Thursday, 17 June 2010

People get ready (part 2)

I've been off-line for a couple of weeks - busy at work, then the chance of a last minute vacation. But I'm back now.

As I indicated, earlier this year, I had the chance to meet up with some people at companies that are also involved in SAP implementation. Two of the companies were large organizations - both had $1 billion per year plus revenue, so they were both much bigger than the one that I work for. One has about a dozen sites around the world, with between 250 and 500 staff at each - the other has about 80 sites around the world with between 30 and 200 staff at each.

In both cases, the parent sites(s) have already implemented SAP and are making good use of the product. One for about 2 years, the other for a little less. They are now planning to roll this out to the rest of the business and it was interesting to see how they plan to do this.

In both cases, they had a consultancy on site for the original implementation - one of these was well known, the other less so. The larger business took almost 4 years to get up and running, and although they didn't confirm this, I did hear that they had a false start, and after just over a year, pretty much went back to the beginning.

What was clear was that in both cases, they had a fairly clear idea of what they wanted to achieve from the project. They also had a set of KPIs to measure against, although one guy I spoke to said that these appeared to have changed after the false start. The directors of both organizations were keen to see the project succeed, and a great deal of effort went into making sure that the work was done as required.

However, in both cases, they indicated that they had major issues - a common complaint was that they didn't get the same consultants throughout the project and this lead to several instances of work beng delayed or being done incorrectly due to lack of consistency. I found it interesting that they also had issues in getting output documents sorted out, something that has plagued us from the beginning.

One thing that was clear in both cass, was that for their rollout across their larger business, they are very keen to avoid making use of any consultancy at all. There were a number of comments (some quite strong language as well) that indicated their preference for using their own internal staff as much as possible.

They have both set quite ambitious targets for the rollout - I did query this, and their senior management seemed keen to push ahead as quickly as they could. No doubt this was to try to see some sort of return for their investment The staff that I spoke to were not quite as confident that they could do it in the time allotted. One manager expressed serious concern at the proposed plans, indicating that it could mean no vacation time for any of the key project team for the next 3 or 4 years. She also said that most people agreed it seemed unlikely that they would be able to maintain the current plans, and the dates would inevitably slip.

As it happens, in both instances they are actually late starting their roll out to the other sites. In one case, they have been trying to get a suitable Project Manager, which they now have, but I was told that he has only ever been part of an SAP project, not actually running one. It also appears that he hasn't made him self popular with the senior managers. Having bee told what they wanted, he agreed that it was possible, and now he is in place, is insisting that they change the plans to roll them out over a longer period.

I will say though that I suspect in both cases, they should be able to achieve what they are planning to do, if not in the time frame set - they have previous experience, the right people in their teams and the right attitude from the senior managers. It appears that they have also spent a lot more time, effort and money in preparing their staff for the project. They both have excellent communications channels, and have done a much better job of engaging with their staff than we did (something I think that we could learn a lot from).

I have wished them both well and hope that I will be able to keep in touch. I think that it will be interesting to see how they get on.