The essential guide for a successful SAP International project management

United VARs |

SAP project implementations inevitably affect various business operations, through connecting them and providing cross-functional benefits. Consequently, they are usually very complex and there are statistics to support this. In particular, more than one third of these complex projects were successfully completed; however, 45% of the projects were not even finalised because of an unobserved time or budget constraints. Additionally, the remaining 20% of these complex projects were called off before conclusion. The complexity becomes even more persistent if the project is executed cross-borders. In light of these data, there seems to be the need to review the best practices for running out the SAP solutions. Here you can find some useful hints, which are allocated according to the different project stages.

  1. Preparation phase

The preparation phase is considered the most important phase, as will heavily affect the final outcome. Thus, the following aspects are defined.

Set project objectives and goals. A clear focus on what the SAP implementation needs to achieve is mandatory, and this should be specific based on the different business functions involved. Everyone in the organization should be informed about the upcoming changes and benefits, ensuring that there will be a higher degree of acceptance in the later stages.

Create an implementation team. The team responsible for the project execution should be composed of people that the client company and IT providers trust for their approach and expertise. The local United VARs member should screen their internal resources to devote and select the other IT partners that can implement international rollouts. It is imperative that the decision makers are onboard, otherwise signing off on project documentation would then require more time than necessary. In addition, a team of business experts, that belong to the client company and able to skillfully advise over operational issues, and can bring significant help in terms of risk management.

Get approval for redesigning the business process. An SAP project has a lot to do with IT; however, the impact is much more extended and destined for fundamental changes in how the client’s organisation works. In fact, internal and external business processes undergo a deep transformation driven by the SAP solutions. The Heads of Departments (HOD) in the different subsidiaries should sit together and define a clear strategy for reshaping the business model. This is done in such a way that the effects on the departments are anticipated and leveraged.

Set a budget and time frame. At the beginning of the project, the company should set time and budget constraints. This is done in order to manage risks more effectively; sometimes insurance against any delay can be arranged, as well as capital buffers in case the implementation exceeds the stipulated costs.

  1. Kick-off phase

Generate a common understanding. Now that the general guidelines are established, it is necessary that the project sponsors, HODs, internal and eventually external SAP consultants are on the same page. Supporting templates and reports should be issued in order to communicate effectively about the project methodology, planning and execution, and the chosen SAP implementation strategy - which will depend on the specific conditions of the project.

Prevent problems instead of fighting them later. The PMO (Project Management Office) should be highly responsive in solving problems that arise during the rollout; however, the main priority should be to prevent them in the first place. Therefore, before the implementation phase, it is important to organize some useful mechanisms that can be used to offset the impact of any potential negative events. For instance, identifying and categorizing possible risks and outling prevention plans for them.

Define what your client needs from you. International SAP projects are too complicated to be implemented alone, which is why every United VARs member can count on the support of top-quality allies in the respective countries. The local IT provider should clarify with the client their overall expectations, i.e. if they are supposed to just lend their expertise and support to the project, or if they should take ownership and responsibility. However, this mainly depends on whether the IT department is prepared to manage a rollout of such complexity.

Set a relevant success criterion. Every customer sets its own project objectives, which should also be shared across all subsidiaries and the engaged players. On the other hand, the success criteria should be adapted and relevant to the individual goals of the client company. Moreover, a general suggestion is to use the SMART criteria when setting the success criterion; an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-based.

  1. Implementation phase

Communicate effectively. It is important that the team is made up of members who have good communication skills; as this will allow ambiguous situations to be resolved more effectively. Additionally, it is important to consider the cultural and business-related differences that are used in different countries, as by understanding the differences it reduces misunderstandings and strengthens relationships.

Coordinate with a network of IT providers. In an international project, indirect costs can be high when coordinating with different IT providers. However, the United VARs proposition makes this more affordable. As the client engages with one local provider which has its own affiliates on a global level. The United VARs member would coordinate the responsibilities responsible for the international project, which essentially exempts the client from this stressful task.

Follow SAP Best Practices. SAP Best Practices are based on preconfigured content, templates, step-by-step processes and pre-filled documentation. This means that SAP Partners can leverage the SAP know-how and follow proven guidelines, which can streamline the whole process and avoid getting the bad end of the stick.

  1. Go-live phase

Actively promote change. Mainly when a company wants to make a project successful, they would just need to communicate an effective message to their stakeholders. This means that many of the efforts would be devoted to advertising the success of the new system internally and convince management, departments and employees. However, the main priority should be to address the end users, who will be the ones adapting a large amount of their modus operandi, and are the ones whose reaction could affect the project outcome.

Organise targeted trainings. Training really makes the difference when it comes to shift the old business habits to new ones. Knowing how to use the newly integrated system is the prerequisite for starting to employ it effectively. If this is not carried out, there is the risk of employees rejecting the change, which could cause serious drawbacks.

Decide who will support the users. A new system needs time to work at a 100% error-free rate. Once the system is integrated, at some point the users are likely to require the assistance of SAP experts, who can support them if there is any issue.

Analyse the main lessons from the project. Any experience is full of new lessons, and every person involved in the project should treasure those learnings and make them part of their personal expertise. By doing so, the business practices will be continuously updated and improved.

About SOA People and United VARs

SOA People is a member of United VARs, and is best set up to meet local and legal requirements. Not only in its home market, but also globally. United VARs connects market-leading SAP member companies in over 90 countries – covering all major regions for your global SAP implementations.

With local consultants readily available, this means that our members do not only speak the language and know about the local regulations, but are also aware of legal changes that may affect your subsidiaries business operations, and are able to consult you in the best possible way for your global SAP implementation. What makes us stronger than one is, that we apply a global project methodology by collaborating within the alliance, and led by the customers’ prime solution provider; who takes responsibility for the project results and is the customer’s main point of contact at all time.

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