Business Solutions with SAP

Planning For a Smooth Go-Live: Part 4

October 12th, 2008 by

SAP go-live horizons

4. SAP or ERP Software Modification – Custom Development

Every project ultimately has some development work needed. And by development work I mean custom coded programs to address “FRICE” or “RICEF” objects (Forms, Reports, Interfaces, Conversions, and Enhancements). Getting the right developers to do the work can make a huge difference in your project being delivered on time and on budget. Often times inexperienced developers bring significant hidden costs to a project that can cause slipped timelines, blown budgets, and go-live production nightmares.

It is critical to make key decisions about how much software engineering you will do and how much business process engineering. For more background on the topic please see:

Some suggestions to ensure a smooth SAP or ERP go-live are:

1) The Blueprint should deliver at least a first pass list of needed development objects.

2) Prioritize development items by when they will be needed in the project, for example, reports can sometimes wait until right at the end of the project, and a few can even be done after the system is live. However, interfaces and conversions will be needed much sooner.

3) Add a second level of priority to the development items but what is truly critical and what could potentially have some kind of temporary manual workaround or some other method to mitigate it.

4) Be sure to break the development work up into deliverables that can be monitored and tracked, for example you might require a functional specification (verbiage of what must be developed), a separate technical specification (the detailed inputs, process, and outputs of the development including table, field, and pseudo-code requirements), first pass coding, a code review by a trusted senior coder, testing, etc.

5) Make sure your implementation partner provides you with a list, and samples, of the deliverables and the tracking tools they use to monitor development progress. These should be requested during the initial proposal process.

In the end, many projects have taught me that if you get the right folks doing the job, you can have a very successful implementation. The key is to make the transition to SAP a relatively smooth and relatively pain-free process.

SAP Interfaces and Batch Jobs

If your project requires interfaces or batch processing jobs it is absolutely critical to test them thoroughly during integration testing. And then at go-live it is important to verify their operation after the first time they are run.

After the first run of any interface in the live production system the data records should be checked on both sides of the interface. The input side and after the data is brought into SAP. The first few times the interface or batch jobs run, EVERY error record must be cleared immediately. Otherwise you can end up in a cascading situation where similar errors are repeated each time the interface or batch job runs. Each of those individual errors must be corrected even if they are duplicates that occur from the same master data (like bad customer master, vendor master, material master, or other data). Immediately working to resolve this will significantly reduce ongoing headaches and processing problems.

ERP and SAP Month-End Business Processes

Month-end close processes must be carefully tested and scripted during your integration testing. From that testing a “checklist” and all of the necessary steps need to be produced. And then coming up to the first month-end close it will be very important to resolve as many master data and posting errors as possible throughout the month. If you wait until your first month-end you’ve waited too long and will get bitten pretty badly by processing issues.

Be proactive in testing and planning for all of your go-live processes and issues and you will have a much smoother go-live. Neglect them and you will pay the price.

An SAP go-live can be both successful and “relatively” smooth with the right preparation. However no amount of planning, testing, or preparation can address every issue so there will always be a few small things that crop up. You can minimize the impact with good planning and testing.

Costs and Consequences of Inexperienced Developers

Inexperienced developers bring another of those “hidden” costs to a project. The hidden cost of them consuming a highly paid implementation consultant’s time to constantly test and “pseudo code” the developer’s work. What customers never see with these fakes are the hidden costs their inexperience adds. Their “lower” hourly rate needs to be added to the hourly rate of the implementation consultant’s time they waste from having to be baby sat–, in the end their inexperience costs you far more than their “lower rate” may initially lead you to believe. Along with that you have to add the “drag” their inexperience brings to a project’s pace adding additional hidden costs.

If developers do not have enough experience to start identifying key legacy data based on the project scope, get new developers. Also, keep a close eye on developers who claim they have “experience” but need step by step detailed specs for every bit of coding they have to do, or who have a difficult time testing their own data conversions and programs. A good developer should have enough exposure and experiences with the key transactions to be able to do most of their own testing, and even make suggestions on how master data might need to be changed or set up in the new environment. Watch for the ones that are constantly on the phone during work hours speaking to someone else.

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

Planning For a Smooth SAP Go-Live: Part 1
(introduction, security and authorizations)

Planning For a Smooth SAP Go-Live: Part 2
(master data, data transformation methods)

Planning For a Smooth SAP Go-Live: Part 3
(process issues, blueprinting, testing, and change management)

Planning For a Smooth SAP Go-Live: Part 4
(custom development, costs and consequences of inexperienced developers)

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