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What Does It Take To Be Considered An Expert SAP Project Manager:
5 Surprising Reasons Enterprises Don’t Use An ERP
- SAP Certification in the ASAP Methodology or Activate Methodology
- Hold an PMP (Project Management Professional)
- Multiple Full-Lifecycle Project Implementations Under His Belt
- Training and Experience with SAP Solution Manager
- Industry Specific Expertise and Experience
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What is SAP Project Management
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 costs 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.
SAP ASAP/PMI PMP Certified Project Management
As experts in the SAP Project Management Methodology, we provide SAP ASAP/PMI PMP Certified Project Management expertise to quickly take you from Zero-to-Hero.
Our approach is based on SAP ASAP (Accelerated SAP) and now the SAP Activate Methodology, coupled with deep experience gained from working across multiple industry verticals and in multiple geographic locations.
Experts with SAP Solution Manager, coupled with SAP Best Practices and our own 'view' of how to do it, we consistently deliver projects On-Time, within Scope, and on or below Budget.
Every Project Needs a Project Manager
We have experience and deep expertise with the following SAP Project Management Activities.
- Green field implementations
- Continuous Value Improvement Post-Go Live
- SAP Business Intelligence
- SAP BW Project Management
- SAP ASAP Project Reviews
- Global and Local implementations
- Business Case Development
Want to know how we do it? Then you will want to read through SAP Project Management Tips Series.
Establishes Project Communications
One of the most critical tasks your SAP Project Manager is responsible for is developing the Project Communication plan. SAP projects, by their very nature, involve a huge number of business process changes, and one of the keys to successfully implementing all of these changes is communication. One of the first tasks your SAP Project Manager will do is determine how many communication channels there are within the project. As it turns out, there is a simple formula for determining this, and for convenience's sake, I have developed a simple online formula which any SAP Project Manager or customer can use to quickly determine how many project communication channels must be dealt with.
Communications Channel Calculator
As you can see, even a tiny number of people on a project can generate a large number of communication channels. As SAP projects increase in size and complexity, meaning more people are involved, the number of communications channels grows very rapidly, some might say exponentially.
Some Channels are More Equal than Others
As projects grow and the number of possible communication channels multiplies, it becomes necessary to establish clearly defined lines of communication and authority. This is a tightrope, as on the one hand, you want open communication to foster collaboration, while on the other hand, you need to have control of who has the final say.
Change Management - A Key Critical Success Factor
Talking about projects in general and SAP ERP Implementations specifically, change management is a critical element of project success. In fact, in virtually every SAP ASAP Project Review, it is found that lack of proper Change Management is directly contributing to projects failing to achieve their business goals.
The SAP ASAP Implementation Methodology, regardless of flavor, including SAP Activate and SAP RDS, have a well documented and fully integrated change management methodology included within the methodology.
When used correctly, which involves a great deal of specialized, highly skilled resources, such as PMPs and communication specialist and organizational management specialist, an organization can expect to experience the change wrought by an ERP implementation with the least amount of disruption possible.
As a Senior SAP Project Manager, I have seen many approaches to managing change on my projects.
That is why I recommend against allowing it to be taken out of the SOW.
Typically, in those projects that I have been brought in to turn-around, you find that the client committed to handling the Change Management aspect of the project, then promptly didn't.
After all, they usually aren't in the business of managing organizational change which is being driven by SAP.
The resultant resistance to change that is to be inevitably expected from the workforce then becomes the limiting factor of the project and unless and until that is addressed with a comprehensive change management program, tightly integrated with the overall project implementation plan, then your project is doomed to failure.
Project Manager Job Description
Just What Does that Guy Do?
A Senior SAP Project Manager, such as this author, is the key to the success of any project, large or small. They combine executive management skills as well as leadership skills to help guide very large, complex projects that often involve multi-national companies operating a wide variety of business lines, that are also changing while the project is undertaken.
Fortunately, the SAP ASAP Methodology, which maps to the PMI PMP methodology, provides a roadmap - but every project is unique.
Often handed very large budgets, often in the tens of millions of dollars, the project manager must:
- Understand the full scope of the project as originally envisioned in the SOW and know when and how to diplomatically add or take away scope as the project progresses.
This often involves sometimes contentious negotiations with often demanding clients who don't understand why all the pre-project scoping, such as business process requirements analysis, did not yield a perfect scope.
- Set up an ideal Project Implementation environment, without which, the project is assured of failure.
The SAP ASAP implementation methodology provides a wealth of project environment set up checklists, "how to" guides and other project facilitation tools, all of which imply the expenditure of limited project funds.
The project manager must work closely with the client and other service providers to ensure things such as office space, IT equipment and services and other logistics related items are provided.
- Part of setting up the ideal SAP Implementation Environment, regardless of model, is setting up and ensuring the use of the SAP Solution Manager.
The SAP PM must ensure that all documentation standards are established and available within the Solution Manager and that all files are set up in a fully documented and followed folder system. This has to be complete by the end of the Project Preparation Phase.
As the project progresses, it is absolutely critical that the blueprint be created using the SM and as well, all related SAP systems be connected and managed from the SM as designed.
As the realization phase is completed, the blueprint should be updated as changes are made.
All developments should also be fully specified and managed via the SM and eventually, all test cases and test results should be in the SM and all end user training, including third party applications such as RWE, should be integrated within the SM Knowledge Management solution.
- Hire the SAP Consulting team.
Though the SAP Consultants required will have been defined during the pre-SOW negotiation stage, based on 'estimates' and 'SAP project estimation rules of thumb', it is ultimately the SAP PM's role to interview, select and ensure his implementation team is in place as and when needed.
The SAP PM will not know the technical knowledge required of all SAP Consultants, and will thus have to know who, skill wise, to call in to conduct interviews with at least some members of the implementation team.
Projects where the SAP PM is not allowed to select and manage his own teams inevitably fail.
- Helps the client select their implementation team members.
In order to guard against the SAP Project being provided with 'less than the best' client team members from the company, the PM will need to work closely with the client on this most delicate of project management aspects.
- Develops both the Project Management Plan and Project Plan.
Often confused, one is usually a word document that details out everything about how the project will be managed, and includes the project plan, usually in a GANTT Chart format.
- Is responsible for developing, maintaining and continuously communicating the status of the project vis-a-vis the project plan.
- Responsible for initiating change request as well as evaluating them against the project plan and the overall project budget and risk profile.
Though the majority of change requests are typically development request, i.e., SAP ABAP developments, they may also involve the acquisition of additional software or equipment.
This can be due to it having been missed during the initial scoping and selection process or SAP releasing an enhancement that now covers the requirement or in rarer cases, an acquisition of a completely new company provides a new solutioning possibility.
- Identifies risks and takes active measures to manage them, typically either accepting them, mitigating them or migrating them to someone or some other project.
- Develops and continuously implements a project communication plan, which can involve a wide variety of media and messaging channels.
- Provides ongoing management and leadership to both the consulting team and the client's team, as well as 3rd parties that also may be playing a role in the project, such as hardware vendors.
- Sometimes acts as the Solution Architect if qualified and even when not Solution Architect qualified, has to understand enough of the SAP solution to know when to question the approach.
- Uses his extensive network, within the client company, among the SAP Consulting team and the wider SAP eco-system to find solutions to problems.
- Sits in on functional blueprinting sessions to ensure the team is progressing toward a viable solution.
- Ensures cross-functional teams exist and that all business processes that cross functional silos and require input and approval from often disconnected teams work out the full, true scope of all To-Be software configurations.
- Forms and leads an effective change management team.
Ensures that required training is provided to all client team members, including both end user training, executive 'seminar' type training as well as 'deep dive' training that brings the internal client support team up to Consultant Level knowledge levels.
- As appropriate, helps clients establish a Center of Expertise (COE) to help in managing and maintaining the SAP and related IT systems once the initial implementation is completed and the client has achieved Go-Live status.
- Ensures that the project has a valid and strong business case and that benefits realization, as part of the Value Engineering approach to SAP implementations, is a key focus of the project.
- Forms a part of the Executive Steering Committee, acting as a key advisor to them as they are asked to approve of changes to the project as it progresses.
- If a member of the System Integrator (SI) team, works to help ensure they are fully aware of how the project is progressing and when additional resources will be needed or when resources will be released from the project so that they can be redeployed to other projects to help keep their utilization rate on target.
As can be seen, the SAP Project Manager has a lot on his shoulders, and every single element of the list above must be properly managed for project success. To be truly successful, he needs to bring both the executive leadership skills to the table as well as deep curiosity of and knowledge about the SAP Solution. The SAP PM also needs to learn how his customer's business works, specifically how the business actually makes a profit and how the SAP system is going to impact that critical process.
Project Management Certification
Why is the PMP Certification Important?
The PMP or Project Management Professional certification is now expected of most project managers involved in SAP ERP Implementations. This is usually also accompanied by a SAP Solution Manager Certification or at least the course work on it, and often times the SAP ASAP Project Management Certification.
