Thursday, 22 December 2011

We have definitely been here before!

We are rapidly approaching the point for our overseas site to go live – they are due to start using the SAP production system starting on the first working day of the new year. As we only have a few days left before Christmas, there is not a lot of spare time.

The data loading process has been going on for some time now - I asked about how they were getting on a while ago. I was told that it was all done – but when I pressed a bit harder, it was admitted that there were a few items not quite finished. (Such as bank details, purchasing info records, part of the master material, some of the customer’s data and some other equally inconsequential items!) The work to load this is still going thru, but I would not be surprised to find it incomplete on day 1 of their go-live.

It also has to be said that there are still some items that have yet to be configured. Two weeks ago, it was agreed that we would stop all further changes in order to concentrate on the data load. It was suggested that I would do any further role change requests, as this could be arranged at a time when there would be no issues with processing the transports (as it happens, there has been no need for this). However, one of the consultants apparently didn’t get the message – a change was made, pushed thru without reference to anyone and a whole day was spent undoing some of the issues created.

In the mean-time, the SI has sent a letter of complaint that caused some internal discussion. There are a lot of bills that they have submitted that our FD simply will not pay. Of these, more than half are for work they say was done, but that we have no evidence for. For example, they had a person on site for several days over a 3 week period according to one bill, but the person concerned had left their employment and was working in a country on the other side of the world on the dates that they supplied. There have been items for 100s of miles of travel and a night’s accommodation for the same day.  Just to really stick the knife in, they also changed the agreed daily rate billed on some of the items – and when the FD asked who had authorised this, they were unable to give him an answer.

Over the past few months, I have also been trying to look at ways that we can make more use of our SAP system. It seems to me that whatever I might think of its capabilities and shortcomings, having spent as much money on the project as we have, we should try to make sure that we get the most bang for our bucks. There is a specific process that one of the managers has been wanting to do for several years, and altho I have a few concerns about it, it seems that this could be done within SAP. Part of the work is already done, which is a plus – it would just need slightly more data being entered than before.

His concern (and it is a valid one) relates to the output – he wants to do specific things with that, and it was subsequently suggested that it could also be used to improve some of the data provision to customers. These are all very consistent with company strategy and I want to encourage him. However, there are some concerns about how it would be done, and at present we don’t yet have the necessary specific skills internally – this would then require we buy in more consultancy.

Because of those concerns, he has recommended that we look to buy another software product – and to me, this is just utter madness. He wants the company to allocate another $300,000 to fund his project, but what really bothers me is that it would then duplicate the work being done, require more hardware, more software (plus licences, maintenance etc.) and he’s suggesting that it could be at least a year before the project would have any output worth using. Color me crazy, but that does not seem like the best way forward when we have already paid as much for SAP as we have, and could do the job as well by spending a little more on getting some training done.

So – the holidays are nearly upon us. Decorations are up, the tree is dressed, presents are wrapped, parties are being organised. We seem to have enough food in the house to last for the rest of the winter – I’m told that we are inviting lots of friends & family around this year and we must of course provide hospitality (I don’t remember having THAT discussion!).

As this will be my last post for 2011, I would like to wish you all a very merry Christmas, and I hope that whatever the holidays mean for you, that you enjoy them in the company of your friends, family or loved ones - and may the New Year bring you all the success that you would wish.