SAP Watch

Jun 19 2009   7:20PM GMT

Tips for successful SAP implementations

CourtneyBjorlin Courtney Bjorlin Profile: CourtneyBjorlin

If you haven’t seen ComputerWeekly’s reporting on what we’ll call a “difficult” SAP implementation for the Somerset County Council in the United Kingdom, it’s a worthy read.

The long and short of it is this – a more than a year long, costly SAP implementation with less than ideal go-live and upset staff members.

In fact, employees are so unnerved, they’re being offered workshops in managing excessive pressure within teams, coping strategies for abnormally high workloads and dealing with difficult situations/conversations, according to the ComputerWeekly reports.

We’ve been down this route before on SAP Watch — are go-live problems the software’s fault or the businesses’ and systems integrators’ fault?

Not having the right skills on the ERP implementation team, and lack of buy-in from employees once it’s launched are the two biggest causes of ERP implementation failures, according to a Panorama Consulting Group report.

Now this isn’t a failed SAP project, but I’d think the same holds true here.

Recently, Forrester Research’s Liz Herbert did some interesting research on the challenges SAP customers are having with their systems integrators.

It’s worth pointing out that overall, companies were quite happy with systems integrators. That said, there were a few areas in which they’d like to see improvement that seem to speak to the Somerset County Council’s experience.

For one, companies want more help with change management. Companies want systems integrators to share best practices on helping people transition to these new systems. Judging from the workshop sessions Somerset County’s offering their employees, that seems particularly like an area in which they could have used some help.

But systems integrators can’t take the whole blame. Take this anecdote from “Bev,” a response to an SAP Watch blog on whether SAP certification was the right way to ensure successful SAP implementation.

“Two years ago I was approached by Managing Director (automotive parts manufacturer) to look at their SAP system that is productive for 8 years. The MD was very upset due to the endless Euros spent by IT to upgrade and build custom solutions, sick and tired of consulting partners coming and going. The bottom line was that the company continued to have high inventory and poor on time customer delivery performance (50%); therefore making too much of the wrong thing.

The usual approach by consulting partners was to come in and do some fancy add-ons, custom reports, etc.

 In order to re-design, we started from scratch, two teams: a SAP expert in production (and SCM) and good manufacturing expert (not SAP). We eventually found that 50% was a SAP problem and 50% was related to good old manufacturing methods. This created the ideal synergy to optimize SAP and change manufacturing methods, then only did we make a difference.”

Changes in the business process were needed to prove the outcomes they were looking for. And that’s one way companies can ensure better work with systems integrators.

Putting business-focused outcomes rather than deadlines in the contract is one way to ensure focused, and henceforth successful, projects. For instance, Herbert recently worked with a phone manufacturer that put KPIs concerning inventory turns in its contracts during an SAP implementation.

What tips do you have for ensuring successful SAP implementations?

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