INNOVATE. INTEGRATE. TRANSFORM.

Business Solutions with SAP

SAP Implementation Projects: Still Crazy After All These Years

August 16th, 2010 by

R3 Solution

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




Popular Searches:


  • sap project name ideas
  • How to budget a SAP project of migration a legal identity after M&A
  • sap project na

Related Posts:

ERP Software Selection: Do you want to be a Guinea Pig?

August 9th, 2010 by

Hit the target

 

“If the software functionality does not do what we need it to do, nothing else really matters.”

Back in the 1980’s, IT department preferences or mandates to use specific proprietary mainframe technologies drove many ERP software decisions. This was about the technologies the IT department could (or would) support not the mainframe software that best satisfied business needs.

Later in the 1990’s the mainframe vs. “open system” (client/server) wars caused many to take a blind leap of faith into open systems only to find out later the ERP software functionality in this arena was not as mature as their mainframe counterparts. Though open systems eventually won, many jumped head first into this brave new world simply at the wrong time.

Today “open source ERP”, upstart internet based application services (SaaS), “cloud computing” and other paradigms represent the same fork in the road. It is guaranteed tomorrow there will be a new one. The point is not to generalize regarding any particular direction; but the lessons of the past must not be ignored…. If the software functionality does not do what we need it to do, nothing else really matters.

When this occurs everyone will forget all the seemingly valid reasons a package was selected in the first place (cheaper, newer technology or everyone else is starting to do it). They will focus on the lousy functionality and lack of project benefits.

In the real world budgets are not unlimited, technology can be a strategic enabler, and there are other important trade-offs. However, nine times out of ten if the software functionality is a bad fit, eventually the project is deemed a failure. This means software decisions that do not weigh functionality the most can defeat the purpose of a new ERP system.

The Future of ERP?

The message above seems simple enough (and almost elementary), but many smart people allow themselves to get caught up in the industry hype.  Let the academics and consultants who really care debate the future of ERP because in the meantime you have a business to run. Unless you are interested in becoming a guinea pig. Believe me, a lot of software vendors are looking for them.

The Right Side of ERP History

Selecting software is not just a quantitative process. It ultimately boils down to a business decision and you want to be on the right side of history. As long as the cost of ownership is affordable, the technology stable, the package is supported, and many other companies are using it; go with the software that best meets business needs. 

If the organization cannot find a package that satisfies at least 85% of the overall software requirements (and almost all of the important ones), it is time to either look at higher-end packages or redesign your business processes.

=========================

Editor’s commentary – Steve Phillips runs a great blog which is linked here:

http://it.toolbox.com/blogs/street-smart-erp

Be sure to visit his site and support his efforts!

Related Posts:

Where do you Start with SAP Return on Investment or SAP ROI?

July 19th, 2010 by

SAP Return on Investment or ROI

See PART 1SAP Implementation is an Investment NOT an Event

How much is it going to cost and how long is it going to take?  That is the classic approach to SAP implementations.  Today it’s not enough and the marketplace is demanding more from their IT dollars.  Now there are questions about measuring cost reductions, process improvements, as well as customer retention and customer acquisition. These are all important discussions.

Your money has to work for you in your business and it should work for you in your SAP investment as well.

If you’re looking to buy a new stock, or mutual fund, or some other investment you do your homework.  If you’re looking at a capital purchase in your business you want to understand the justification and the payback so you build a business case.  If you’re looking to implement SAP then define the business reasons for the implementation and do your homework! 

Take the time and do some research to understand how to avoid many of the sales scams, pitfalls, and ridiculous system integrator tactics.

