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SAP System Vendor Project Success Criteria & Factors 5

November 29th, 2010 by

High Performance SAP ProjectThis is the final post in the series on SAP project shared success criteria.  Doing this entire topic justice has been more of a challenge than I had originally anticipated and at some point I will put it all together in a PDF e-book. 

This series leaves you with a lot to digest but over the years these items generally make up the foundations for a very successful project that is able to transform your business.  This series has been challenging but interesting and I am glad it is complete. 

In a few more weeks I will be coming back around to try to wrap up my series on SAP reimplementation for little more cost than a technical upgrade.  That one turned out to be more challenging than I had originally expected.  Until then, here is the final installment in this series on project success criteria.

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

21.  SAP Data Analysis and Conversion

One of the major activities of an SAP project is the data analysis and conversion. On many projects there are too many new data requirements or data changes needed after the system goes live.  One way to avoid so many of the data correction in a live production system is to ensure that you have sufficient integration and cutover testing.  We will look at testing in a moment.

The primary responsibility for data conversion is generally on the customer.  Customer primary responsibilities include:

  • Identifying legacy and other data sources
  • Cleaning or scrubbing the data
  • Ensuring the converted data meets business processing requirements
  • Defining sufficient test plans to validate data is properly converted
  • Provide sufficiently skilled employees to work the data
  • Make as many data corrections as possible in legacy systems before conversion
  • Ensure there are sufficient hardware resources available for meaningful data conversion tests

I’ve developed a short list of the common data conversion risks as adapted from the SAP ASAP 7.0 Data Migration and Risk Assessment Template.  That template, provided by SAP, contains a sample issue and risk log, and includes some suggestions on how to manage the following common data conversion risks:

SAP Data Conversion Project Management Risks

  • Improper estimates of data migration effort and activities
  • Client side skills gaps on data migration
  • Deferring data corrections until after go-live
  • Knowledge of and access to data sources
  • Insufficient or incorrect change control processes
  • Insufficient participation from key functional project team members (client and consulting)
  • Improper management of dependencies between functional areas or modules. 

SAP Data Technical Conversion Risks

  • Lack of agreement on system of record, data definitions, standards, transformations, conversion methods, etc.
  • Data migration tool(s) not well defined or settled
  • Hardware sizing and data volume are inconsistent
  • Requiring historical data conversion (rather than using legacy systems for historical purposes)
  • Multiple legacy sources of data for single master record loads in SAP.
  • Data gaps – no corresponding data record for SAP conversion
  • Different data structures between legacy systems and SAP.  For example SAP may have structured hierarchies and the source data may not.
  • Poor data quality – errors, duplicates, inconsistent use of fields

Preparing conversion programs, or more specifically, using SAP’s variety of conversion tools and resources is a vendor responsibility.  Together with that the vendor, who has set up the system with the master data requirements is also responsible for providing data load templates as well.  Further the vendor’s functional consultants must participate in the data conversion design and development activities because they are the ones that set up the system and know the master data requirements better than anyone.  The only exception to this is if you decide to bring in consultants who do knowledge transfer to your implementation team and your own internal team does all of the system setup.

For an overview of the various data transformation methods in an SAP project please see the following post:

Planning For a Smooth SAP Go-Live: Part 2
http://www.r3now.com/planning-for-a-smooth-go-live-part-2

SAP Blueprint Master Data Requirements

As a final note, a system integrator should be able to provide a first pass at basic master data requirements by the end of the Blueprint phase.  In fact your SAP Blueprint should contain a technical blueprint section with significant amounts of detail. 

  • It should include each master data type (Material Master, Vendor, Customer, Routing, Sales or Production BOM, Work Center, Chart of Accounts, Profit Centers, Cost Centers, etc., etc., etc.)
  • And it should include each master data SUB type, using just the Customer Master as an example it should contain the requirements of sub-data types, for example you may need Ship-To Customers, Sold-To Customers, Bill-To Customers, Payers, Agents, Freight Forwarders, Carriers, one-time customers, web shop or online customers, etc.  This type of breakdown and segmentation should be done for every data type so that you know what data conversions are necessary.  And this level of detail MUST be contained in a sufficient blueprint.
  • At the end of the blueprint, to ensure that you have all of the master data requirements covered as well, your system integrator SAP blueprint document should contain the specific details of every transaction data type.  That transactional data requirement will be a key part of the data conversion.  For example using the Material Master and inventory movements SAP provides the blueprint document should contain the specific types of inventory movement transactions you perform.  Simple goods receipts, goods issues to production, goods receipt from consignment stocks, issues to consignment stocks, scrapping, shipping / distribution goods issues, receipt into restricted / quality hold, move into unrestricted from quality hold, transfer from plant to plant, transfer from storage location to storage location, etc., etc., etc.

