by: SAP Concur Implementation Leader
For consulting firms that focus their services on implementations and SAP developments is common to hear that projects are never finished on time. But, must it always be like this or is there a way to avoid it?
During the project implementations, sometimes it seems impossible to meet the planned dates for different eventualities, that’s why project management becomes a basic tool, necessary to achieve the expected success.
According to the PMI (Project Management Institute), project management is the application of knowledge, skills and techniques in the efficient and effective execution implementation of projects. It is a strategic competence for organizations to link the project results to business goals and compete in the market. From this perspective, the consulting firms that have better project management are those that ensure their customers that they will achieve their goals and enhance their competitiveness.
IT projects, specifically SAP, pose a major challenge, as resources often come from different areas inside and outside the company, themselves having different needs and priorities when carrying out the project. For example, it is common practice that the entity is responsible for designing and implementing any improvement in the system of the company is a consulting firm; however the one that leads the implementation within the company is the IT area, but the one that has the need or requirement is the operational area, which is responsible for validating and accepting the solution developed. The presence of these three groups hinders communication and efficient time exercise throughout project implementation. Hence the importance of having tools that improve the communication channel and control to ensure compliance of time and goals.
Thus the complex, enriching and necessary journey to manage such projects begins, but … where to start? There are four aspects to be taken into account for any project to be successfully managed and have the expected impact on the business process of the customers.
Have a methodology
Having a project methodology will help to keep project phases and define milestones or objectives to be achieved. For example, ASAP2 (Accelerated SAP) is a methodology for rapid implementation of SAP projects divided into the following phases:
1. Project preparation: Collection of information and resources.
2. Business Blueprint: Definition of business requirements and future processes to implement.
3. Execution: Base System Configuration and implementation, testing and knowledge transfer.
4. Final Preparation: Functional tests, stress tests and ensure performance for Go Live.
5. Go Live & Support: Transport developments and configurations to Production environment and provide support.
Planning: the most important stage of the project
From the project phases, the most important one is the planning phase. From good planning , compliance with other stages of the project will flow and will close at the established times. During this phase, you should analyze and understand the current process of the client’s business in order to design a “To Be” process. Thus, the scope and project deliverables will be defined more clearly and comply with the targets or customer needs. In this sense, it is equally important to clarify which things are out of the scope of the project so that the development phase will have no deviations due to poor definitions or misunderstandings that may exist between clients and consultants.
Within this stage, the risks the project might face are defined, and they should be anticipated as much as possible.
The definition of the risks must be made hand in hand with the client so a detailed analysis of the human and infrastructure material is made. It is also important to consider what other projects are running in parallel that could impact the project in terms of time, cost and scope.
It is recommended not to diminish the times of this phase or rush the beginning of the construction stage of the project. This is because the costs of modifying a project during its planning phase are reduced compared with the modification of a project that is in its implementation stage. You can make the analogy of building a house, when designing you can make any changes and the cost is virtually null, however, if we move a wall when it is already built the cost will be very high (construction, demolition and new construction).
Project Charter and Communication
Consulting firms are external businesses, looking to maximize the resources or infrastructure of the customer with the interest of reaching their goals and enhance their competitiveness. However, some resources are not owned by the consultancy, so they can not have them at the moment they decide, hampering the operation and efficiency of the project.
For this, it is important to engage the client and let them know that the project’s success directly depends on the commitment and involvement of their resources. To achieve this, it is recommended to create a Project Charter listing the resources of all the areas involved and the roles or participation in the project. This charter confirms that customer resources are the owners of the project to promote the interest and commitment to it, as well as other project information such as: who are the owners of certain processes, deliverables, milestones and initial project plans.
On the other hand, communication is essential once the project has started, as any event that may impact the project must be communicated as soon as possible to define action plans.
The triple constraint
The last consideration is based on a characteristic inherent to any project: the triple constraint. It is understood that a high-quality project is one that is delivered with the requested scope, on time and within budget. It is also understandable that during implementation, changes that can jeopardize your quality may arise. To avoid this risk, it is important to seek a balance of three factors: scope, time and cost of the project (PMBOK, 2004).
These factors provide for the triple constraint, because if any of these factors changes, at least one of the remaining will be affected (Figure 1). Therefore, whenever a change is made to the project, the administrator must identify how it affects each of these factors and the implications it will have in meeting their quality.
In conclusion, we can say that the implementation of a project is so complex that it can not be assured that it will close in the planned time, especially those related to IT and SAP, but we can also say that having an adequate project management favours the project to have a higher quality. So, having a project manager who knows the different tools and applies them depending on the conditions, will be of great support to get companies to increase their competitiveness and achieve their goals in the short term.
1 SAP SE is a German multinational software corporation that makes enterprise software to manage business operations and customer relations.
2 ASAP Methodology for Implementation is the SAP roadmap for implementing SAP solutions in a cost-effective, speedy manner. ASAP provides a proven, repeatable implementation methodology to streamline projects and achieve lower total cost of implementation (TCI). SAP offers ASAP methodology for Simplified Rapid Deployment Solution Experience, Assemble-to-Order projects, Agile and Standard projects to support the needs of clients with various SAP deployment strategies.