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Ten tips to not fail when implementing SAP

I have heard many CEOs, CFOs and CIOs philosophize about choosing and implementing a good ERP, particularly SAP, but many times their vision is far from what is minimally necessary to achieve success in the task.

It is not their fault that they allow themselves to be seduced by the siren songs of pseudo-experts in digital transformation, people who believe that knowing a couple of superficial tasks already makes them a specialist, and who only dedicate themselves to trying to impress with elaborate words but who at the After all, they do not convey anything real.

Implementing SAP is much more complex than that. if they don't exist  the most basic digital skills, How can they guide or lead the project to success?

Digital transformation in mid-sized companies also relies on choosing a world-class ERP system, but that alone is not enough. The real success or failure hinges on the phase of implementing SAP.

Let's be honest, it is not something trivial, and in this decision it is not enough to simply hold a grandiose title to feel authorized or an expert in "ERP's", especially in SAP to advance. Something else is required.

I often come across this type of "professionals" who put on their resume or on the table, the supposed leadership experience in implementing these systems, however, I have been able to verify that this is often based only on having controlled a simple list of tasks performed by other people, a small aspect within the larger task. Important to consider for all types of items: Agroindustry, Retail, Commercial, etc...

By digging a little deeper into those lunch, coffee or bar conversations, I have been able to verify that my colleagues in charge of this type of project do not even minimally know their own processes, in other cases, they do not even know the system to be implemented, they will hardly be able to help guide the process in a good way from your first hand.

Hiring SAP doesn't guarantee success, as it requires an experienced leader who can address potential anxieties or missteps that can lead to major headaches or even complete failure. Worst of all, this could leave the contracting company unable to take the first step in the digital revolution.

So what should we avoid so as not to fail in the implementation of SAP? Based on my accumulated experience leading this type of digital transformation projects, these are the 10 tips you should keep in mind to minimize the level of problems in an implementation.

1.- Not knowing the true situation of your systems and processes

Before even the game, this is a great topic and dilemma to solve. There are companies whose capitalization of knowledge is zero, or that "knowledge" resides in some people with a long career but far removed from the world of technology and reluctant to change.

Without a doubt, the first big step that every company must take is to be very clear about the current processes. In other words, the famous phrase: "know how we are really doing things" gains value at this stage.

Diagramar proceso SAP

Carrying out an adequate survey of the company's current processes is key, identifying purpose, use, key users, value addition within other points, and that will allow the leader to advance relentlessly until he achieves his goal. At all times, the leader and the team in charge of the implementation must identify all kinds of tools used to solve current processes such as Excel spreadsheets, systems, applications, written sheets, etc.

By the way, the meetings should be mostly about a lot of ground, where the potatoes burn we would say in Chile, with the team managers and the leader. Technical documents (process diagrams with people in charge) should always be made that allow them to be validated, to make sure what is really happening in the operation.

The material must be practical, simple and graphic, ideally analyzed by all those responsible for the exposed processes, to avoid inconsistencies or lack of information.

Levantamiento

In a separate document, it is good to express clearly and in detail what objectives are sought when implementing an ERP like SAP. This is like the inner vision document. This is a very good time to apply process reengineering, hand in hand with those who know internally we can naturally identify what things we could do differently, what processes need to be made more robust.

So, the internal team must skillfully be able to generate documentation that helps visualize what is needed; automated reports, functionalities, process controls, mobile devices, new services, etc. In this way we will arrive with a more or less formed idea to work with the implementers on what we need or want.

Wait a minute… we have ISO9000 or BRC or something else” … you will be thinking optimistically more than some reader. But honestly, is it real? Does it reflect what happens in the trenches? As in many companies, will it be just a paper system that only the person in charge understands? Think about this… if before the audit you find yourself updating the records, or rather, making science fiction out of them, you can easily find the answer.

