Sunday, 27 March 2011

...and another?

As anyone that works with SAP will know, it is normally set-up as a 3 system landscape. So you have one system which is for development work, one system for testing purposes and another system which is the actual production server - the one that is used by the organization for the day to day work.

The reason behind this is really quite sensible - when you have an ERP system, it is usually really quite important that the production system continues to operate without interruption. Making changes can have pretty serious consequences - you don't want to make a change and then find that it causes the system to fall over everytime someone enters a piece of data (and most people have had experience of exactly that happening).

So having the 3 systems allows you to do development work on one system which won't generally affect anyone else, plus you can then test out the changes on the second system to make sure that there are no undesirable side affects. Once this is fully tested, the changes can be applied to the production system and this will reduce the likelihood of the changes creating an issue that will stop the main system from running as it should.

When we started out, the consultants did actually explain this - however, our project team members didn't really latch onto the concept. Even some considerable time later, they still didn't really fully grasp the purpose of the 3 system landscape. In fact, I would suggest that most of them thought the idea was we would start with the development system, then at some point we would move to the test system, but that that meant the development system was then no longer needed. The same would then happen to move to the production system, at which point the test system would become redundant. They just couldn't see why the others were needed once we had moved to the production system.

Unfortunately, we have had a problem with this - the consultants from the SI and our project leader regularly perform development work in the production system. In some cases, it is just a variant to a report - but on a number of occasions, it has been a bit more than that. There are many times that I've seen our project leader working on producing a new report or even a Z t-code. I can't tell you how many times I have had an email asking me to add a new t-code to a role, only to find that it doesn't exist in the master system.

Now I have raised this issue (more than a few times), but the problem is that every time, he will simply say that he is just following the same procedure as the people from the SI. I can't dispute that - it's exactly what they do. The fact that they shouldn't doesn't come into the argument. It's difficult to say that he shouldn't do it, when the people that we are paying a great deal of money to, ignore some of the most basic practices. And of course, if the project leader (who is a senior manager) doesn't follow the correct procedure, then it's a bit difficult to get other people to do it the way that it should be done. "Monkey see, monkey do".

What I have found a bit irritating is that the project leader does actually understand the reason behind this, and he fully supports my attempts to get people to use the appropriate system. (However, that doesn't apply to him of course!) There was an incident about 2 months ago, and he was bouncing off the walls about the fact that someone was doing what they shouldn't - but he ignored the fact that he had been doing the same thing just a couple of days before. He just couldn't see that people will do as he does, rather than as he says they should.

I remember reading something a few years ago - it's essential to train people up in the way that you want them to work, right from the beginning. There is no point in training people to do things one way, then try to get them to change later as it seldom works out the way that you want. I have to say, we have proven the value of that - I doubt very much that we will ever be able to get people to change their way of working now. I suspect that even if we have a major disaster, they will still carry on in exactly the same way after it has all been sorted out.

But it doesn't mean that it's right - or that we should tolerate it. This slackness leads on to other problems - but more of that another time.

(I've just noticed that there was an issue with the paragraphs on the original post - I've now corrected that. Sorry to anyone that was frightened off by a mass of text!)

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Please sir, may I have another?

I've been off work for just over a week - I've not been as ill as that for some time. However, I started feeling better at the weekend, and went back into work Monday.

I went thru various things with my staff, made sure that there were no major issues that needed immediate work, the usual sort of stuff. A bit later in the day, I went in to talk to our SAP project leader and catch up on any developments.

We have a new timetable in place for our overseas site project and the go-live date has already been moved several times. Despite that, they are still behind schedule, and falling behind further every week. He was getting concerned so decided to go there last week and he spent a few days on site.

Now as I have said previously, we have had a number of changes of consultant over there. I'm told that the SI didn't have the personnel available to do the work, so they bought in a couple of people who don't work for them. As far as I can tell, these people were quite experienced (8-10 years) with a number of implementations to their credit. However, these people are now gone and have been replaced by two people that do work for the SI. The first guy has about 2 months experience and this is his first implementation. The second is a young lady with slightly more experience - she has just under 6 months with SAP and this will be her second project.

Our project leader went over to the first guy and saw he had a copy of the blueprint document open, and was in the middle of makings some config changes. He was a bit surprised as he had been told that these were all done. However, when he looked a bit harder at the document, it was version 4 - and the final version which was supposed to be the one we are working with is version 7.

Essentially, a bunch of config changes were made ages ago, then changed to update them to meet the required blueprint. The consultant was in the process of changing them all back to the earlier version (which had already been changed before). Our project leader naturally asked him if there had been any conversation on handing over the project from the previous consultant and was met with a blank look. You can bet he made it very clear that the guy was going to have to get it changed back again real quick!

So feeling a bit frustrated he went over to one of the site staff to ask a few questions. To his horror, the guy was in IMG and was busy making config changes of his own. His immediate reaction was to call me on the cell phone to give me a chewing out for letting the guy have access to this - then he thought he would check to see how the guy was logged on. To his astonishment, the staff member was logged on using one of the consultants logon and password. When he queried how this happened, the guy just showed him a sticky note with the details hand written on it.


I am sure that some of you are equally astounded - you may even be shouting. When the project leader told me this, I just closed my eyes and thought of my wife and I on a nice, warm, sunny beach, with a couple of cool long drinks. Hmmmm!


For what it's worth, the member of staff has had 2 (count them) days of training. The consultant concerned has obviously been on some SAP course, and she is using the same training material to do the training of staff on our site. When asked if it was appropriate for staff to know some of these items, she just shrugged - she clearly thought that this was how it was done.

So rather than train our people in what they have to do to do their jobs, she has tried to show them stuff that they will never actually get involved in. The things that they will need to know, she doesn't appear to have covered at all. This has caused some confusion and I now understand why I got a rather frantic email from the finance guy on the site demanding access to the entire SAP accounts menu. (About 4,000 transactions?)

Anyways, the project leader is back, he is not happy, and he wants to have a meeting with all of the project team. He is basically going to say that each one of them is going to have to do a trip over there to do some of the site training. I raised this option about a year ago, and the response was considerably less than enthusiastic. Now they will have no choice - and that will cause some bad feeling.

There were other things that I wanted to cover, but they can wait for another time.