Business Solutions with SAP

Protecting Yourself from SAP Consulting Fraud

October 17th, 2011 by
SAP fake consultant

SAP fake consultant

One of the most pervasive problems with SAP or any other ERP project is the sheer amount of fraud.  It is so rampant with such huge financial effects in any other area it would be seen as organized crime.  I’ve previously written about SAP consulting screening methods and required skills, but there is one key method to filter through the huge number of frauds–, simple experience verification.

Few Staffing Firms Do ANY Type of Skills or Experience Verificaiton

Many organizations that have SAP periodically need experienced consultants to help with specialized requests, requirements, new functionality, or to occasionally backfill employees.  Because contract staffing is not a key portion of their business they turn to staffing firms or recruiters.  Unfortunately too many of the staffing firms and recruiters have only one interest–, to collect a paycheck.  Very few of these recruiters care about how they get that payday so it is up to you as the customer to ensure you are not getting ripped off. 

There is no incentive for them to carefully screen candidates–, no background checks, no former project verifications, nothing.  A recruiter’s goal is to get them through the interview and have your organization hand over the cash.  The cheaper the resource they can find (i.e. read “fake”) the fatter their margin if they can convince you to use them.

The consulting fraud in the SAP arena (and ALL of the business application space) is widespread and out of control.  For more background and information on some of my experiences with this you may wish to see some of the following posts:

Think I’m joking about the fraud and the negative impacts on you comapny?  Take a look at an actual timeline of consulting horror stories at a real company where an internal employee periodically posts some of the horror stories  Although the employee at that company does not say they are dealing with frauds, con artists, fakes or “SAP freshers,” I’ve seen this so many times that if that company checked these “con”sultant’s backgrounds I could guarantee a very high percentage of SAP fakes or “freshers.”

There is no incentive for staffing firms to carefully screen candidates–, no background checks, no former project verifications, nothing.

Protecting Your Organization from the SAP Fakes and SAP Frauds

You can do at least one small thing to protect yourself.  AFTER a staffing or recruiting firm has submitted a candidate demand they include references, from the last 3 projects listed on that consultant’s resume.  The ONLY references I accept are client resources, still at those organizations, and on an e-mail address that is clearly at that organization If they cannot provide these then my immediate assumption is they are a fake.  If the staffing firm doesn’t get the message you will not accept fakes then do not do business with them EVER!

The ONLY references I accept are client resources, still at those organizations, and on an e-mail address that is clearly at the organization.

Think about that a minute, even if you miss out on someone who has the actual experience you are looking for, do you really want to pay those kinds of rates for someone who was so uninspiring that no one even remembers them?  What about their consulting skills?  Were they a bump on a log that hid in the background and made little or no contribution to the direction or success of the SAP project?

Step by Step to Find the Real SAP Consultants

If you decide to use a staffing or recruiting firm, make it a hard requirement that they provide ONLY candidates who can provide an e-mail reference STILL EMPLOYED at each of that consultant’s last 3 clients.  This is basic employment verification stuff but few if any of the staffing firms do this unless you insist it is a requirement.  And nothing less than a direct verification from someone who is still at that organization will work.  I have heard many “stories” about how they have some other reference, or the person left and are now working at “XYZ” company instead.  Would you accept that from a permanent employee candidate?

The next step, AFTER the 3 prior project references still at those companies (on the company e-mail address / domain) is copy that portion of the resume listing that consultant’s experience at that company into an e-mail message to their reference.  Send the message with a notice they used this information on their resume to indicate their experience and you would like to know if they can verify that the candidate’s experience is consistent with what is listed.  If they can not, or will not, then that is the end of the screen for that person.  I do not bother to waste any time with a phone screen until that verification step is complete.

What are some of your thoughts or suggestions for screening out the fakes, frauds, charlatans and con artists?

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How the SAP Consulting Peter Principle Works

September 12th, 2011 by
SAP Peter Principle

SAP Peter Principle

Most of us working in business for any period of time have heard of the “Peter Principle.”  It was “formulated by Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull in their 1968 book The Peter Principle, a humorous treatise which also introduced the ‘salutary science of Hierarchiology’ …” [FN1]  While the exact quote is a little different, it has come to mean that people tend to rise to their level of incompetence in organizations built on hierarchies.

As an important caveat before getting into this topic, I have known many really hard working folks who have risen through the ranks the “old-fashioned” way –, through hard work and “paying their dues.”

My Experiences with the SAP Consulting Hierarchy

After over 20 years in IT, and over 20 SAP projects, I have seen the Peter Principle again and again.  It’s the nature of how the IT consulting world works.  It is frustrating, and it is enough to drive the competent, diligent, and most talented consultants absolutely crazy.