SAP Cost Based Indicators, Total Cost of Ownership, and Return on Investment

Lagging Indicators and SAP Supported Process Cost Reduction

Using the stock investment analogy, the cost-based ROI component can be seen as the dividends paid by a stock–, generally known, stable, reliable payback, quantifiable and tangible.   In an SAP implementation the “dividends” would represent lagging indicators of performance.  There is a fairly reliable history to consider for the dividend payout. You have a pretty good idea of a number of your costs (or can find out what they are), such as:

  • current legacy systems cost,
  • you know what your man hours are (staffing, personnel, benefits, overhead, etc., etc., etc.),
  • process cycle times,
  • per transaction costs for things like purchase orders, sales orders, production orders, etc.,
  • competitor transaction cost benchmarks,
  • current application license and maintenance costs,
  • etc., etc., etc.

These are all lagging indicators and they are all cost based, cost improvement focused portions of an SAP implementation.

Same Old, Same Old, Everyone at Least Pays Lip Service to Cost Based Process Measures

EVERYONE tries to do this to some extent.  It is not always structured, clearly defined, and then measured after the system is live, but there is a general expectation of improvement.  Even for those companies who buy into this paradigm during the sales process but never see it realized, it is still part of the system integrator pitch.  You are always promised “improvements” by the system integrators.  You always expect processes to speed up and process costs to go down.

The process improvement, automation, and cost reduction approach is no different than everyone in the marketplace who does SAP or some other ERP application–, it is the old “operational excellence” model of business.  It does little or nothing to address the key components that grow business or improve revenue.  And after an initial cost reduction boost it does little to increase profits.  

Leading Indicators, SAP Value Proposition and SAP Value Realization

Unless you are in a commodity market, or have clearly “broken” or significantly inefficient processes, the cost reduction or operational excellence approach to ERP should not be your only focus.  Considering your SAP implementation as an investment for ROI purposes you would understand that this is the first step in a long term system investment program.  After you get the system in, you should press your IT organization to move from an operational excellence paradigm into how to use the system to support corporate innovation and sales growth.

If you want value realization from your SAP or other business application implementation it takes a more rounded and tangible business centered approach or, a real SAP value proposition.  Using the stock analogy, the value realization comes from stock appreciation together WITH the cost saving dividends that are paid.  In your SAP implementation both lagging and leading indicators are used to finally realize value.

This new investment paradigm must focus a significant amount of attention on the end state after the business has started operating in the new SAP world.  And that “end state” focus on value realization from your SAP implementation should begin  before you write your RFP.  This entire site is dedicated to help you transfer critical knowledge needed for success from SAP value proposition all the way through value realization.

Marketplace Winners and Losers in SAP and ERP Investment

Innovation is one of the key and critical value proposition areas that separates winners from losers in the marketplace.  And even though your initial implementation may only consider the initial operational excellence areas that is just the beginning of the journey.

Does your system integrator have any ideas or methods for improving engineering, design, and delivery collaboration efforts?  Maybe you are not there yet, and that is fine, but it must be considered as part of your initial assessment of the path you are on with SAP.

Ask your system integrators how to use your SAP implementation to improve concept to market cycle times and for other innovation methods that will impact your marketplace.  Drill into the details, don’t accept “sales fluff,” ask for specifics and don’t settle for less. 

SAP Implementation Measurement of Return on Investment

To this day I am still surprised by how few companies define success criteria for their SAP implementations.  Fewer still do the up front due diligence to determine where they will have business benefit in terms of cost based lagging indicators:

  • process improvements,
  • cost reductions,
  • automation,
  • reduced transaction processing costs,
  • reduced licensing for legacy systems,
  • reduced system maintenance for legacy systems,
  • improved cycle times,
  • etc.

Even if there is some consideration of these categories or classes of cost savings, few companies quantify them and try to understand current costs and how they might be improved BEFORE bringing in a system integrator. 

During the selection process few companies ask the tough questions and demand the details of their integrators to validate their saving assumptions, and then even fewer hold the integrator accountable for them.  Few businesses attempt to tie incentives, compensation, or other means of achieving these results to their system integrator contracts. 

Talk about caveat emptor, or buyer beware!

