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Business Solutions with SAP

Breakthrough Project Success: Part 4 of 4, Last Low Risk Chance for Results

January 18th, 2010 by

R3Now.com - Breakthrough ERP, SAP, or IT Project Success

After you have done all of the hard work, selected the vendor, and started on the blueprint path you have one more “low risk” opportunity to ensure breakthrough project success.  Keep in mind here there is more risk involved in this area of the project than in the previous stages because they were fully under your control.  You could directly mitigate the risk, you could decide against contracting with a particular vendor, and you could simply back away from anything up to the selected vendor beginning the project. 

Now that the vendor is selected you have one more major set of tasks that is still relatively “low risk” to the business to see solid results.  This is the last big opportunity before incurring huge costs to ensure that you are getting what you pay for–, that is in the blueprint phase.

Keep in mind that during or at the end of the blueprint phase of the project there are risks to changing out problem or underperforming consultants, and those risks are compounded by the size of the team covering a particular area (for example, a smaller team covering a single SAP module like SD, MM, PP, FI, CO, etc., carries higher risk than a larger team covering a single module).  If everything goes well up to this point then the reason you may end up replacing a consultant will probably be related more to personality and team dynamics than a lack of skill.  Some of the personality and dynamics you can work through, however a lack of skill is dangerous to your entire project.  As a result if there is a risk to replacing consultants during or at the end of the blueprint phase it may still be your best course over the longer term of the project.

You may wish to define in advance with the selected implementation vendor how they would mitigate the risk of replacing one or more consultants during or at the end of the blueprint phase of the project.  This way you are both setting the expectation in advance and forcing them to consider how they would actually take care of this problem.  By doing this you will help to ensure that the right tone for quality and results are set throughout the project.  This is your last chance to ensure that the vendor resources are the right fit and have the right skill and talent for your company.

  1. A proper blueprint must contain the details of the HOW the functionality will be implemented, not WHAT will be implemented.  The WHAT of the blueprint is the scope.  You wouldn’t consider a home plan a blueprint if it only included an exterior elevation and a few artists’ renderings of the interior would you?  If the home plan didn’t have the foundation details, roof details, electrical, framing, HVAC, etc., you wouldn’t consider it a blueprint at all.  If your vendor provided blueprint document doesn’t contain the translation of the business requirements into the “HOW” of the functionality then it is not a blueprint, it is just glorified scope.

  2. Be sure the implementation vendor provides a Blueprint Template ON DAY ONE of the blueprint phase.  Ask for examples of prior blueprints (scrubbed of the client name if they wish).  Ask for these as part of the proposal.  If ACTUAL samples are not provided, with significant setup details then disqualify any non-responsive vendor. 

  3. Pay close attention during the start of the Blueprint to find out whether the consultant has any idea of what meetings to schedule, what key company individuals (by job / role) need to be in those meetings, or whether they know what to do.  This is a HUGE indicator of the fakes, frauds, cons, and those who do not have experience.  They don’t know where to start; they don’t know what people they need in what meetings or what order the meetings should be done in.

  4. Be sure to sit in on the first couple of requirements gathering sessions for EVERY consultant.  If they seem clueless here, they probably are.  You might want to consider an IMMEDIATE change before you invest in a mess.

  5. If you are a large enough company that you have more than one consultant assigned to a module you will want to insist that EVERY consultant conducts requirements gathering sessions with you there to observe. 

  6. Unless they have been clearly noted as “juniors” or otherwise made clear to you as the paying customer they do not have experience, there is no reason companies should pay outrageous rates for inexperienced but “smart” folks.  And just to ensure that more senior consultants aren’t “flying cover” for them you might want to insist that they lead their own requirements gathering sessions while the more senior consultants are doing other work.

