Saturday, 22 August 2009

The final stretch?

A couple of weeks ago, I had some contact with a guy that has been in consulting for a long time – he was kind enough to say some goods things about my writing, so I’ve decided to return the favor. Catch his blog here:

One thing that I did find of interest; he referred to a process of project management that is supposed to be used by the consultants – ASAP (AcceleratedSAP I believe it stands for) also known more recently as Focus ASAP / ASAP Focus depending on where you get your info. He said “Outside of IBM and Accenture, all certified partners MUST adhere to SAP’s ASAP methodology, sometimes referred to (recently) as Focus ASAP. Most of these partners add some of their secret sauce to the core SAP methodology. I am willing to bet that if you look at this firm’s proposal of services to you that they make a big deal about their methodology.

I did actually look thru all of the paperwork from these consultants – nowhere does it a make a mention of this. I asked around our project team to see if anyone had heard it cited, and the general answer was a definite “No” – apart from one person who remembered reading a reference to “Focus ASAP” in one of the SAPpress books that we bought a ways back. So I then thought I’d ask their Project Manager – unfortunately, he’s “not available” at the moment (I don’t know why) and we are not sure when we will next see him. I approached one of the other consulting staff and asked the question – the response was along the lines of “Oh that was used about 10 years ago, but no-one uses that anymore, it’s a really horrible system”. Interesting?


As you may imagine, things are hotting up. For many people the project is starting to get real and you can sense the panic growing. I’ve had numerous project members and departmental heads speak to me and even a couple of the board expressing their concerns. We have no formal contingency plans other than those that I and my IT staff have discussed. We are committed to go-live and nothing will stop or delay that now.

A major problem was uncovered in the last week that has created a lot of bad feeling. As I’ve indicated, we trade across borders so use multiple currencies. We suddenly found that all of the customers had a default currency set and that this overrode any attempt to set the right currency. The initial suggestion was that the data was wrong – a quick look at the files showed that wasn’t the case. So we were blamed for loading it incorrectly, but that was quickly disproven.

Eventually, it turned out that the consultants had set the appropriate configuration in the test system, but not in the production system – thank goodness we found it before we started issuing invoices. They blamed us first for not raising it as an issue – however we did, over a year ago and could prove this by referring to the list of issues. They then said that the various departments hadn’t tested the process correctly – they had, but obviously not in the production system. No matter what we showed, they still tried to maintain it wasn’t their problem. And I’m betting that after we go live, all of the problems we then find, they will say the same thing, no matter what the problem.

In the past few weeks, I’ve been doing some travelling to the other sites (partly why I’ve not been adding to the blog) and I’ve heard of some other stories of SAP implementations going on at the moment. What is really surprising is that they are being marketed as successful, and yet from what the people on the ground are saying, they are anything but.

In one case, its being run by one of the Big 3, the others are smaller operations with smaller consultancies. Not one has come in on time, not one on budget, not even close. In each case, it seems highly improbable that the organization concerned will ever see the ROI that they wanted or were promised. At the biggest one, they went live last year and they were expecting some significant reductions in staff because of efficiencies, but instead they have had to take more staff on in order to manually process items because the system isn’t working right. And in that particular case, they’ve outsourced the data center which they expected would save them nearly $1 million a year – the local paper has found that the outsourced costs have increased their bill, not decreased it.

Well enough for now – I expect that over the next few weeks, I’m going to be very busy, so I may not have the time to keep you updated on progress. However, I may try to post a few short items if I can just so that you see how things pan out. What ever happens, many thanks to you all for reading this and for the great comments - they have been really helpful and I hope that I can return the favor one day.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

I've got a bad feeling....

Things at work have started to get very tense - people are now starting to realise that the go-live date is getting closer. There are still so many items that have yet to be fixed up, and despite all the effort, it seems that many of these will not resolved in time. So the decison has been made that we will go ahead whatever the cost and live with any issues.

No doubt, many of you that read this will have heard similar stories to the ones that I have heard - about projects that suffer problems. I see it almost like a slow motion train wreck, and there is nothing that I can do.

The PM from the consultants was in the other day - he was supposed to be spending time with the finance people to go thru the closing of period / month / year. When he discovered that they didn't have the right transaction code, he didn't try to resolve the problem or ask me to deal with it - he just logged on as himself and added SAP_ALL to their user accounts. For those that don't know, SAP_ALL is a profile that when it is added to a user account gives that user full administrative access to the whole system.

I found out about this a few days later when I was making yet more changes - to my horror I found that some 25 accounts had been modified to give them the same access level. I've been told that this is needed because they no longer have time to waste and need to get these processes working and that we will fix it all up about a month after go-live. Call me cynical, but I suspect that won't happen and I'd give 50 bucks that they still have the same access level at the start of next year.

I also spotted something earlier - we have yet another new consultant on site to address a couple of specific issues. I wasn't told about this until after he had been there 3 days. I queried how he had been doing any work and was told that he was using the account of one of the other consultants - in addition he has created duplicates of the accounts our project team members use, and he has been using these to test things; but as they haven't been added to specific roles, he just added SAP_ALL.

In addition, it was highlighted that another consultant has been modifying some items - he has made a mess of it and now that item doesn't work at all. They've gotten someone else in to address the issue, but it appears that it will take 3-4 weeks to fix.

There was a review meeting earlier - as we went around the table, it was identified that one of the senior managers wasn't there as he is away on holiday. A comment was made that it was unacceptable that this key person should be away at such a crucial time. It was pointed out the person concerned is on his honeymoon - it was booked up 18 months ago before the date of the go-live had been put back so many times. In addition, the person concerned has had very little training - I think I am the only one that has spent time with him at all (altho I might be wrong). Certainly, he has actually had very little input into the project.

What happened then was astonishing - I tried to point out that this was a bit unfair and one of the directors started shouting and threw his notepad across the table at me (I suppose that I should be greatful it wasn't his laptop - no doubt I would have had to repair it). The rest of the meeting was extremely uncomfortable as you might guess.

I could post more, but just don't feel that it's worth while. I suppose that when it goes belly up, then they will be demanding that I wave my magic wand and fix it all in 10 minutes. I made a point of reading Rudyard Kiplings "If" - I think that it has a lot of resonance for those of us in IT, even tho it was written some 100 years ago.