Managing Successful SAP Projects – 10 Key Lessons from Successful Projects

We were asked about this recently and took out a presentation we delivered perhaps 5 years ago, based on a study we performed across a number of our team’s experiences – and it’s no surprise that the same answers are as applicable now as they were before. We all just need to apply the learning! What would you add in today’s environment?

  • Scope – functional, geographical, organisational
    • Scope drives everything!
      • The business case – both cost and benefits
      • The project organisation
      • The project timescale
      • The process design
      • The implementation programme
    • A badly defined scope usually results in a poor project – over budget, over time, under delivery of benefits etc
    • What must be covered:
      • Detailed functional scope – by individual process area (and sub-process where necessary)
      • Detailed geographic scope – by region, office, plant etc
      • Detailed organisational scope – by department/function
      • What is excluded must be as clear as what is included
      • There should be some people who are unhappy with the scope
      • Be ruthless in defining and maintaining the scope
  • Business Case
    • The “case for action” must be clearly spelled out – what will be the consequences if the project does not succeed? 
    • Having a burning platform makes success almost certain – Year 2000, FDA, Brexit, merger, de-merger etc
    • If the business case is compelling, it is likely that success will bring benefits that match or exceed all except our very largest product families and customers
    • Finally, the business case should be easily understood and shared across the whole organisation
    • But it’s not just about numbers…
  • The Executive Team Role
    • CHAMPION: act as champions for the program as a whole and for particular elements of it. Appoint each board member to act as sponsor of an area – both geographic and functional
    • LEADER: Lead the program – through time, understanding, involvement and decision making
    • COACH: Act as coach for the senior program staff – advising them on tactics and politics
    • FOCUS: Keep the program focused on the agreed scope and delivering the business case as fast as possible. Remove as many distractions for the team and the business as possible
    • Decisions
      • The most effective and fastest programs allow as much decision making as possible to be taken by the project teams at each level
      • However, there are some decisions which only the board should take
      • Examples include: Software modifications, Scope changes, Phase exit and entry criteria and approval, Corporate design issues
    • Executive Team Leadership
      • Create an open and honest culture at all levels
      • Establish a team charter to regulate the way the team deals with each other
      • Carefully select team members – competency and behaviour
      • Create a balanced decision-making structure (not too much IT bias for example)
      • Take decisions promptly and knowledgeably
      • Establish a single integrated team (not us and them/ business v IT or IT team v SI team) – Two In A Box
  • Timescales
    • Most successful projects complete within 18 months – 12-15 months is not unusual; less than 12 months increasingly achieved
    • Why?
      • Organisations have a short attention span
      • Things change – acquisitions, new markets, new products etc.
      • Scope creep
      • Cost
      • Individual and corporate fatigue
  • Hybrid Project Management
    • Highly structured Prince 2 approach for large phases to maximise discipline and enable stage/gate reviews
    • Agile activities within each stage to maximise responsiveness and adaptability to business needs
    • Daily team check in stand-up meetings (identify issues early)
    • Weekly team meetings and integration across activities
    • Apply engineering/capital projects approach – real project management, change request processes, earned value assessment, “burn” rate, nose count, etc
  • Risk Management
    • How do you avoid being the next Hershey, Perdue or Quest? There are two critical business risks:
    • DATA  – more Enterprise Systems implementations fail through poor data quality than for all other reasons combined. This is not a technology issue – it requires a structured approach to reviewing and cleansing the critical master data used by the business
    • PEOPLE – implementing the highest quality software, even with data quality at the required level, does not guarantee success. Everything that happens after implementation depends on the knowledge and competence of the user community – and that means high quality training, education in the “new business” and a pilot or simulator program which enables them to practice their new roles in a safe but realistic environment
    • Managing these areas well ensures that “go live” is not quickly followed by “go dead”
  • SAP Safeguarding
    • One reason we implement SAP is that thousands have gone before us
    • So how do we benefit from all those successful (and not so successful) pioneers?
    • SAP Safeguarding is a collection of proven methodologies, state-of-the-art tools, and valuable knowledge bases that deliver holistic, end-to-end risk-mitigation services that assist SAP customers in delivering successful projects
    • “On the shoulders of giants…”
  • Data
    • SAP relies on Data Accuracy
    • Data Accuracy is the responsibility of every user
    • If you put Rubbish In……you will get Rubbish Out!!!!!!
    • The single most frequent cause of “failure” of a formal operating model/system is the quality, timeliness, completeness and management of the critical data
  • People and Change
    • Inhibitors
      • So what stopped it happening before?
      • Good at ideas but poor at delivery
      • Consensus decision-making
      • Organisational politics
      • Short attention span
      • Changing responsibilities
      • Lack of belief
      • Inadequate systems
      • Too many initiatives
    • Enablers
      • Discuss, decide, then do
      • Establish clear business vision
      • Address ‘difficult’ issues
      • Advertise success
      • Reward delivery, not good ideas
      • Encourage changed and risk-taking
      • Resource properly
      • The board to publicly lead
  • The Future is a Foreign Country…
    • The tenth lesson is one we must all learn for ourselves:
    • What is the lesson that you can share:
      • Education vs training
      • Conference Room Pilots
      • Planning
      • Team selection

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