Some companies consider legacy systems, and the cost savings for eliminating them, but beyond that there is not a lot of due diligence done to support long term cost reductions.  Key details are generally lacking.

Few companies, and fewer system integrators ever consider leading indicators of business performance such as:

Customer retention

  • service processing
    • reducing overall service requests / requirements,
  • repair and response turnaround times,
  • first time fixes,
  • solution databases,
  • interactive response forums,
  • etc., etc., etc. (come on, you didn’t expect me to tell you ALL the secrets of an ERP customer retention program did you?)

Customer acquisition

  • target markets
    • by geography,
    • product line,
    • customer strata,
    • customer segment,
  • promotion options
    • special product mixes,
    • offers,
    • promotion execution,
    • promotion cost tracking,
    • buy “x” get “y” at a discount or free,
    • buy “xyz” product mix and get “abc” mix at discount or free or both,
    • etc., etc., etc. (again, feel free to contact me if your system integrator has NO IDEA how to do all of this in the BASE SAP ERP system ;)  It is possible!)
  • Customer analysis
    • stratification,
    • buying analysis,
    • product mix / popular combinations,
    • promotion integration,
    • segmentation
      • by region,
      • dollar value,
      • product mix,
      • product line,
      • customer group or product line profitability
    • overall profitability,
    • etc., etc., etc.  (again, feel free to contact me if your system integrator has NO IDEA how to do all of this is the BASE SAP ERP system ;)  It is possible!)
  • And MANY more options…

Why is this lacking?  Because you, as the customer, do not demand it of the system integrators.  As a result the system integrator develops technicians.  And the cheaper they can develop those “technicians” rather than experts the greater their margins are. 

System integrators generally have little interest in promoting the idea that you should actually see a genuinely measurable business improvement.  If they did, those system integrators would be forced to bring in more competent, more highly skilled, and more seasoned veterans who understand business as well as the technology.  See for example, CRM, ERP, BI, and IT Investment — Where Do You Find the Business Benefit?  Using mostly a CRM example for illustration, that post helps you gain some insight on the types of consultants and insight you need for business success.

Short Term (operational excellence), Mid-Term (innovation), Long-Term (customer focus)

Relying on the investment analogy, your SAP portfolio should include several items or components of the application to implement.  And just like stock market investments, there must be some short-term, mid-term, long term, and business hedges built into a healthy implementation. 

Some items, such as “Wave II” or add-on functionality may be planned for at a later date but should be considered from the beginning.

For a long term successful SAP implementation it must become part of a business program, not just a system installation.

What does this mean?  This means that your thinking about SAP and its role in your enterprise must change.  As I’ve written before, Change How You Look at SAP to Create ROI.  SAP must be seen as a tool that enables the enterprise to change, to grow, and to spot opportunities and execute on those opportunities sooner than your competitors.  To do so requires a change in culture and thinking that companies often struggle with, however, SAP can enable these changes when SAP is seen as a business investment requiring regular adjustment, focus, balancing and change.  Just like your stock portfolio.

Use a Business Focused SAP Implementation for Business Transformation

If you want to see true competitive advantage it will take adding a real business imprint, real business insight, and key success metrics to create a long term business program.  That long-term business program is business transformation with SAP enabling the enterprise to be more competitive, more agile, and more robust.

At the the end of the day if you do not define what you want from SAP to consider it a SUCCESS, and if you do not have a focus on business drivers you will NEVER see the success you want from your implementation.  Worse still, if you don’t focus on these items from the beginning you will not have a good baseline to evaluate your system integrator or SAP implementation partner in the early RFI or RFP project stages.  Without that critical evaluation you may end up sinking your budgets in a “money pit” where you will NEVER see a return on investment.  Worse still, without these critical measures you may end up having a long term negative return that is dangerous for your long term prospects.  And it is NOT a shortcoming of the software!




Popular Searches:


  • how long does it take to see a return on an erp investment
  • in the context of mutual funds what does the common abbreviations SAP stand for

Related Posts: