When it comes to understanding what is SAP Project Management, you should know that it is the critical role that must filled on every project if you want to achieve success. Your SAP Project Manager is the leader of your project. He has been delegated both the responsibility and authority to get the job the done. Like any successful endeavour, there can be only one boss. Successful implementation of SAP requires that boss to be the SAP Project Manager.
SAP Projects Come In Many Flavors
There are a number of common 'flavors' of SAP Projects:
Though there is no 'law' that dictates what type of project yours is, just know that Greenfield is a brand new project and everything else, usually means you have some SAP product in use within your organization. The SAP Implementation Methodology comes in two main flavors:
Either of these methodologies is a perfect fit for a Greenfield implementation. For all other project flavors, the SAP Project Manager plays a key role in using his extensive professional judgement to pick and choose from the available SAP Implementation Methodologies. For example, let's say you're doing a 'Carve-Out" project. A carve out is when an existing company is being spun out from a large set of companies. In this scenario, the company that will soon be 'orphaned' already runs on SAP, but a modified implementation project will have to be run in order to successfully separate the two entities without disrupting operations of either business entity.
Though you will technically will still be a version SAP ASAP or SAP Activate (less likely), out-of-the-box, no flavor of the SAP ASAP Implementation methodology will be an exact fit. The SAP Project Manager will have no only be highly knowledgeable of the SAP Implementation Methodology, he will have to learn at a comprehensive level, the business operations of the two companies, then pick and choose which parts make sense.
Many Fingers in the Pie, One Cook
What many people fail to realize is that there are a huge number of people involved in every SAP project, before, during and after the implementation, that have little to do with the implementation. All of them have a role to play to getting your project off of the ground, but none of them can be successful unless and until you have the SAP project manager in place, and coordinating the activity until their successful conclusion. These roles are typically played by SAP, SAP Partners, and Customer team members.
- SAP Account Executive
- SAP Pre-Sales
- SAP Value Engineering Team
- SAP Industry Principals
- Other SAP Roles
- Hardware Vendor
- Partner Customer Manager
- Customer Executive Sponsor
- Customer Extended Team Members
This team each have their role to play during the pre-sales phase and often these roles happen before a SAP Project Manager is appointed (which almost always is a huge mistake). However, the entire process takes longer and results in a lower quality output without the SAP Project Manager making it happen. The larger the customer, the bigger the team and when it comes to making the selection decision, the longer the decision cycle.
Implementation Phase - Large and In-Charge
Like any project, during the SAP Implementation Phase, the SAP Project Manager is responsible for making it happen. Unlike many types of IT projects, SAP is a business transformation project. That means that the IT department may be in charge of it, ultimately, the C-Suite owns this one. SAP Projects, especially large ones, literally affect every part of the business. From finance, sales, logistics and human resources, and everything in between, the SAP system typically becomes the backbone of the business.
This is where having a SAP Project Manager who knows what SAP is actually capable of and speaks the language of the business, is critical to success. Your SAP PM will not just be arranging all the activities of the various workgroups, he or she will be sitting in on all the meetings and will thus, be the person with the cross-domain knowledge required to keep the ship on course. This is one of the most challenging and critical aspects of the role. For without this 'sticking your head in the room' activity, critical design decisions can and will be missed.
Keeps a Sharp Pencil
Your SAP PM owns the project financials. This part of the job can and typically does extend far beyond just managing the hours of the team. Every project, especially large-scale, greenfield implementation projects, will often involve the purchase of goods and services outside the narrow scope of the implementation. Sometimes this is recognized prior to the project kick-off, but very often, it 'pops up' during implementation for variety of reasons. Most of which boil down to not having the SAP PM onboard from the beginning of the cycle. After all, a SAP Partner bidding on a project implementation, unless specifically paid to do otherwise, will confine the scope of his proposal to the implementation team.
There are all of the typical cost to anticipate, such as hardware, networking and training, as well as requirements that come up during the implementation. A typical example might be new bar-code readers required to fully implement the required functionality of the new designed SAP based, warehouse management processes. In this author's experience, which, on one project, ended up have 32 previously unplanned separate procurement actions pop-up during the implementation, this procurement process, which all PMP certified project managers actually know, can greatly extend a project's Go-Live date. It can also affect the project financials.
Above All, Keeps the Team Working as a Team
The fully empowered SAP PM's toughest job is selecting his team. For very large projects, this SAP PM often has to interview at least 3 people for every position. For typical SAP Project, which might 50 SAP consultants of various flavors, this means 150 interviews, conducted in a very short period of time, typically the Project Preparation phase. Given the high rate of project staff turnover, this process will repeat itself throughout the project. In addition to the time required of the SAP PM to conduct these interviews, in many cases, other SAP experts will be required to assist in the interview process. This all adds up to a huge amount of activity.
Once hired, the SAP PM's next critical task is to build a team. You may have heard of the phrase, forming storming norming performing. This is a very good description of what it takes and where your SAP PM's leadership skills start to shine through. For you see, the SAP PM isn't just building a team of SAP Consultants. He's building a team of SAP Consultants, Customer experts, and Partner resources. Some of them (ideally of them in this SAP PM's experience) will work side-by-side in the same physical space for a very long period of time.
Holds Your Hand During Go-Live
Ultimately, you, the customer want a live SAP system so you can start getting your ROI. That starts when you take your system live. Prior to this point in time, your SAP system has represented nothing but cost. The decision to go live is ultimately the customer, who will turn to the SAP PM for nod that all systems are go. You'll be able to see this in the control panel of your SAP Solution Manager, or whatever SAP implementation tool you use. There will be Green lights for each and every business process when they have been fully tested and signed off as ready.
But you won't quite be ready to through that switch, just yet. There's a critical step that happens just prior to Go-Live, data migration. Throughout the project, some data and later, greater quantities of data, will have been migrated for use in testing. Now, to take it live, all of your production will be migrated, validated, errors fixed, and finally, your system is ready for productive operations.
Keeps the Steering Committee In the Loop
Part of every successful SAP implementation (actually, one of many parts) will involve the establishment of the Project Steering Committee. For very large projects, of which the SAP implementation is only sub-project, these committees play the critical role of decision making. The SAP PM is a critical member of this team. He will need to present them with issues and get their decision. This is a fraught political process with a lot of competing interest. This is why the SAP PM has to have 'C' level presence to work effectively.