2.- Lack of a leader and team

It is very important to define a leader from start to finish in charge with sufficient knowledge of the business, capable of doing good systemic and process surveys, with the appropriate level of empowerment, that is, authority or power given from Olympus (General Management) for him success. Your leadership style must be positive and with a high capacity to work under pressure. Implement SAP if that will bring pressure. In the same way, the time to dedicate must be relevant because finally these projects require attention, work and follow-up.

Buen lider

Just as a good coach with a bad team will fail, in the same way a leader with a bad team condemns the implementation to failure. It takes a good team with positive leadership, people who are motivated enough to do great things. We must make sure that both the leader and the team have enough time to spend together with the right spirit to question everything, but in a good way.

3.- Transmission of the need to the consultant together with the analysis period

It is essential for success to make a correct transmission of the current situation to the implementing company.

Here is the first fruit of the work of point number 1. If we have done a good internal job with the leader empowered of the project, we will have very good written material to explain "how we do things today", instead of "how I would like to do it".

In this key stage, together with the consulting company, we will proceed to "digest" the survey on the whole, to then go on to review the vision document of the company, or, in other words, what we would like from the implementation.

reunión de equipo

At this point, the company that accompanies you in the process will only be in a position to make recommendations based on best practices, identifying the areas of opportunity in the implementation process, and will be able to begin the business plan phase, also known as the business blue print (BBP). This is led by the implementing company together with the project leader.

4.- Deficient architecture of the project

In the BBP, the problems to be solved must be defined clearly, exhaustively and in detail, always far beyond the standard of the solution. Here, as a base and source of information, the initial survey, analyzed and detailed, is very valuable.

Indeed, together with each business case, process or problem, there must be a solution approach for each of them. This not only implies mentioning the part of the software that will be used, but also how the new process will be defined, who will be responsible and what additional tools will be available. Probably it will be necessary to present as a requirement a report or some development that solves said operation.

As an example:

To comply with the dispatches of the merchandise, inventories must always be kept in mind, especially when production is needed to comply. Behind this may be involved managing purchases, monitoring the arrival of goods and coordinating deadlines to manufacture in such a way as to arrive on time.

Buscando procesos

If our goal is to move away from manual processes with all their complexity, leaving behind the old Excel, then the implementing company will surely suggest using SAP's MRP.

That would be the software to use. But how will it be implemented? What will be the required reports? Who will be responsible for executing it and how often? What stock settings will be necessary to ensure minimum stocks?, etc., etc., etc.

As has already been said, it is not enough to state what will be used, we must also define the process, those responsible, the tools, the times and the parameterizations.

5.- Unclear expectations

In general terms and as a guiding compass, we always need to be clear about the problems to be solved, what results we expect and the budget. If there is no direction, there is a serious risk of losing your way and ending up spending hours uselessly on superfluous things or things of zero value.

Brujula

Once again, the activity of point one, the initial survey document, is essential. The loss of time is one of the great monsters that we must overcome in this type of project.

Regarding this, we can say that there are two types of projects, those that are charged by the hour or those called "turnkey".

In particular, I definitely prefer the "turnkey" ones. While they may be a bit more expensive than those that charge you by the hour, they ensure a desired result at a known cost. Both the implementing company and the client feel the weight of the responsibility to finish on time so that the project is profitable and beneficial. If you add to that a payment component for milestones met, you have achieved the necessary balanced control for all parties.

In the other case, the implementing company will always be very comfortable due to the misuse of the hours. Remember, at the end of the day you earn per hour made, so the chaos only benefits the other party with deep economic pain for you, which will mean many explanations at the end of everything.

6.- Absence of a good plan

Once the route has been traced and the objectives are clear, it is necessary to plan, to plan.

There are many currents on this, but I am definitely inclined to recommend SCRUM, as an agile implementation methodology.