What does it take to get the PMP and what makes it valuable to SAP Customers who are contemplating undertaking a SAP implementation? The test is based primarily but not wholly on the PMBOK or Project Management Body of Knowledge.
However, this covers, at best, 60% of the content of the test. To truly pass the test, you have to know quite a bit more about certain areas, such as government procurement, leadership and management, and other related general management skills and principles. In addition, there is an experience requirement that means you have to have been working in all the Project Management areas for a considerable period of time and you have to document this activity very extensively.
Once certified, there is on-going effort required to maintain your PMP certification as well as renewal fees for either the PMP certification or the Project Management Institute or PMI or both.
PMP's have to accumulate 60 PDU's during their recertification cycle, which typically includes ongoing professional training, attendance at events, presenting at events and, of course working as a Project Management.
In short, getting and keeping the PMP designation is not a simple undertaking. SAP clients who want to ensure their projects have a higher probability of success need to ensure they have the most highly qualified and experienced SAP Project Manager they find leading their SAP implementation.
Is a SAP Project a Software Development Project
Though SAP is a COTS or Commercial Off-The-Shelf Software system, and the general idea is that you are implementing embedded Best Practices, no SAP project that this author has run has ever NOT involved at least some SAP ABAP development which is what you mostly use to design, develop and implement WRICEF elements.
That part of the project has its own methodology and typically involves some off-shore development.
The more off-shore development involved, the higher the probability of failure.
The reasons for this are very simple and boil down to a lack of communication and lack of accountability. However, the price differential will continue to drive much of the development work off-shore, even though Gartner is predicting nearly 100% failure of SAP Cloud based implementations.
So no, SAP is not a Software Development project but a subset of the implementation may well be.
From a risk management perspective, the primary Critical Success Factors are to have:
- Clear functional and technical requirements specification documentation and approval process.
- Presence of a highly experienced technical solution architect.
- That all effort be taken to kill developments during the project that are not absolutely necessary to Go-Live.
Some development versus configuration is to be expected on most SAP implementations. Experience indicates the best approach is to minimize it during the initial implementation.
Of much greater concern are decisions taken by the SAP BASIS team to not fully implement SAP Solution Manager and or not implement SAP Notes and Packages as they become available.
Which Project Management Software Do You Need
Though there are Project Management software solutions available, all available with extensive features and functions, few provide the functionality of Microsoft Project Enterprise Addition combined with Sharepoint and the SAP Solution Manager. Whichever way you decide to go, the fundamental Software Project Management functionality required is well established and when used by experts, works.
What is most important is knowing what you can and should not do with the software.
Without substantial investment in systems, for example, MS Project, by itself, isn't a good Time and Attendance solution. However, if you set up the full enterprise project management solution, wherein every project team member is in a central sharepoint server (including his email) and all are using MS Outlook, then the project plan can be used to both communicate with the team and for the team to update project status via Outlook.
This means the PM won't have to spend his time chasing status which is not a productive use of his expensive time and expertise.
There are many other project management software tools available, such as Xira and Basecamp, but for anything other than small implementations, most SAP Project Managers will find them severely limiting and most likely, unsuitable for large scale implementations. If your project involves multiple, complex sub-projects, such as Hardware Installation (almost always a separate, large, complex project), EDI (still surprisingly common and usually a complex project in and of itself), and numerous complex 3rd party procurement operations which all must be completed in a particular sequence, then you will find you need industrial strength tools.
SAP PPM (Portfolio and Project Management)
An Enterprise Portfolio Management System
Though SAP itself offers up the enterprise grade SAP PPM solution, and as well, has the Project Systems module available, I have never seen either used for a greenfield SAP implementation. That is because they are two very different tools, with very different purposes.
SAP PPM - Compare and Manage Profitability Across Multiple Programs and Projects
Unlike SAP PS, which has very robust project management capabilities, SAP PPM is really strong when you need to manage multiple, often independent as well as interdependent projects and programs. For example, one of my government clients needed a way to evaluate the proposals received for various Economic Offset Programs.
Economic Offset Programs - In a Nutshell
For many countries, who may have the capability to acquire complex weapons systems (as an example) but not have the necessary technically qualified human resources and physical infrastructure, they often make acquisitions that require the supplier to set up a local operation of some sort. For instance, perhaps they will ask the supplier to set up an advanced manufacturing facility that can make small, high precision parts for drones. These parts can be used in the system that is being acquired, thus returning some of the invested money back into the local economy as well as creating an infrastructure for future opportunities.