 If your SAP system integrator Blueprint does NOT have this level of detail then it is not sufficient to set up the system and perform the necessary master data conversion.  Further, if it lacks this level of detail you may want to fire your system integrator and demand a refund of at least part of what they bill.

By having this level of detail at the end of SAP blueprinting (process details, master data details, interface requirements, forms, reports, etc.) you can immediately move into setting up the system. If you lack this level of detail you may find yourself forever in design mode (revisiting normal blueprint requirements) and blowing both the budget and the timeline.

I suggest you add this summary of the type of detail you want by the end of the blueprint phase to your contract.

22.  SAP Test Planning

You will have to determine who needs to perform what testing, when, and where.  Together with that you will also want to use this as an opportunity to get both “power users” and non power users involved in the testing.  This becomes the early part of knowledge transfer as well as user acceptance testing.  Inevitably the additional resources from outside of the project team will discover gaps or items that might need to be addressed. 

The Test Planning responsibility is primarily on you as the SAP customer.  Your primary goal here is to ensure that every process you put in scope is represented in some type of testing script. For example, in your order to cash process you might want test scenarios that include credit processing with and without product returns; third party drop shipping to the customer direct from the vendor; pro-forma invoice processing and then follow-up commercial invoice processing; interfaces to and from various external systems; online order entry processing with and without manual intervention; backorder processing and sourcing from other facilities, etc.  At a high level you will be responsible for ensuring that you cover all of the key processes that need to be tested.

SAP Test Strategy and Testing Approach

  • SAP Test Management
    • Test planning, scheduling, and logistics / coordination
      • Identify users to perform testing
      • Identify who will coordinate testing activities
      • Location and equipment logistics for testing
      • Method for communicating test schedule to participants
      • Test data – common master “data sets” to use for testing.  This is different than the converted data testing.
  • Types of SAP Testing and Methods for Testing (whether manual or automated)
    • Unit testing (single transaction)
    • Business Process testing (unit test strings within the same functional module like SD, MM, PP, FI, CO, etc.)
    • Integration testing (Business Process testing including the integration points with other functional modules)
    • Interface testing
    • Data conversion testing (test the data load programs)
    • Converted data testing (test the converted data at performing various functions)
    • User Acceptance Testing
    • Regression Test
    • Batch Job testing (test batch programs, timing, and sequence)
    • Security Test
    • Performance / volume testing
    • Any positive and negative testing requirements for security or transactions
    • Ad hoc testing of unplanned variations and variants
  • Testing Toolset (various spreadsheets, or automation tools for building and managing the testing process).
  • SAP Test Reporting and Analysis
    • Test Metrics
    • Defect Management

Change Control Process (for an overview and details of the SAP change control process see SAP System Integrator Shared Success Criteria Evaluation 4 which focuses critical success factor on #20 on this list of “System Change Control Process”). 

As for a test script, I have included an example one which is a modified version of the standard options SAP provides as part of the older ASAP methodology.

EXAMPLE SAP TEST SCRIPT with Ad Hoc or Variant Section information.

23.  SAP Test Development

As for test development this is clearly a vendor primary responsibility.  Unless you use SAP’s integrated Solution Manager resources for testing this is probably one of the areas where you will have to rely heavily on your SAP partner. The reason this is primarily a vendor responsibility is that as an SAP customer “you don’t know what you don’t know.” 

Unless you have adopted an approach where you require the implementation vendor to act as pure consultants, where your own project team does all of the system setup, you will not know the detailed testing requirements.  As a result a vendor must be able to walk you through the transaction strings and dependencies.  They must be able to take the entire process-related solution they blueprinted from master data creation through cash processing and any interfaces or manual steps in between. 

Because of time, budget, and limitless possibilities there is only so much testing in a project.  These limitations create a requirement that only a “limited universe” of testing can be accomplished and SAP system integrators will usually require someone to sign off on those limited tests. 

There are a few things to beware of here:

1) When the tests have been “gamed” to support only a successful outcome and not to actually test the solution.

2) When a system integrator pushes back on testing variations that they may not have documented in the “formal” test scripts.