It is true that we must have a master plan that estimates approximate times, activities and dates, but in practice, it has been shown time after time that working with agile methodologies facilitates projects with uncertainty, aligns teams and allows for a constant pulse of what is happening, managing to keep the focus on what needs to be addressed.

SCRUM

Taking the ball to the floor, with a good team, if we create a good Backlog, define SPRINT's, do our daily 15 minute meetings, implement retrospective meetings (this is all SCRUM jargon), we will certainly have progress in sight, the opportunities and risks of the project.

It is always vital to manage a level of detail that allows those responsible to have the status of the project at a glance.

7.- Poor project management

Remember, SAP is a world-class product, but it is not SAP who will implement it for you, it will be the company you choose.

The choice of the consulting company is not something to minimize. You must demand and make sure that the senior consultant who will work with you has proven experience in projects in your industry, this is also key to the success or failure of the project.

Investigate the success stories of the company, has it worked in your industry?, How big were the projects carried out?, contact implemented companies in the similar field and review the experience, what were the lessons learned, how was the implementing company, how was the accompaniment.

Investigar

For good management by the implementing company, I suggest the following structure for the project:

  1. Senior consultant
  2. Junior consultant
  3. Project Manager
  4. Chief project manager

Por tu parte como empresa es básico al menos contar con esto:

  1. Work team
  2. Chief project manager
  3. General manager

If you can add an external QA to that structure, you will undoubtedly have much fewer problems on a day-to-day basis.

It is common to see in some organizations that some of these functions are assumed by one or two people, but be careful, the large number of activities or work can mean that each role does not progress well and end up bogging down the project.

You as the CEO of the organization are primarily responsible for the success or failure of the project. That said, when you hire the implementation company, you must ensure that the contract includes provisions that connect cost and time to achieve successful results. If the supplier company does not have the "skin in the game", you should find another.

8.- Insufficient resources

There is always an advantage in considering temporary external resources to achieve project success by avoiding the depletion of stable company resources.

Mas personal

Due to the characteristics of these projects and the undeniable amount of time needed to dedicate, it is not uncommon to find some members overloaded and stressed with the demands and deadlines. Suddenly it is good to double click at this point to consider temporary resources with the proper qualities and skills to reinforce the current team.

9.- Lack of evidence

From the beginning, and as long as possible, many tests should be done. Try, try and try. It will be the only way to ensure that the desired functionality is happening as expected.

pruebas de sap

Remember, you should “NOT” move forward with implementing SAP if the tests are not successful. It is the best stage to rectify any deviation. Also, do not rest easy with superficial tests, you must go deeper into them.

Invite users of the old system to participate in the tests, not only will it serve as training, but it will also allow them to get to know the system.

Make sure you have "evidence" documents, that the tests were satisfactory, in this way you can justify the progress in the event of difficulties.

10.- Inadequate training

It should never go to production if the appropriate training of the system, processes and tools has not been done.

Minimizing this is what has led many companies to fail to implement SAP, or to have many, many problems after the start, a fact that ends up delaying the good final result.

Clases de sap

From very early on you should start training in the system standard and then in the solution that they have created for your company.

I suggest you create a structure that allows you to quickly identify the "weakest" users in the system, so you can give them focus from the beginning.

Set up an intranet or use tools such as Office 365 TEAMS to create work teams with proper documentation for your staff. Have key users record short videos of the most important functionalities of your organization with the processes they have defined. Do practical examples, post SAP Internet videos that can be consumed by people who need to know the system, and spread the word widely.

Accompanied by this entire process, there is always an advantage in managing change to align the organization and foster a good climate for the project.

Implementing SAP is like conquering a majestic mountain like Everest. It is needed within other things: Discipline, planning, passion, strategy, leadership together with a great team. How satisfying for all of us to achieve this goal after hard and dedicated work.

Only by focusing with perseverance and passion can we achieve the goal.

Conquista montaña SAP

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I AM HECTOR PINCHEIRA | TECHNOLOGICAL EXPERT

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