SAP Project Systems (SAP PS)
Though there is definitely some overlap between SAP PPM and SAP PS, SAP PS is much more suited toward enterprise project management tasks. For example, SAP PS is very strong when it comes to managing a refinery shut-down and refurbishment event. It is an advanced project management tool, which is suitable for enterprise users, who are highly trained and experienced and who work in a projectized environment, which almost always has a PMO (Project Management Office) up and running.
There are many differences between the two systems, but one of the key ones you should be aware of the integration with the other SAP modules, such as procurement, finance and human resources. Within your SAP Portfolio, you may have several distinct projects - being managed by both SAP PS and other enterprise project management systems.
Agile Project Management vs ASAP
Many SAP Projects are theoretically implemented using Agile or SCRUM. However, SCRUM, unless used wisely, isn't a great fit as far as implementation methodologies go because you're not actually developing new capability. The SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework for Enterprises) framework provides a better fit, as it allows you to manage multiple teams in multiple locations more effectively.
While many are asking what the difference is between SAP ASAP and Activate methodology, you should know that SAP ASAP is already a rapid implementation framework, being based on 3, 6, or 9 month implementation timeframes. One of the key strengths of both approaches is the extensive availability of templates for every phase of the SAP implementation project. These templates, workflows, test cases and best practices are a key resource every SAP implementation can benefit from. Without them, you would never benefit from all of the other SAP projects that came before.
There are non-trivial differences between content of the different implementation phases of the various methodologies. These differences have profound effects on the links that exist between tasks, the required communication that organizations come to expect and the way risks are identified and managed.
Nevertheless, there is space within the SAP ASAP framework to incorporate SCRUM principles, especially within the development side. However, in order to avoid SOW compliance issues, it must be made explicitly clear from the beginning which method will be employed and what tools will be required.
Though the team structure varies somewhat between the various methodologies, it is more of an impact on the project implementation approach versus actual people and skillsets.
Transparency and Flexibility
A hallmark of an effective SAP Project Manager is to provide transparency to all stakeholders, while retaining the flexibility to manage expectations among all team members. Agile seems to hold a slight edge here, at least among the IT members of the SAP implementation team. That said, SAP ASAP, having been proven across thousands of successful implementations throughout the world, offers a lot. For example, it offers a range of approaches to keep track of task completions. I personally like to combine the methodology with the presence of a large format printer to facilitate visual project task status tracking.
All Methodologies Help with Planning
Within the area of task planning and forecasting, both approaches can and do work. However, SAP has moved to a new approach, known as SAP Activate, which is an approach that is both a different technology and slightly different approach to SAP ERP implementations. The basic difference is that a business 'confirms' that an out-of-the-box SAP business process provides the required coverage, then a software wizard is used to move that bit of business process functionality into the production system (after various other intermediate steps), and once all processes identified, and reported as ready, the system can be set live. This is where you have to have extensive knowledge of both SAP functionality and the SAP implementation methodology.
3rd Party Auditors
Project Business Case
One of the great challenges of SAP Projects is the need to have a strong business case, or they shouldn't be undertaken. That is why I and my team are strong proponents of using the SAP Value Engineering service, before, during and after every SAP implementation.
Since an ERP project typically takes longer to show a positive ROI, usually more than 6 months after Go-Live, it requires a longer term ERP strategy to ensure success.
As it will form the backbone IT system (System of Record) of your business, and comes with a largely untapped capability to expand its footprint, any strategy needs to look for ways to increase the exploitation and benefits derived from your ERP system.
How SAP Professional Services Solutions Help You Increase Profits
One of the great, unrecognized benefits of having a system such as SAP installed, at least according to investors such as Warren Buffet, is that it provides them confidence in the financial statements. When evaluating investments in different companies, professional investors look for the presence of stabilized SAP systems.
Other investors who are in the 'buy and manage' investment business, often times make implementation of SAP a 'standard' on-boarding process for all new acquisitions. The reason for doing this is to make it easier to both perform Group Financial Consolidation at the holding company level and as well, to facilitate Apples-to-Apples type comparisons between different types of companies within the Holding Company's Portfolio of Companies.
Take it With You as an EBook
The information presented on this page is actually an excerpt from SAP Project Manager Handbook built from many actual SAP Projects.
Many SAP Customers have ask that as Certified SAP Project Managers make this information available to them and so here you have it.
Click the image to get an immediately download - no email required.
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