Skip to main content

SAP S/4HANA Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide For Project Managers

SAP Project managers biggest threats to success

On your S/4 project, something isn't quite right...

The moon hangs low in the sky, the hours of daylight are becoming unpredictable, your colleagues are starting to exhibit unusual behaviours and Sturgill Simpson’s "The Dead Don’t Die" is resonating around the office.

Your RAID Reports are scary and the C-Suite are concerned, but no-one has foreseen the strangest and most dangerous repercussion that will soon start to plague your project: hordes of the undead will rise from their graves and start to feast on the programme.

The threat level is catastrophic - you're in a full scale zombie apocalypse.

Don't venture outside unprepared, these are the 5 most disastrous threats for Project Managers on SAP projects out of the 77 failure points identified in our SAP Success Benchmark.

SAP Apocalypse Threat 1 - Inexperienced SAP Project Managers

It all starts with a late night in the office. You notice it’s still light after 8pm, whilst your colleague is concerned that his watch, phone and laptop have all stopped working.

If your SAP projects are managed by generalist Project Managers who don't have a background in ERP or SAP you're in trouble.

PMs are not all cut from the same cloth and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but generalist PMs with no background in SAP or even ERP are not going to come with:

  • Knowledge of the usual pitfalls and ways to avoid them
  • How SAP and package solutions differ from custom solutions and why they should be kept standard.

This will result in lots of time wasted on issues that could have been avoided as well as poor design governance.

SAP Zombie Survival Tip

Failure can be avoided, and it isn’t just by asking a recruiter for exactly the right fit, what you need is more nuanced than a prescriptive Job Spec.

Depending on project or programme size you should create a team of Project and Programme Managers with experience in SAP, your Industry, your IT context and Business. Skills, experience, composure and cultural fit to do their jobs are equally important.

Ensuring the lead business Project Manager has experience on similar scale projects within your company or at a competitor should mean they’re primed to avoid the pitfalls of someone greener.

SAP Apocalypse Threat 2 - Wrong Business People

The next day, following a PMO meeting you realise that project reporting has altered the Earth’s rotation and the whole of the finance team have disappeared...

If you don't tend to allocate business people to SAP projects and requirements are passed through Business Analysts then watch out.

A common mistake on projects is for the wrong and often too junior Business People being allocated simply because they can be released easily from their role, this will result in decisions being made that are simply not aligned to the direction of the company.

SAP Zombie Survival Tip

By allocating your best possible people to SAP projects, even if that means backfilling their day-to-day roles you’ll ensure the project runs smoothly, decisions can be made authoritatively and are aligned to strategic goals.

SAP Apocalypse Threat 3 - Lack of Adoption Focus

Two coffee obsessed zombies reanimate when night finally falls, they maul a couple SAP Consultants inside the office. Adam from HR summons you to the office when he discovers their bodies in the morning. He suggests a zombie apocalypse is to blame for their deaths.

If your projects focus on technical delivery of a solution rather than business change then it could be fatal.

So many projects fail because of lack of adoption. Embedding adoption at the heart of your project rather than having it as an afterthought is critical to success. If the focus is purely on technical delivery with IT sponsorship and inadequate business ownership then the solution delivered is unlikely to be used to the best effect and won’t deliver on the benefits it has the potential to.

SAP Zombie Survival Tip

At the start and heart of any project is the business case. It should underpin the Business Strategy, and be all about implementing change in the business supported by IT. If adoption is at the heart of what you’re doing then the business and embedded business resources will drive your project - through design, build, test, implementation and beyond.

SAP Zombie Threat 4 -  Poor Risk and Issue Management

You find open graves when you investigate the IT department. Adam gives you some guidance on how to kill zombies and the C-Suite discuss what weapons to use.

More zombies rise from the dead that evening...

If you don't formally track Issues or Risks why are we even here.

You might think you’ve got it all covered, you’ve got a PMO analyst updating a risk log, but somehow risks keep realising, and issues appear that no one seemed to anticipate. Effective risk and issue management is central to good project control, but too often items are logged and not acted upon, or worse still not logged because of a political culture of fear and blame. This is catastrophic for any project or programme, and will definitely result in plan or budget overrun.

SAP Zombie Survival Tip

Risk and issue management is not just about keeping a log. To avoid catastrophic failure such as massive cost and time overruns you need to think about:

  • Regular reviews and reporting on risks and issues
  • Clear ownership and escalation
  • Open and honest environments without a blame culture preventing items being raised
  • Having people managing project workstreams with experience of risks and issue resolution elsewhere
  • Cultivating a supportive team environment where everyone works to resolve issues and mitigate risks

SAP Zombie Threat 5 - Weak Governance & Control

You’re overrun by zombies whilst being held up in the meeting room.

You’re stuck.

Unable to deal with her anxiety any longer one of your colleagues exits the rooms and lets the horde of zombies kill her.

Ad-hoc SAP project governance can be truly catastrophic.

From small projects to larger scale programmes, governance needs to be strong to be able to exercise the appropriate control over delivery teams and suppliers. Ad-hoc set up without clearly defined accountable internal roles can result in suppliers running rings around you, resulting in increased costs. Conversely, you might end up with a custom solution that the supplier was trying to guard against.

SAP Zombie Survival Tip

A good governance model is central to effective project delivery, so what is good?

  • Defined (and agreed) governance model with appropriate Sponsor and RACI
  • A project board who regularly meet, with clear roles and responsibilities, including assurance roles for solution, project management, and controls
  • Process Ownership model to support effective Business process decisions and solution implementation
  • Clear project principles that are agreed and inform decision making
  • Standard meetings in place to support delivery and decision making, with clearly defined attendees, outputs and decision making controls with a single point of accountability for each forum.
  • Segregation of duties in decision making.

What Next for Your SAP Project?

You decide to go on the attack, you and Adam burst out of the meeting room and start killing the undead.

If you want to keep the ghouls away, why don't you take our SAP health check.

15 minute Online Healthcheck

It's a free assessment that enables you to benchmark your SAP projects against the 15 SAP Success Levers identified in our SAP Success Research report.

Get the SAP Success Report

If you’re on an SAP S/4HANA Project in a different role, you can find out what the most catastrophic threats for you are and tips for improvement here.

S/4 Survival Guide for Architects, HR and Procurement

S/4 Survival Guide for Execs

S/4 Survival Guide for Business Managers

S/4HANA what's new visualiser S/4sight

S/4sight - Visualising What's New In S/4HANA

S/4sight visualises what's new, what's changed, and what's been completely removed in every release of SAP S/4HANA to help you better understand the product and build your business case for S/4 migration.


Register for S/4sight