Sunday, 1 May 2011

What a difference a day makes...

Or even a week…

Our project leader has been over to our overseas site a number of times so far this year, about once every 3 weeks or so - and altho he has said in the board meetings that things were going well, it was clear that there was a bit more hope than confidence in what he was saying.

Privately, he has been suggesting to the project team leaders that there are still far too many issues unresolved, and that despite quite a lot of hard work, we don’t seem to be progressing as fast as we should be. Although he wouldn’t actually say we were behind schedule, it’s pretty clear that the proposed go live date was looking increasingly hard to meet.

I’ve suggested a number of times that we should get the staff from our overseas site to visit with us for a week so that we can help them out with training and testing – by getting them to work with our staff I hoped that they would pick up some of the required knowledge. But altho it was seen to be a good idea, we have had none of their staff visit with us since last August.

It was then suggested about a month ago that we should arrange for our project team to go over there instead. Plans were made, travel and hotels booked and the project leader set out a plan for the week. This was primarily to test their processes to make sure that these would work – I felt that this would be a good start, but was concerned that we would miss a good opportunity to ensure that their staff was adequately trained.

I’d also gotten a bit worried about some of the comments from our project team – one or two had said to me that they were not really sure what they were supposed to be doing over there. So I made a point of spending some time with each one, to discuss how to test the various processes, and I set-up a series of test user accounts for them and made sure that they knew what they had to do.

On the first day at the site, we weren’t able to get much done – we arrived late in the day, and really only just managed to introduce ourselves to people, and get things organised so that we could start work properly the following day. But after that, things really started to take off.

The project team made a point of getting the key staff in with them so that they could see the processes, and in most cases after a couple of demos, these people were carrying out many of the actual tests. That second day, we had actually gone thru every single process and tested at least 3 variants for each. Their staff are now far more confident in the way that they use SAP, and altho they still have more work to do, based upon what they did last week, they should be ready for the go-live.

It should be said that during the tests, we did actually find several key issues – but about half of these I was able to correct almost immediately. As one of their consultants was on site, the rest were passed to him and it has to be said, he made a good start on getting them corrected. However, he also made contact with a couple of the other consultants and they were then available on the third and fourth days.

In fact, by the last day, we had not only gone thru every process many times and confirmed all were working, most of the outstanding issues had also been addressed. This included several that have been on the list for months. It also highlighted a couple of issues with data – I had tried to highlight this previously, and now it is obviously the most urgent major problem remaining so they are looking at dealing with this next.

It should be said that it was hard work - most of the guys were suffering with jet lag, and one had an upset stomach. It's also been a bit warmer there than we normally face this time of year, and some had difficulty sleeping at night. Despite these problems, everyone was really pleased - and I have to say that it is very clear that we have made a major leap forward.

We still have a lot of work to do, but we are almost back on schedule to go live in a couple of moths time. If we can get the data done on time next, then it should be possible to start the next stage of testing in the test system before the end of the month - and if it there are no major problems, we will be back on track.

It helps that there are not that many staff at that site and that they don't have to learn all of the various processes. But there is a lot more confidence now, both on site and in the project team. It has been said that it may be necessary to organise another trip over, and if we do, I'm sure that it will prove to be as valuable an exercise as this one was.


  1. If being onsite matters, if personal interaction matters, if being face-to-face with a colleague to explain the complexity of SAP and negotiate changes to business processes so that real progress can be made, why do customers decide to offshore more and more work of this complexity? Someone please explain that to me.

  2. I'm wondering if you mean this as a rhetorical question - I think that you probably already have an answer.

    From what I have seen, the decision to offshore usually comes from the c-level, and they see it as a way to cut costs, plain and simple. Personally, I'm not sure that the numbers always do stack up the way that they are put forward - there are often associated costs that somehow never make onto the calculation sheet.

    And of course, those executive level people are not the ones that have to make projects successful. They present the ideas, tell everyone that this is what they are to do, and then it is left to those at a lower pay grade to implement the decision - and more importantly, make it work somehow.