  7. Create a blueprint project requirement that at least one entire process string, start to finish, for a simple process area must be completed by every single module.  This should include basic organization structure requirements and should be completed in less than 2 weeks after the first meeting (a really good consultant can do an entire process first pass including all documentation and requirements in a week).  This is another check point where you can evaluate the quality of the consultants that the system integrator has brought to your project.  IF you find that a consultant was unable to accomplish the task, or if their process blueprint documentation is so lacking in the HOW it will be done in SAP (rather than just the “what” the process is) then I would seriously consider asking the integrator to REMOVE this consultant from the project.  Better to do it now and possibly hurt a little of the blueprint timeline.  The alternative is to have this person possibly slow down the whole project, or make a mess out of the system design, setup, and testing, and then possibly blow the budget and timeline.  And even if they don’t blow the budget and timeline, and even if they don’t make a mess out of the project, WHY do you want to pay that integrator such a premium price for some junior resource that will not add any value to your business?  If that is what you want, PROMOTE FROM WITHIN!  It is cheaper and it creates more visible opportunity within your own company.  You don’t need this kind of high paid dead weight on your project.

  8. Insist that a prototype of the simple process they defined is performed within 4 – 6 weeks of the blueprint start.  No matter HOW big, or complex, or far flung your company is there is no reason that a basic but CORRECT org structure and basic business process can not be set up and demonstrated within 6 weeks unless you have less than optimal consultants.  This is another chance to evaluate whether or not you should keep this person on your project.  If you want breakthrough business results then you had better have truly talented consultants.  If you settle for less then you will also settle for less than the results you really want from this huge investment.

Obviously there are risks involved in any SAP, ERP, or technology project.  If those risks are identified and addressed early on in your project you will set clear expectations about the quality of the work and what the final result should be.  There are things that need to happen on the company side of the equation as well, but this article addresses your investment in the system integrator.

If you make the hard decisions up front, and if you are diligent with taking steps like what these articles define then key project expectations about success and results will be set.  These approaches help you to see through a lot of the hype, hoopla, and sales garbage that is so prevalent and also sets expectations about the quality of resources you want on your project.  There is no way to anticipate every avenue some unscrupulous or desperate vendor might take, but by setting certain expectations and keeping the “traps” in place early on you are more likely to eliminate those vendors from the process before they can do any damage.  By being diligent early in the process through changing improper resources (and possibly demanding credits) you can help to set a tone and expectation about the quality of results you expect as well.

Four Part Series:

Achieve Breakthrough ERP, SAP, or IT Project Success: 1 of 4
Breakthrough Project Success: 2 of 4, IT Vendor Proposal RFP
Breakthrough Project Success: 3 of 4, Vendor Selection and Contracts
Breakthrough Project Success: Part 4 of 4, Last Low Risk Chance for Results

Related Posts:

Corporate and Personal Liability for Fake Consultants

November 20th, 2009 by

Legal Liability

Too many companies have not considered the potential legal liability to shareholders or other company stakeholders for having “fake” consultants at involved in their company IT projects.  This can be applied personally or coporately for the fake IT “professionals” that vendors and placement firms bring to company projects.  By not conducting sufficient due diligence in screening vendor resources, or for inconsistent labor practices there is a much larger potential for liability than many realize. And that would include both corporate and personal liability for Directors and Executives that fraudulent “consultants” may cause.

There is not only the potential of torts for negligence or gross negligence but there are also potential wrongful termination suits for any regular employee your company might need to terminate. The real shock is that more of this type of legal activity hasn’t already taken place, but it is just a matter of time.  It’s not important to take this author’s word for it, just read this material and then have your corporate counsel and HR departments review it as well and then ask yourself what the consequences to you and your company might be.

For example if an employee submits a false or fake resume or otherwise lies on their application to your company about their skills and you fire them there may be both personal and corporate liability.  This is true if you do not use at least similar diligence, care, and consequences for vendors and their resources.  If a CIO, IT Director, or some other managing official were so brash as to knowingly ignore the fraudulent vendor resources or consultants and then not apply the same standard for regular employees there may be a solid case for wrongful termination of anyone who is fired for false claims. You might as well just remove that clause on your employment applications and employment forms where you claim you can fire an employee for false information.

The most disturbing aspect of all of this is if you dare fire an employee for fraud, embezzlement, theft, or other such infractions but discover that a fraudulent consultant has come to work at your company you may be subject to wrongful termination liability there as well. In other words, if you or your company won’t deal with the frauds, cons, and cheats that come into your corporate environment through contracts and other means then you may be implicitly waiving any legal ability to enforce those standards on your internal employees. 

Your risks and exposure are far greater than you may think.

The first time a lawyer takes one of these cases where you have done an expensive ERP or IT implementation and it is discovered that one of more of the resources was a fake you may be in serious trouble.  Consider this:

First there is the potential for wrongful termination suits as already mentioned above.

Second there may be personal or individual liability if it can be demonstrated that there was not an adequate amount of due diligence in verifying the skills and experience of the vendor resources.  This exists because if you do any kind of prior employment verification on regular employees but do not do at least a similar amount of verification of the skills and qualifications for high paid vendor resources an argument could be made for negligence.  If it is serious enough, it might be gross negligence. 

Third, even if you win a lawsuit employee morale will be damaged.  The negative employee and public perception from the legal discovery process of finding out just how much you paid to that fake consultant will KILL your career and any future you might have at any company.

Fourth, there may also be U.S. Sarbanes-Oxley implications for any financial performance impacts caused by inexperienced consultants.  Couple this with the potential personal liability for negligence or gross negligence that may obtain and you have a serious mess.

Fifth, you may be subject to corporate liability for terminating, suing, or pressing ANY charges for any employee who has pilfered or stolen anything from you.  If you do not do the same thing for any consultant that a vendor brings to your company.

Sixth, you may still have liability for not taking action against a vendor or placement firm if you find a pattern of their use of fraudulent consultants that is not isolated.

Seventh, back to U.S. Sarbanes-Oxley legislation, it may not be enough to hide behind a vendor or consultant’s liability insurance for supposed “protection” if it can be shown you did not have sufficient controls in place to prevent your company from being defrauded by these con artists and cheats. You may discover that certain exceptions to your own corporate insurance policies will not protect you in the case of this type of “negligence”.

You and your company WILL settle every one of these cases that comes across your desk no matter how ridiculous the claims of the lawyer’s client, your former employer, might be.  See point three (3) above to understand why you will settle every wrongful termination case where anyone who is fired can possibly dig up any consultant on one of those expensive IT projects with a falsified resume. 

During discovery any lawyer can get copies of the consultant resumes and the experience presented by the vendor or consultant for the project. From there it is not a difficult issue for them to make the necessary HR calls to the companies that the consultant lists on their resume to verify all of the experience the consultant listed from every company they supposedly worked at.  And most HR departments will track down information even on contractors if you approach them.  And let me assure you, with the MASSIVE AMOUNT OF FRAUD done on a regular basis they WILL find at least one or two resumes from fake consultants.  And if you weren’t careful during the hiring of a few years ago you may be in deadly serious trouble in your own IT or Engineering departments with lots of fakes and frauds in there as well.  You may quickly discover that your technical departments have several fakes, frauds, and cons.  Are you ready for the fallout?

If this happens you may be in serious trouble.  If it goes to litigation and there is more legal discovery over what your company paid for that fraudulent consultant your career as CFO, CIO, IT Director, or other IT professional is over. 

The worst case scenario is if it is discovered that you fired an employee for theft, embezzlement, or fraud and then took any kind of civil action or made a criminal complaint against them.  You might as well hang it up. 

When it comes out how much that FRAUDULENT CONSULTANT and their fake resume cost per month that you didn’t throw off the project, or take civil action against, or file a criminal complaint against for fraud or embezzlement, your head will be on a silver platter.  Shareholders will be hunting for you and both HR and the legal department will have your number on speed dial.

This is all in addition to the messes and dissappointment that so many companies experience from the lack of expected results all of these frauds and fake resumes have created in the marketplace.  Wonder why your IT projects go over time and over budget? I’d almost be willing to wager that some 75 – 90% OR EVEN MORE of those projects were staffed with several fake consultants with fake experience and fake resumes. Wonder why you’re paying so much for that ERP project and not seeing the desired results?  Wonder no more.

Further Reading:

 How to screen for SAP consultants
Avoid fake SAP resumes, fake SAP experience, and get the experience you pay for.