The “Peter Principle” happens in the consulting world because this is what organizations who implement SAP demand of their implementation vendors.  Sure, that sounds counter-intuitive and crazy, but unfortunately it is a sad reality.

You might be asking yourself right now, IS HE CRAZY?  Maybe a little, but on this point, let me assure you, it is quite true and in a moment you will see exactly how it happens and why.

Enter the Crazy World of Consulting – Why Consulting Incompetence is Rewarded

Once inexperienced, incompetent, or “less than optimal” consultants get onto your SAP, ERP, or other IT project, you are now set up for seeing the “Peter Principle” in effect.  On your implementation or upgrade project an inexperienced or incompetent consultant will ultimately make a mess, however it won’t be seen right away.  There may be signs along the way, but only deep experience will recognize this unless it is blatantly obvious.  There is always some reasonable sounding explanation, or some gibberish, or some babble that is pronounced with confidence but you don’t really understand it. Or, they have become polished and provide entirely rational and reasonable explanations, whether true or not.  After all, they are the “expert” you hired so they must know what they are talking about, right?  Nonsense!

First Sign of the SAP Peter Principle

“Blah, blah, blah”  I have no idea what you just said but just so I don’t look stupid I’m not going to challenge it.

As I’ve written on many occasions, part of the key skills and experience a good consultant or business analyst MUST possess is the ability to take the complex and make it simple.  ANYONE can take something complicated and keep it complicated, or worse still, make it more complicated, or, worst of all, make it a mess.  It takes experience and competence to take the complex and simplify it.  But all that “technical babble” and jargon sounds so convincing, so educated, so, foreign.  It’s a foreign language that you don’t completely understand and these incompetents know it.  Unscrupulous consultants know if they can make something up and sound as though they know what they are talking about you will believe them –, you hired them for their expertise.  They can game you to increase scope, or extending project timelines, or busting your budget and they do this because they are personable and manipulative.

How Can You Identify the SAP Con Artists?

Accountability, Responsibility, and Quality.  The cons avoid accountability or direct responsibility.  On a project where they are discovered they must be nearly forced to have clear accountability for delivery.  They must be pressed into doing what I call “due diligence” around a solution to make sure it will work correctly.

If you catch it early enough you can keep these incompetents from being rewarded for blowing your budget, causing project delays, and creating even MORE complicated and convoluted processes than you had BEFORE you did your SAP implementation.

How Customers Provide Perverse Rewards for Incompetence

The incompetent consultant’s area seems to have users who struggle with problems / issues / bugs that need the most fixing and the most attention.  By this time many companies have invested so much time and effort with the incompetent consultant that they don’t see any other options but to continue with this fraud.  The incompetent consultant is needed badly to support the mess they make for some time after you go live.

One way you can tell you have been manipulated or gamed during the project is by the quality, completeness, and accuracy of the solution the consultant delivers at go-live. 

From a consulting firm’s perspective, the incompetent consultant puts in lots of extra billable hours, helps them get extensions and budget increases, and needs to have lots of extra consulting support.  They are always behind, and no matter how hard “they try”, they always have another excuse for why the problems they cause really aren’t their fault–, it’s always someone else.

These consultants stay on long after go-live to ensure that their questionable solutions are supported by the same person who made the mess to begin with.  This is what customers insist on because by the time go-live happens they are “stuck” with the mess and “stuck” with the “con”sultant who made the mess.

Incompetent consultants tend to be VERY personable most of the time, and ingratiate themselves with the customer / client so that there is no question that they are working SO hard, and doing such a GREAT job.  It could never be their fault.

How SAP Consulting Vendors Reward and Promote the Peter Principle

For the consulting vendor, billing hours go up, staffing and utilization numbers are high, additional “backfill” support is needed and more people are staffed.  From their metrics and possible compensation incentives the incompetent consultant is doing a great job!  On the other hand the highly experienced, competent, and diligent consultants “work themselves out of a job.”  The competent consultants tend to have fewer go-live support issues, they usually have more engaged, involved, and knowledgeable users.  And they are just plain better prepared.  They are not “needed” as you go-live and you, as the customer, get rid of them to cut the blown budget wherever you can.

In a partner oriented firm the incompetent consultant is headed for being a manager, senior manager, managing partner, etc.  The incompetent consultant has great utilization, helps to get more staff on projects, and is always busy.

In the consulting companies incompetence is rewarded and incentivized by the consulting firms.  The most competent and diligent consultants are passed over for career enhancement precisely because of their competence – they may finish projects earlier than their incompetent peers and may be “on the bench” more frequently.

