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SAP Success Secrets - An Interview With The Best of The Best: Part 1

How to win SAP Exec Sponsorship

We recently released the SAP Success Report 2018 (you can download it here if you haven’t already).

Download the SAP Success Report

We created the report by interviewing over 100 people and asking them questions about 15 key areas - we call them success levers - of the SAP projects they’ve worked on.

The research revealed some fascinating results:

  • Only 36% of respondents felt their project kept to the delivery plan
  • Fewer than 30% felt their project was delivered on budget
  • And, fewer than half felt the project achieved its business objectives.

But it isn’t all doom and gloom.

There were some significant outliers in the respondents to the survey, so we reached out to them in a bid to discover why their SAP success scores were so exceptional.

In this series of articles, we get some rare insights into the traits of an uber successful SAP programme.

Our SAP superstar unfortunately has to remain anonymous… so we’ll just call them Bob.

In this instalment we talk planning, executive sponsorship, project management and PMO.

Let’s take a look.

Connecting SAP to the business strategy

Resulting: Thanks for joining us here today Bob. You’ve seen the results of our SAP Success Report 2018 and one of the first things you mentioned is planning and that it has to be a realistic plan.

Bob: Yes, and it has to be a living plan as well, and a visible plan. If you’re just looking at a Microsoft project plan with too much detail in it you can’t see the wood for the trees. If you can put it up a level so you can see it on one page everyone can relate to it.

R: So one of the questions we asked was “was your SAP programme fully connected to the business strategy?”. 64% of executives strongly agreed, however overall 50% of people we asked felt the SAP programme wasn’t strongly connected to the business strategy. What’s your opinion on that?

B: So that’s kind of a bad place to start. They’ve started on this project and the executives - not everyone - just the executives said this is going to deliver what we want it to deliver.

R: And it’s my concern as well that if only 64% of executives agreed, 36% of execs didn’t think their programme was going to deliver business objectives.

How to ensure executive sponsorship of your SAP project

R: Our next finding is that 45% of respondents felt they didn’t have executive sponsorship on their SAP projects. 73% of execs felt they did buy into SAP projects. What’s going wrong?

B: So they’re spending however many million on these projects and they haven’t got main board approval and full sponsorship.

R: But on the successful projects you’ve worked on, can you give us some examples of the executives displaying confident sponsorship?

B: Well there was clear messaging. There was clear engagement with the executive, regular feedback to the executive, feedback both up and down, regular reporting to the executive on the main deliverables of the project.

R: And what about the other way around - the execs sponsoring down to the programme. What are some good examples of that?

B: Being around, giving input to the project, giving clear messages to the project, giving sound bites back into the project.

The exec isn’t going to come along every 5 minutes, but they can give support and give sound bites of support back to the project to let you know that you’re on track and that you’ve got their continued support; that the project is aligning to the business strategy and it is important.

It can possibly even be things like communicating that message from an executive point of view and making sure that message is communicated right across the business. So that could mean posters up on every wall in every location telling you what the business objectives are with the executive’s sponsorship and their name on it.

R: So was it omnipresent then, the support of the senior execs?

B: Yeah it was - just by having that name on the posters around the building showing their sponsorship. For example it could say “this is going to make a vital difference to our business - chief exec”.

Embedding your business case for SAP

R: So another finding here, a similar one: 60% of respondents said their business case was not embedded in their SAP programme and therefore wasn’t fully realised. How can you stop this?

B: Again it’s poster on the wall stuff: What are you doing? Why are you doing it? The poster will say “this is the business case” and you know that’s why you’re doing it.

R: By Poster, I assume you mean all channels of communication. It’s about visibility?

B: Yes. You’ve got to constantly remind people of the business case even when their head is down in the weeds.

SAP PMO and Project Management

R: These next few findings are around project management and PMO. 62% of people didn’t feel their programme was supported by strong project management. And, amazingly 62% of project managers themselves felt the same.

B: They feel like they’re not getting the support from above.

R: Yes, and you need people who have done it before as well

B: Yes, I think that’s probably key in your recruitment process. You’re asking “how many of these SAP programmes have you been through before?” “How many successful ones have you been through?”. You’ll also need some unsuccessful ones under your belt too so you can understand what success looks like.

R: That’s the key to learning isn’t it - you learn by getting things wrong. Did the project lead on your successful project reflect and demonstrate some of those abilities and skills?

B: Our project leads changed over time, but our final project lead was a very talented individual.

R: Was it a business side project lead or was it an external?

B: They were an external consultant.

R: And not the systems integrator?

B: Not the systems integrator. They were independent of the systems integrator.

In my mind, the overall project leaders shouldn’t be someone from the systems integrator.

If they’re from the systems integrator they’re compromised because they can’t be making demands on their own organisation.

You need someone who is independent, who can make demands on the systems integrator, who can make demands back on your business as well, and who can bring the whole thing together.

R: It can be easy just to think “we’ll get someone who’s managed an internal project before” but there are some nuances with SAP, so you need someone who’s not just done things like this before, but who’s really done this before.

B: Yeah and who has worked in your particular industry perhaps so they can relate to what you’re trying to achieve and your particular requirements.

R: So here’s a related finding: 57% of respondents felt their project was not supported by a strong PMO. So did you feel you had a strong PMO?

B: Yes we had a strong PMO. It kept a lot of the burden of financial reporting away from you.

They would track the spend so you wouldn’t be lost in tracking that. They’d also manage some of the regular project management reporting.

It meant you weren’t dying by analysis of reporting. You could focus on what needed to be done and to take the project forward. They would also bring regular reports to you.

Another aspect of their role was recognition.

They would help manage recognition programmes that we wanted. They would ensure that there were regular team get togethers and regular social events for the whole team. For example you would have a team meeting and then you would go out for dinner in the evening.

They helped to make sure everyone understood where we were as a project, guiding us when we all needed to work together to get part of the project back on track, and celebrating the success or sharing the pain that we were going through.

If one team or perhaps two or three teams might be working at weekends because of particular demands towards the go live, the PMO would help us step up to the mark and support them.

They helped to bring the team together.

R: The analogy we use is that your PMO is like a referee. You never notice a good referee, but you will notice a bad one. PMOs are the same. With a good PMO things just happen; a bad PMO will cause friction and hassle.

B: They just manage all your resources for you. Say you need contracts extended; its all done for you and you don’t have to be wasting your time on that.

To view part two of the interview - click the link below.

Read Part 2

Read more SAP and S/4 HANA Insights

On Demand Webinar: How to build your business case for SAP S/4HANA

Join Stuart Browne and Former Gartner SAP Research Director Dr Derek Prior as they explore how you can build an effective business case for SAP S/4HANA.

On Demand Webinar: How to build your business case for SAP S/4HANA