Screening methods to find the right SAP consultant
http://www.r3now.com/screening-methods-to-find-the-right-sap-consultant

Screening Methods to Find the Right Consultant – Part 2
http://www.r3now.com/screening-methods-to-find-the-right-consultant-part-2

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Screening and Interview Methods to Find the Right Consultant – Part 2

November 18th, 2009 by

SAP fake consultant and fake resumes

Previously I wrote on the subject of finding the right SAP consultant and how you can avoid getting ripped off, or worst case, having your business wrecked.  That previous article, Screening Methods to Find the Right SAP Consultant, has been widely read, well accepted, and I’m seeing some changes in the marketplace.  Companies are tired of being ripped off along with the lack of results or ROI from their large IT systems implementations. 

At the foundation of SAP or any IT consulting is communication –, clear, concise, easy to understand communication.  If your SAP candidate is unable to speak clearly, and in an understandable manner about the subject, you should immediately be suspicious.  If a consultant has some three (3), five (5), or more years of experience listed on their resume and even one full-cycle project then they must have demonstrated some basic skills or they are likely a fake and a fraud.

WHY would you hire a “consultant” who has a barrier to “consulting?”  And you really have to wonder about any prior ACTUAL experience they have with someone else who did hire them.

If they speak in technical “jargon” and can not “translate” that jargon to normal conversation then it is entirely possible they have never been on an SAP project. One of the key skills that every decent SAP consultant must master is the ability to help client counterparts understand and translate the SAP jargon into plain and understandable business terminology.  If they lack that skill they probably lack the critical experience to help ensure your project is a success.

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This is part of a series which explains the widespread FRAUD involved with SAP, Oracle, or other business software consulting.  I have no issue with H1B’s, student visas, etc., but these folks should be willing to work their way up just like many hard working folks rather than wreck your business and damage the industry through fraud.  For more extensive insight into the problem, AND specific methods for dealing with it, please see some of the other posts:

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Important Consulting and Business Analysis Skills

  • Facilitation skills
  • Meeting skills
  • Process mapping
  • Business case (or whitepaper) development
  • Problem solving
  • Organizational dynamics

If these skills are weak it may be due to personality differences, interaction styles, depth of experience, or other reasons.  However, if they are lacking altogether you are probably dealing with a fake.  Even if the consultant who lacks these skills is not a fake, you probably do not want them on your project anyway if you expect good results.  When it comes time to screen or interview them you might want to think twice if there are any type of language barriers to the employees you will be assigning to work with them.

Let’s look at them in detail one at a time: 

SAP Consultant Facilitation Skills 

On any large IT project, especially an ERP project which directly impacts so much of the business and organization there are:

  • requirements gathering sessions,
  • design sessions,
  • blueprint writing,
  • solution assessments,
  • problem resolutions,
  • fit / gap analysis,
  • business process design,
  • translation of SAP / ERP speak to business language,
  • knowledge transfer,
  • training,
  • and organizational change.

The ability to communicate clearly, in an understandable manner, and to be able to translate application processes and requirements into intelligent business language is a key to these activities. How else are you going to get any kind of a decent blueprint, specification documents, or potential whitepapers explaining your options? If they are in SAPanese or other technical jargon they are virtually meaningless to a business driven project. If there are language barriers or the individual is too technical and unable to speak in plain, non-techie type language how will knowledge transfer and critical change management activities be carried out?

The ability to “extract” the key information (through facilitation skills) for all of these activities can not be underestimated.  The questioning skills, the language skills, the ability to verify understanding and re-frame the issues in terms that everyone understands are absolutely vital to performing all of these key functions.  On top of that, they are critical to knowledge transfer to your internal team.

Consultant and Business Analyst Meeting Skills

Strong communication skills and the ability to stay on task and on point are critical to a successful project.  It is imperative to have at least fair organizational skills and strong communication skills.  Without strong language specific skills it will be difficult or even impossible to understand, capture, and then summarize the key points of the meeting or to be able to keep it on point.  Together with the actual meeting process there are some meetings where the key point of the meeting must be “socialized” or shopped around even before the meeting ever takes place.  Sometimes you have to win over naysayers or get key supporters on board so that the meeting is more of a formal communication.  You may need to understand and be able to address any legitimate objections key stakeholders may have. This requires language dependent good listening skills, and strong communication skills to be able to try to persuade, influence, and address objections or concerns.  If there is a language barrier there is also some measure of an understanding barrier as well.  Meetings are likely to be unproductive wastes of time.

