Sunday, 29 November 2009

Almost lost for words

I don't like to hear people swear. You hear it too often - so called "celebrities", sports or music stars using language that would make a drill sergeant blush. Often, the argument is that they are just passionate about the specific view they are putting forward, but I feel that in reality, it shows a lack of intellect. They swear because they don't know how to convey a point of view. But despite my views, this last few days, I have done more than my fair share of swearing.

Let's go back to the beginning. Some 2 1/2 years ago, the consultants started putting in the SAP system. All they did was install the basic software and addons - they didn't apply any of the patches or updates. At the end of last year, they made a comment that it was for us to perform these updates. It took me a while to get the information that I needed, but in the early part of this year, I managed to carry out a process, to apply the patches that they had downloaded, but not actually put in place.

Subsequently, I went onto the SAP Service Market Place Download Center and found that there were a great many other patches that they had not downloaded. I started work on downloading these, but after I reached a certain point, a message appeared to say that all patches released after a certain date had to be confirmed through SAP Solution Manage before they could actually be downloaded. As they had not installed a SAP Solution Manager system, this caused some problems - however, I was able to get around this eventually. As SAP now require Solution Manager to be used, I felt that we should get it installed - we have a copy of the software and the existing license allows us to use it, so I saw no problem.

I got a copy of the relevant SAPpress book and downloaded some material on the product and its use - it became clear that Solution Manager offers a lot of other functionality that we would find very useful and from conversations, it seems that SAP are going to increase the requirements for running the product. So we've spent a little time in between other jobs, getting the software up and running.

Having finished this over the weekend before last, I decided on Monday to take a look thru the product. It runs thru the SAPGUI and looks much like the main ERP but with a few different menu items. I glanced at a few of these, not really going too deep into the various areas - but then I saw something that caught my eye. When I opened part of the menu item for Solution Manager, I saw the phrase "ASAP Focus".

Those of you that have been following me for a while will know that I had a brief exchange with Michael Doane (, a consultant with many years experience of working with SAP. He described a methodology to carry out an SAP standard implementation called "ASAP" which he advised should be used by all system integrators (consultants). I had not heard of this and it appeared our consultants didn't use it. Michael was a bit frustrated (and I could see why) as this is supposed to be used by everyone.

And here it was - a full description of the processes, documents to assist, presentations, step by step guides, glossary, checklists, issue registers, and a complete roadmap for the whole implementation project. Basically everything that we could have used and would have found useful - instead we had to develop our own systems. The more that I looked at this, the more frustrated I became, and of course, I then started to really let rip with the bad language.

So now we are starting to look at getting the Soution Manager installed properly. We will have to get someone in that knows about it, and get one of our staff trained up. It's just a pity that it has taken so long to find out about the product. It would be interesting to see what the senior management from the consultants has to say on why they didn't use it, but I dare say that I will not be allowed to ask the question.

Belated happy thanksgiving everyone.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Where does the time go?

I've just realised that it is nearly a month since my last update and about 7 weeks to the end of the year. Where does the time go?

We are still struggling with the SAP system, and now the consultants have all gone so we are very much on our own. We have a list of items that they still haven't gotten working, and our CEO spent over a hour on the phone to their director to try to get them to accept responsibility to fix these items, some of which have been on the issues list for 2 years.

I managed to resolve part of the problem with the invoicing - we now get the invoice run every day. At a meeting earlier in the week, our project manager said that this had totally fixed the problem, but after the meeting, he admitted that about half of the invoices are still not coming out right for one reason or another. Our finance manager did express some concern that without invoices going out, we won't have money coming in, and this could cause serious issues - we could potentially run out of liquid cash by the end of 1st quarter next year if the situation doesn't change.

In addition, it appears that there are a lot of jobs that haven't been invoiced at all - one of the guys did a quick check and it appears that this is actually an internal problem. People are completing a task, but it's not getting marked as complete, so the system won't process the job. Unfortunately, we can't just force it thru as there is no easy way to tell if the work has been done or not - it generally takes a couple of hours to confirm, by searching thru various paperwork.

There is still an issue with purchasing - jobs get re-scheduled, but the due date for items is not being adjusted correctly and several times, we found ouselves waiting for goods, or items were being delivered for something that has been put back acouple of months. It's more of an annoyance than a serious problem, but as part of the overall project doesn't make it look good.

The system is still not giving us many of the reports that we need. Various people were told to use different transactions, variants of specific reports etc. but many of these don't really seem to give us what we really need. Some of them seem to provide vey large amounts of data that is actually of no value what so ever. I had hoped to be able to spend some more on this during the project, but just never seemed to have the time.

As a result, I've booked one of my staff onto an SAP training course - it's way across the country at one of their actual training centers, and we want to see if the courses actually help; if they do, we may book some more. We do need to get better information about using the system, and we don't want to have to keep paying huge amounts every time we want to make minor changes. The courses are expensive, but if we get our people better trained, then it will prove worthwhile - having invested so much, we have to make the best of it.

Have to go, as we're off to visit my wife's parents - they're going on a cruise next week. Never thought that I would be envious of them!