Posted on May 2014 By Judy Cole
Over the years I have recruited SAP staff (contract and permanent) for many different companies across many SAP Implementations. As a recruiter I have had the opportunity to observe from a distance and unobtrusively, how differently SAP projects are managed. As a trusted adviser to a few, a sounding board to others and practically invisible to many more I have learnt a lot from people about what makes a project successful and what factors have contributed to a failed project.
Now I am by no means qualified to advise on how to run a successful SAP project, but what I can share is my opinion formed from listening to many …many opinions over the years. People love to talk and often people find it easier to brag, vent or advise someone who does not work with them directly. Lucky for me, their recruiter, I am so often that person. I say luckily because I do consider myself lucky to engage and converse with some of the best SAP Consultants in Australia from CIO’s, Project Directors, Functional/Technical guys, Trainers, Super users and other SAP/IT Recruiters and for those of you who know me…with a wine in my hand…I can do my fair share of talking too!!
There are many factors that go into ensuring a successful implementation of SAP but the focus for this blog is the importance of Change Management and Training. Since starting as a 20 year old at Speller International and knowing nothing at all about SAP, this was the “great debate” between many. Nearly 10 years on, Change Management and Training has been accepted as a very important aspect to ensuring the success of an SAP project (or any project for that matter). Or has it?!?
In my personal opinion an effective change management strategy, documentation and training is absolute paramount to ensuring the success of an SAP implementation. As an outsider, it’s pretty straight forward – what’s the point on spending millions on a new system if people won’t or do not know how to use it effectively? People are resistant to change, especially if that change will affect how they are viewed amongst their peers – a senior team member, once “the go to person” for the rest of the team, now having to learn along with everyone else how to do their role. If such situations are not managed correctly, that person will find a work around and push back against that change – it is human nature – it’s called pride! This happens even in our small team at Speller when we change something as simple as our version of Outlook….never mind a full ERP system!
So, with this ‘it’s obvious” mind set, it’s almost a dirty word for Senior Managers in an organisation not to agree. But do they always actually agree?
It would appear that this is not always the case, or at least that Change Management and Training is not seen as important compared to other areas. One of the most common stories I hear as to why a project is running behind, or why the project team don’t believe they can deliver is almost always due to the business not being engaged or understanding how to use the system (and in some horror stories even after go-live!).
What I couldn’t understand though is why this seems to happen over and over again. How can an experienced CIO/Project Director or Project Manager make the same mistakes? It baffled me how I could see that, not being the one managing a project! But over time, I began to understand that it wasn’t that I was super intelligent, it was actually the opposite… I was pretty naïve and, like everything else, it all comes down to money!
So as a Project Manager with a tight budget, the one area to cut costs would be the change and training. Short sighted? Probably, but if I put myself in their shoes, where else can the budget easily be reduced? Can you deliver half a blueprint? Can you only migrate half the data? I would guess… NOT! So, unfortunately it is the training and change that take the hit!
Some companies have done just that…taken a hit. Other companies have been more imaginative about how to approach this important part of the project on a very tight budget, and the ones I have witnessed first-hand really did seem to work. Two specific examples come to mind straight away which are ones that I have been directly involved in (so maybe I am a little biased!).
The first was many years ago for a client within the cable industry. Our client had engaged a partner to do the implementation, a SAP BusinessOne implementation with a lot of business process change in addition to new systems. The company was upfront about budget restraints from the start, and decided to hire a team of only 5 external consultants, including a Change Manager with training management experience, effectively covering off two consultants in one. The other consultants we engaged for the team were SAP Training and Documentation consultants all of whom had strong experience with some business analyst experience also. We were upfront about budget from the start with our candidates, confirming we had lower than market rates immediately, most of who understood and negotiated their rate a little (it’s amazing what happens when you ask the question!). The approach this company took was to take the 5 external contractors and have them run “train the trainer” sessions for selected SME’s from the business. They had the SME’s do the documentation (with the assistance of the external contractors), were trained on SAP and on how to deliver classroom, group and “one on one training”. The external contractors stayed throughout the project but only to assist the SME’s. This worked well as the business engagement was a lot higher due to the trainers being taken from within the business and training their peers. It also saved the company money by hiring only 5 external contractors!
The other was a much larger project which was phased across business units, where this particular business unit opted to engage external “go-live support” consultants. We were asked to engage 20 contractors for only a 4 – 6 week period. These contractors were placed on site within the business (warehouses, distribution centres etc) to support the business users within their roles. The skillset of the contractors were not that of a straight trainer or functional consultant, the majority were SAP technical business analysts who had come from a Super User background. This was very beneficial to the business as they were not only able to provide ‘on the job’ training for the users, they were also able to show them how to escalate issues, learn to identify the type of issues they were experiencing and what escalation points to take. They were also able to assist with the roles such as raising the purchase orders to prevent the usual backlog of work due to the slower processing from the users. This approach relieved pressure from the employees and allow them time to learn how to do things properly.
All companies and teams are different and different methods are needed for different situations. In both cases the project team thoroughly examined different options on how to train their business best within the budget they had. For both clients the feedback was very positive from all involved. So next time you are in a situation where you need to cut budget, have a chat to all people around you; contractors, consultants and recruiters – most of who will have worked with many different customers and seen many methods – they may be able to suggest something you had not thought of. Having a small budget does not always mean you cannot have an effective Change Management and Training strategy