SAP and ERP Project Process Mapping

Start to finish, A to Z, you must be able to look at a sequence of events and understand their dependencies and any gaps.  This is a central skill for design, blueprinting, and business needs.  Disjointed or “shoe horned” patches of activities are not sufficient to develop a working process.  And you must have strong enough language skills to be able to understand the business terminology, and then translatae that into SAP terminology, and transfer that understanding to the client side participants.

Along with that you must have a decent level of insight to understand what can be enabled by technology and what are inherently manual processes.  After evaluating a process the key is to be able to simplify, streamline, and automate the complex.  Any comprehension or communication gap will negatively affect this ability. If there are technical development requirements do you think that language, understanding, and comprehension barriers will produce good specs for development?  How will they prevent going back and forth and wasting all of the high priced developer’s or other consultant’s time?  

Anyone can take the complicated and keep it that way, or worse, make it more complicated.  The mark of skill AND EXPERIENCE is the ability to take the complicated and make it understandable and workable; the sign of innovation and exceptional skill is the ability to simplify.

SAP Business Case or White Paper Development

Along with blueprinting this requires a significant amount of local language specific comprehension and writing ability.  If there is a language barrier you can forget about a detailed, thorough, and well-done blueprint document, business case for a scope change, or a white paper explaining the options. 

How will they understand all of the issues to present the appropriate pros or cons for an issue, or to explain it correctly?  How will they understand the complex inputs and outputs to translate that into formal requirements that make any sense?

Business and SAP Problem Solving

In the entire ERP space, whether it is ERP, CRM, BI, SRM, or other SAP applications the ability to understand how and where a particular business problem fits into the application space requires deep skill and experience.  That requirement goes beyond what you can get through some self-directed training, a certification program, or even a single project. 

Real problem solving skills require a level of knowledge and understanding of the business, the subject matter, the applicable technology together with a fair amount of creativity.  Language or communication barriers will make this a difficult process.

SAP Project Change Management and Organizational Dynamics

Along with all of these activities you must also evaluate the company or organizational counterparts.  These are often called “core team members” from the business.  You must be able to assess the business area the application will touch on and consider the affects of certain changes on that organization.  The deep understanding demands solid language skills to discern subtleties of the personalities in the organization.  Where there are language barriers the ability to assess and understand the cultural dynamics will be impaired.  When it comes time to evaluate the impacts of certain changes on the organization, and how much change they can absorb, this lack of understanding will create problems.  Where there are gaps here I see CONsultants constantly suggesting technical fixes, new application functionality, or scope changes where the organization is not ready to absorb the change.

Conclusion on Screening and Interview Methods for the Right SAP Consultant

SAP, ERP, and other large scale IT projects are critical to your business and its functions.  Done correctly you can see great results.  Done in the wrong way and the results can be damaging enough to your business that you might be better off taking your budget, withdrawing the money, putting it in a pile, and lighting it on fire. 

Some of these frauds can end up costing you so much that you would have been better off without the budget in the first place.  Few companies recognize the amount of damage and the hidden costs on the entire project that these con artists end up creating.

One other thing to consider in all of this is if the “consultant” lied or cheated their way into the project what else will they lie or cheat you out of?  How much is enough?  And where will it end?  Since they are clearly stealing from your company through fraudulent means, what else will they steal?

When you are interviewing, screening, or even considering your next SAP, ERP, or other Technology consultants shouldn’t you be sure you are getting what you pay those huge fees for?  Carefully consider the skills you need for success, and for Business to IT Alignment and you will be much happier with developing business oriented solutions.

Additional Resources About SAP Frauds and Fake Resumes

Some of the sites that give more insight on FAKES in the marketplace:

Screening Methods to Find the Right SAP Consultant

SAP World is FULL of Fakes and Stolen Resumes

Indian Firm giving advice and guidance on using their prep materials and developing a FAKE resume

Vendor implementation firm accused of using fakes, vendor responded from internal employees, maybe they are fakes?

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