The more skilled the incompetent consultant is at being personable, at presenting a compelling case for why they are doing such a great job but you need more resources, the better positioned they are for higher level promotions.  After all, in consulting firms, senior level positions are focused on getting billable resources out and billing.  The more experienced and capable at this the better positioned you are for partner or senior management.

Stay tuned next week – details on how to spot them and then ferret them out…

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SAP Consulting Services for Business Results to Produce SAP ROI

August 8th, 2011 by
SAP consulting services best practices

SAP consulting services best practices

Last week’s post took a hard look at the types of consulting services you need for a high speed SAP project (see SAP Consultants for High Speed SAP Projects).  Consultants who work on SAP projects in the small and mid-sized business space develop great breadth of SAP experience across an entire area.  This week we will look at the other side of that coin, consultant skills from large, long-term type SAP projects and what their experience provides.

Consultants on the larger, longer-term SAP projects may not develop the breadth of experience gained through smaller company experience but they develop depth of experience.   Small and mid-sized SAP implementation projects create breadth of experience while large projects create depth of experience.

How is Consulting Service Delivery Impacted by Large SAP Project Skill Development

On larger SAP projects the projects are usually broken out into sub-teams within a module or area.  These SAP consultants may cover a small subset of a module, or of the overall solution within a small subset.  As a result they spend much more time digging into the details of the functionality around that small subset of SAP setup.  That type of focus creates a high degree of narrowly focused specialization.

For example, a consultant who focuses on just the SAP GL Account setup will easily become an expert at every setting and every option related to its setup.  They will learn about the different posting possibilities, account settings, document types, how to deal with taxes, reporting issues, data elements that can be stored in the GL, etc.  An SAP SD consultant who focuses on order setup might become an expert at all of the copy rules around moving the data from an order to a delivery or to billing.  Depending on how the responsibilities are broken out they might focus on the different types of item categories and all of the functionality they drive.

Small and mid-sized SAP implementation projects create breadth of experience while large projects create depth of experience

Big SAP project consultants gain great depth of experience with very narrow areas of the application.  Those with many years of experience are great for projects that require specialized focus for complex processing around a very specialized area.  So if you are having a particular problem, in a very narrow area of the application, these SAP consulting skills may provide value.

SAP Consulting Services to Produce Business Value and Achieve ROI

Depending on what you are trying to achieve different types of consulting skills are required.  When you need SAP architecture, complex process design, involved SAP custom development, or other unique requirements you will want an SAP consultant with many years of all around experience.  That type of consultant needs both depth and breadth of experience with a well-rounded background in small, mid-sized, and large company SAP implementations.

The obvious but often overlooked fact is SAP consulting service delivery is directly related to the type of consulting experience you are provided

This type of experience will generally take around 10 or more years of experience.  I’ve written about this previously in Expert SAP Consulting to Reduce SAP TCO and Improve SAP ROI where the academic studies lay out the path to “expert performance.”  Unfortunately for most SAP customers they will rarely find this level of skill with any of the consulting firms or system integrators unless those integrators use contractors.  Few consulting companies provide these types of consulting services because as I’ve pointed out, if you haven’t moved up “through the ranks” after 10 years in a consulting firm, your future is pretty dim.

Where Can Customers Find These Skills or High Quality SAP Consulting Services?

One of the most important areas where you can make a difference in your solution results is to hire solution experts (see Industry Specific SAP Consulting vs Deep SAP Application Experience).  They are not easy to find, but they are out there.

If your SAP project is large enough to have more than one consultant per module then demand that at least one of those consultants has both depth and breadth of experience.  If they are the only consultant for an entire module you may wish to insist that they have a significant amount of small and mid-sized project experience.  If you need specialized skills then you will certainly want to consider large project experience in that particular sub-area of expertise.

As an SAP customer you have to insist on the level of skill and experience that a consulting company provides in their initial proposal.  In other words, your SAP RFP must call out what level of skill and experience you expect.  You must insist in writing on this and build it into your SAP consulting service contract with the vendor you choose.  Until SAP customers begin demanding this from the marketplace nothing will ever change, results will continue to be sub-par, and ROI from your SAP investment will continue to be lacking.

One last consideration is to be very, very careful of the consultants you or your SAP consulting firm hires.  There are so many frauds, fakes, and con artists out there it is frightening.  And I don’t mean just exaggerated either, but outright fabrication and fraud.  Unfortunately many of the staffing firms knowingly allow the fraud to continue (see Screening and Interview Methods to Find the Right SAP Consultant and Screening and Interview Methods to Find the Right Consultant – Part 2).

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