3)  Any vendors who engage in hard push back against additional ad hoc, variant, or converted data testing.  Unfortunately I have seen a couple of the major SAP system integrators KNOWINGLY push trash on their customers.

For a thorough testing program you should always ensure your tests include any of the custom development objects as well as manual processing steps.  For example, a thorough test process must include testing of any outputs (forms), interfaces, enhancements, and reports.  Data conversions should also be tested but may be done separately.  However, one strong word of caution here, once converted data is available, even if you do not do formal testing, be absolutely certain to do as much process testing as possible with the converted data.  Testing with converted data will reveal a number of potential problems that can be corrected or resolved before you go live.




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Planning For a Smooth Go-Live: Part 3

October 24th, 2008 by

 SAP smooth go-live process issues

3.      ERP or SAP Process issues 

Let me start with a caveat to this section.  No matter how good, thorough, experienced, or conscientious a consultant or a core team member is, there will always end up being a few process gaps, and an occasional completely missing process discovered at go-live.  Now that the caveat is out of the way, there are many reasons for the process problems: inexperienced consultants, company employees who miss some of the process exceptions, inadequate training, insufficient integration testing, lack of user acceptance testing, and other reasons. 

The bulk of the items causing process problems generally fit into three core areas, 1) design or blueprinting, 2) change management, and 3) testing. 

SAP / ERP Design and Blueprinting 

Your business probably developed numerous processes and exceptions over many, many years.  Some of those processes were also developed as the need arose, and in an ad hoc manner and may have many inherent inefficiencies.  SAP projects are generally tasked with replacing all of those years of collective knowledge and processes, as well as any “broken” processes in six months to a year, and on very large projects in maybe a couple years.  That is no small task and to be successful it truly takes an experienced consultant.  As I’ve previously written about, this is one of those areas that all of the fakes end up costing your SAP project and your company big money.  And I mean big money over and above what you pay them.
 
A good blueprint should translate your scope into all of the key business processes that your company does, and then the key process components needed to support those processes.  I generally prefer a blueprint that has inputs (or some type of process trigger), the process itself, and then the outputs.  It should also contain the key master data requirements, any necessary FRICE (Forms, Reports, Interfaces, Conversions, and Enhancements) development objects, and the key business areas affected.  If there is sufficient time in the Blueprint phase, the Blueprint itself should also begin to capture some of the key change management issues.

Poor blueprints (missing processes, too generic, too high level, etc.) cause serious project delays and flared tensions by constantly dragging your project back into “Design” mode when you should be in full project execution.  It takes up the time and effort of other integrated teams, and generally causes a “drag” on the overall project.  Obviously this burns up budgets too.  Worse still, a poorly designed Blueprint is often blamed on the company, the department, or the key resource on the project who is responsible for that area.  Unfortunately those “smokescreens” are often used by consultants who are not that skilled at extracting the necessary information needed for a good blueprint.  It’s always easy to “blame” the client through the backdoor by putting the responsibility on a core team member, or some other portion of the company / client team.
 
If there is a genuine issue with a team member, an experienced consultant should raise this issue during the process when it is encountered.  Frankly, if it suddenly comes up AFTER the blueprint is due, it should be seen as nothing but an excuse by the consultant.

ERP Project Testing 

Another area to begin addressing processes is during testing.  Any integrated application like SAP should include at least 4 primary types of testing.  No matter what name is used, they are generally individual transaction tests (sometimes called “unit tests”), transaction strings or processes within the same module like Sales and Distribution (“module tests”) and then full-blown cross module tests that test entire process chains from start to finish (true “integration tests”), and then finally tests that involve the wider user community often called “user acceptance tests” or “day in the life” scripts, etc.
 
During testing, while it is important to follow the scripts to be sure that all of the proper “boxes” are checked off, it is equally important to test more.  “Integration tests” and “user acceptance tests” serve as the last opportunity to find and address process gaps.  Sadly some consultants (and some consulting firms) see this as an opportunity to absolve themselves of responsibility for potential problems or shortcomings.  As a result, they will often strictly enforce that the script must be followed to the letter and no deviation is allowed and no exception processing is allowed.  There is a legitimate need to control the process to ensure that the work is done and that the known processes work sufficiently as designed, however there should also be some mechanism to address gaps or exceptions.  One simple method to accommodate this is to create a space on the signoff sheet that directly solicits comments about any process gaps and any exception processing that might be needed.  Final signoff of the testing should not be signed off until this commentary is converted into additional testing scripts or some manual process defined to address the processes.

