Conversation with friends - Project Management with Lutz Bendig

Posted on January 2022 By Speller International
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​This week Jack Bland sits down with Lutz Bendig, a Program/Project Manager with over 25 years of IT experience, to discuss reasons why SAP projects fails and what Project teams can do to ensure successful outcomes.
Lutz has had an extensive career in SAP. Specialising in Program Management and Delivery experience for large-scale strategic IT Solutions, Digital and Business Transformation Programs.
With a successful outcomes in delivering a wide range of IT solutions using a variety of applications and technologies, including ERP / CRM / BI solutions based on SAP and Oracle / JD Edwards, SaaS / Cloud-based applications as well as Digital, Mobility and B2C solutions.
1.      In your opinion what are some of the key reasons SAP projects run into trouble, as a business looking to implement SAP what are the key areas to get right in the planning phase?
  • Unrealistic expectations, and resulting underestimations of efforts and associated timelines and costs —> starting the project 'on the back-foot' straight away

  • Underestimation of the required organisation change management to support not just a successful initial implementation, but importantly ongoing adoption of new ways of working

  • Too optimistic assumptions upfront (even worse no key assumptions) formally articulated (e.g. stability of / changes to scope, internal efforts required / availability of internal resources, efforts to cleanse existing data, change management, training etc.)

  • Failure to take into consideration ‘Lessons Learned’ from previous projects within (or even outside) the organisation

  • Major changes (i.e. SAP implementations) needs to be driven and actively supported from the very top of the organisation —> strong executive sponsorship is key / secure early

2.      What are the main issues you have seen with setting up a PMO for an SAP implementation?
  • Quite often individuals in charge of and / or working in PMO have no or little real experience in actually managing and delivering projects, and try to apply / revert to 'textbook approaches' without the experience to adapt them ‘into the real world’

  • Mandated use of processes and tools often becomes onerous with little or no associated overall benefits to overall project outcome

  • Lack of acknowledgment that the role of PMO is to support the project, not to tell the team / PM how to run the project

  • Failure to adequately staff the PMO in terms of capacity and capability (e.g. using benchmarking, total Project Management and PMO costs should be in the vicinity of 10% of overall project costs)

3.      What are the key areas you look to focus on when working with an SAP Project Steering Committee?

Not just for SAP projects but for all SteerCo’s for large IT projects:

  • Secure strong Executive Sponsor (with sufficient cloud and strong interest for the project to succeed)

  • Limit the number of SteerCo members (the fewer people involved the better for decision making etc.)

  • Ensure SteerCo members are clear on their roles / what is required and expected from them

  • Agree on ‘fit for purpose’ governance, i.e. how often to meet, reporting structure (ideally exception-based only, and focusing on decisions / support required from SteerCo)

4.      The best laid plans do not always equal success, in the implementation phase in your experience what are the key reasons for failure and how do you avoid them?
  • Expectations and associated estimates were unrealistic, resulting in significant efforts spend in justifying real required efforts, taking away capacity to actually manage and deliver the project —> avoid by being more realistic when estimating projects in planning phase, taking into account previous lessons learned, listen to experts (people who have done something similar)

  • Underpin any estimates etc. with clearly articulated and communicated assumptions —> if and when key assumptions change or don’t hold true, justification and debates re. consequential changes to earlier baselines (scope / costs / time) become less emotional / more rational (at least sometimes…)

  • Specifically in large IT projects / SAP business transformations uncertainty about the final future product and outcome is very high —> accept that change is inevitable, that even the best laid out plans and estimates are just that; instead of fighting against any changes (scope, approach, solution etc.) along the way, embrace them as opportunities to improve on the eventual outcome (even is it comes at a cost as it usually does); using Agile approaches greatly support this mindset.

  • When it comes to the triangle of ‘People / Process / Technology’, the by far biggest challenges lie in the first dimension (People), yet this area (org. change management) is very often neglected or insufficiently supported, resulting in lack of business buy-in and support, and finally adoption of the delivered technology —> ensure to support not only project delivery, but importantly ongoing adoption and evolution, with adequate org. change management support (using benchmarking again, OCM costs should be in the vicinity of 10%-15% of overall project costs)

Key points to assist in making your next SAP project successful;

1.      Appoint a strong SteerCo, with clear, ‘fit for purpose’ governance.

2.      Ensure the PMO team has a proven track record of project implementation, specific experience and a true understanding of tasks at hand

3.      Set strong, realistic, achievable expectations and goals, research and understand failings and successors of similar projects within the company and externally

4.      Change Management is very important, set expectations and targets around not only project delivery, but ongoing adoption and evolution

With so many SAP projects taking shape around Australia at the moment, what are your implementation ‘must haves’?