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SAP Implementation Challenges / Part 2

by Oliver Schmid

Part 2: Potential Resource and Management Problems during an SAP Implementation

The following categories are all part of the overall project resources:

  • Infrastructure, which entails: Hardware and software components required to run SAP
  • Project Teams: The resource “Project Teams”, which may consist of internal and external team members who are participating in the SAP implementation project.
  • Support Personnel: the employees needed to support SAP during the implementation and after the going-live phase.

Internal resources are usually the so-called key-users that participate in the SAP implementation. A key-user is a employee that is intimately familiar with all business processes and requirements as it pertains to their job function and/or department. Problems may arise if such key-user is selected on seniority or workload within a department rather than on their individual knowledge and familiarity of the various business processes. Since these key-users know the internal business processes as it relates to the current infrastructure but have no or only very little SAP experience, it is imperative that these key-user learn the SAP functionality before start of the project.

Keep in mind that these resources are responsible of how a company transacts business in the future. These key-users must learn the functionality and configuration possibilities in enough detail in order to make intelligent implementation decisions. Key-users usually also train employees and act as first level support within their area of expertise.

There for it is important that the project team is staffed with the right employees.

Many companies today feel that they do not have the internal full-time resources available to participate in the system implementation. Companies that are already operating on a bare minimum staffing, due to downsizing or rightsizing, think that there are just not enough people left within a department to support the day-to-day business and support a SAP rollout. Here companies have to become creative. It could mean retrain some of the staff that is not actively participating in the rollout project to take over some of the functions a key-user would not be able to fulfill during the rollout project participation.

Sometimes it seems those internal resources, that seem to be able to balance the act between their day-to-day work and the SAP rollout project responsibilities will eventually burn themselves out.

This could be also be a point where careful budget planning can come in handy. Options could include retraining existing staff to take on the responsibilities of the key-users and additional temporary staff could be hired to do some low level work. Using interns to replace key-users could be another option.

External resources are usually skilled consultants that participated already in multiple SAP implementation projects and have the technical knowledge on how to customize the SAP System to the specific requirements. Skilled SAP consultants today come at a premium price. There for the proper management of SAP resources is even more critical in order to receive the most “bang for your buck”.

External Resource items to consider should be:

  • How many consultants are needed?
  • What is their implementation experience?
  • What is their industry experience?
  • At what time during the various phases of the project, are which resources needed?

Another important factor to consider would be not trying to do all at once, but rather in Phases. Many projects have failed or were bogged down by trying to do too much at once. Often, organizations are so used to, with what they have currently in place that they oversee the fact that some of the current functionality has grown over time and is not a drop-dead requirement to operate the business.

It is imperative to have a fact-finding session, to determine: “What would be the minimum functionality that is needed to operate the business and what could be done in a second or third phase?”

Change Management experts have also determined that organizations change more effectively through multiple cycles of learning (1).

The biggest problem I have so far encountered during any SAP implementation was the lack of management support. It is imperative that a project of this multitude has a sponsor that some sort of influence within the organization. This should usually be an executive team member that has an interest in the success of the project.

Another important governance of any major SAP implementation is the Executive Steering Board. The steering board will have the final saying if significant changes or existing business processes are required or if business impacting process additions have to be implemented.

The steering board or project management board usually consists of high-level executives, representatives of the systems integrator, a quality assurance representative and a change management representative. (2)

For the SAP Implementation to be a success management must understand, support, and eventually direct the new business processes under SAP.

Part 1: SAP Implementation Challenges / Part 1

Oliver Schmid

(1) SAP R/3 Implementation Guide: A Managers Guide to Understanding SAP

(2)     Keane Whitepapers: Getting it right the first time: 9 Best-Practice Guidelines for a Successful SAP Implementation


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