For final integration testing you may wish to pick random documents from your current business operations to run those through the system with the converted data.  This will give you the best test to ensure things are working correctly.  For example, you may wish to choose 10 or more each of the sales orders, purchase orders, production orders, reports, etc.  The key is to use something that is meaningful and can be verified back against your current system.  

ERP Project Change Management 

Unless you completely re-design and re-write SAP to do all of your processes exactly the way they were done before, there will be change management issues to deal with.  And unless you also re-write the user interface, there will still be training and user acceptance to accommodate.  If you’re going to re-write everything, why bother with a packaged system application at all?  On the other hand, if you are putting in a package application such as SAP, Oracle Apps, or others, there are change management issues to deal with.
 
Change management generally encompasses a few key areas:  Training, communication, organizational change, process / job changes, and post production support.  Some change management is necessary on every project and if your company handles change reasonably well it may not be a struggle.  However, if your company has many employees who have done the same job for a long time, without much change taking place within the organization it will take a tremendous amount of “hand holding” to get them through even small adjustments. 
 
You will need to assess your own organization and its ability to absorb change for whether change management resources should be budgeted.  From a project perspective however, one of the key things to be wary of are consultants who want to add new functionality without understanding the impact on the organization. 
 
Business Change Management analysis case in point:  I was at a client where SAP’s Handling Unit Management functionality was the best fit I had ever seen.  They had high dollar custom made steel transportation racks that needed to be inventoried and returned, the packing was consistent and uniform, their production volume was not intense as a sheer number, and they already had wireless bar codes with some warehouse automation.  From a functionality standpoint it was almost a “no brainer” and a great ROI on the automated tracking, inventory, and return of the units.  However, a more careful look at the organization showed a very different picture.  The staff responsible for maintaining the data and processing the transactions had not been reliable with data maintenance or with processing in the past.  Also, because of the organization there was virtually no chance that would change in the future.  

A less experienced consultant with limited project or change management experience would have seen this as a great opportunity to throw some “gee whiz wow” new functionality at a company.  They keep billing for the new work (a scope change), they would be needed almost indefinitely for production support, and they’ve got a great candidate to blame for why you have to keep paying them.  Sadly I’ve seen this scenario played out over and over again.  On a recent project I saw this with the implementation of SAP’s Customer Service and Solution Database functionality.  The company had an “ugly” but mature and working solution, they were downsizing the customer service area, the SD scope for the project was already pretty significant, sales were beginning to slow, portions of the business were being spun off, and employee morale was already low.  The consultant convinced them to “replace” their solution database and customer service functions from a CRM application that they did not even retire.  So there weren’t even any software license savings.  The consultant got to stay on, support an unnecessary process (the legacy app was not going away and worked fine), and was needed for post production support.  

 The process related issues will quickly separate experience from inexperience.  There are lots of good consultants out there, and then there are lots of less than satisfactory fakes in the market as well.  Unfortunately it is it the “good” consultants who are often penalized for smooth and successful go-lives by early roll offs.  Meanwhile fakes and less skilled consultants are rewarded by extensions to support poorly designed processes and inadequately prepared user communities at go-live.  The old adage rings true here that “you get what you pay for” as long as you have a way to separate the genuine articles from the fakes.  In the end, there are many hidden ways you end up paying as much or more for inexperienced consultants, not the least of which are the many hidden ways their SAP implementation approach impacts your business.  A truly seasoned consultant may cost a little more up front, but at go-live with the quality of delivery and the overall satisfaction of the solution it can pay dividends for many years.  

 In essence, the need for careful process understanding can not be underestimated.  The amount of change your company can absorb, the impact of processes being brought into a package application like SAP, and the cost to your implementation budget should all be considerations. 

Four Part Series on SAP Project Planning for a Smooth Go-Live:

Planning For a Smooth SAP Go-Live: Part 1
http://www.r3now.com/planning-for-a-smooth-go-live-part-1
(introduction, security and authorizations)

Planning For a Smooth SAP Go-Live: Part 2
http://www.r3now.com/planning-for-a-smooth-go-live-part-2
(master data, data transformation methods)

Planning For a Smooth SAP Go-Live: Part 3
http://www.r3now.com/planning-for-a-smooth-go-live-part-3
(process issues, blueprinting, testing, and change management)

Planning For a Smooth SAP Go-Live: Part 4
http://www.r3now.com/planning-for-a-smooth-go-live-part-4
(custom development, costs and consequences of inexperienced developers)




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