success Factors (CSF) across the Stages of Enterprise Resource Planning Implementations. Proceedings of the 34th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences. Somers, et. al., has been reviewed in detail on this site at:

    The Top 5 ERP Success Factors by Project Stage from 22 Critical Success Factors
    http://www.r3now.com/the-top-5-erp-success-factors-by-project-stage-from-22-critical-success-factors

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    Contact me today through our site contact form ( http://www.r3now.com/contact ), phone, or e-mail.

    Bill Wood
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