You get a call at 2 a.m. informing you that your SAP ERP system has…
When your business runs on SAP, making changes to the SAP landscape is a serious matter. In most cases, if the change is something more complicated than a routine update, you will need to plan and execute a dedicated project. SAP project management is a well-understood practice. It can even feel routine, but the stakes are high. Done correctly and you get a one-of-a-kind SAP landscape, suited to your needs. When there’s a problem, you will face costly delays and downtime along with instability and performance problems. You might have to do a forced rollback. It’s wise to take SAP Project Management seriously, making sure you’re following best practices and working with the right people.
SAP Project Management — An Overview
IT project management is not a big mystery. It embodies well-established processes, roles and responsibilities. SAP Project Management starts with sound IT project management, but then adapts to the unique parameters of SAP. SAP landscapes tend to be quite complex. Every element that you touch in an SAP project must be connected, tested, adjusted and retested before the go-live. Effectively run SAP projects ensure that these steps are all followed.
SAP project managers must be detail-oriented, even beyond the norms of the project management profession. Incremental points along the project plan require due dates and verification procedures, for example. There has to be a plan in case something doesn’t go right. Great SAP project managers prepare contingency plans for each step of a project.
SAP project management is a challenge in coordinating business and technical expertise. Big projects, like SAP migrations, need to align day-to-day business needs with technical goals. This means supporting stakeholder workflows at all levels of the organisation. The project manager must understand the business nuances and know how to bring stakeholders together to make this happen.
Project management methodology for SAP
The methodology for SAP projects applies standard project management methods and software to distinctly SAP issues, like anticipating growth. In our experience, it’s not enough to map out an implementation, upgrade or migration according to the current business needs. Businesses grow, or at least you hope they will. The project scoping process should incorporate growth estimates and set out expected requirements for compute, data storage and so forth.
Similarly, the SAP project manager should look at how business processes may change in the future and advise stakeholders on how such changes might affect the SAP architecture. For instance, if the company plans to outsource more of its work, then the project should pay attention to APIs and integration factors that enable such outsourcing. Shifting security and compliance policies bring up comparable concerns.
The technical execution phase of an SAP project occurs once the project team understands the technical architecture, along with interdependencies between elements of the SAP landscape and external IT assets. There will be variances, though as the team connecting the pieces tests the system under conditions comparable to regular operations. It’s necessary and allows you to tweak systems as you go along.
Best practices for a successful project
Having lead SAP projects for many clients, we have devised best practices for SAP project management success. First, it’s wise not to assume that everyone involved in the project understands SAP systemic interdependencies. It’s a good practice to make these clear to everyone up front in a detailed project plan. Since the cloud is now a standard element of SAP landscapes, this practice is more urgently needed than ever.
Thorough and considerate coordinating of stakeholders is another best practice worth following. SAP projects rely on a division of labour between specialists. There are also two teams that must coordinate. The functional team collaborates with the SAP partner to design the solution. The technical team works out the details, assembling and often actually running the project. Good communication between functional and technical teams and their respective providers is crucial to achieving project goals.
SAP project management that follows best practices looks closely at gaps between client stakeholders. For example, executives may want cutting-edge features but lack an understanding of how their employees actually use the system. Or, managers may miss inconsistencies or duplicate functionality between departments. This issue comes up frequently in SAP HANA migration projects.
Project management teams and leadership
SAP project success flows at least partly (or in some cases, wholly) from selecting the right leadership and team members. In our experience, a good SAP project management team will embody a combination of hard and soft skills. Of course, the team must have the necessary SAP certifications that fit the project scope and details. The team should also understand the SAP landscape’s business side, including the steps in a transaction and the ways that information passes from one department to another. The team leader needs significant project management experience and should ideally be a PPM – a Professional Project Manager with requisite certifications.
Finding the right SAP partner for your needs
SAP project management invariably requires a proactive technical partner. Whomever you choose, their project management processes should be transparent. They need to include regular project reviews that engage all stakeholders. If there are any adjustments necessary throughout the process, there needs to be clear communication about why and what steps are needed to keep your project on time and on budget.
Symmetry is a Basis managed services and cloud hosting provider. We bring deep experience in the interworking of SAP landscapes, and our project management team has decades of experience in challenging, real-world SAP environments that we’re ready to put to work on your projects.