The Perquisites of Implementing the SAP system
It is generally accepted that for the successful implementation of a SAP project, high-quality project management and the presence of highly qualified SAP consultants or SAP dedicated team with good knowledge of system settings are sufficient.
This makes it possible to implement the project in accordance with the previously approved deadlines and budget. But there is one more aspect that is overlooked by the implementation of the SAP system – “People Side of Change” & “Organizational Change Management” (OCM). Change management is an important function that brings technology, processes, and people together!
This direction has become very relevant, and really in demand in conducting projects of any type – be it organizational changes, business transformation or the ERP-system implementation.
Often, the requirements for the role of a change manager are the same, regardless of the nature of the project. You can only find out the kind of project where you are supposed to manage the changes, by reading the detailed job description or having a job interview. Does it make any difference from the change management point of view? – Yes, it does!
In the case with SAP, which is a highly integrated and well-structured ERP system, each aspect of the deployment requires specific skills and knowledge. Members of dedicated development team or technical/functional/project teams need to know how SAP works to plan and carry out their work. In my opinion, the same logic applies to the work of OCM (Organization change management). Change managers might say, “What difference does it make—change is change?” – which can be countered with the following argument: “A doctor is a doctor, but a therapist will never treat a sore tooth.” It is impossible to successfully manage the changes from a “people only change” perspective. All elements: People, Processes, Technologies, Suppliers and Customers must be considered in a timely manner. And for this, the Change Manager must have knowledge of the SAP and understanding of how the system works. He must be aware that a “minor” technical change can lead to a major organizational alignment and can affect any aspect of project implementation.
For example, adding one button to the interface of the “Sales order” or “Billing document” may lead to changes in the sequence of the steps of the process or significantly change the current role model.
The right question asked to the Stakeholder can protect against such consequences, or affect the requirements evaluation, the sequence of the task/project implementation and the timeliness of attracting the appropriate resources. Change Manager in SAP projects must have a holistic view of the changes that SAP is bringing to the organization. It is not only about organizing some events, informing stakeholders, sending emails, conducting surveys, and collecting feedback.
SAP implementations are complex, and whether it’s a greenfield deployment or a template deployment, there are differences both in the steps taken by the OCM, as well as the requirements for understanding of SAP by the change manager.
Implementation from scratch means that the organization is going to implement and try SAP for the first time.
From a change manager’s point of view, preparing and supporting an organization at all levels, from executives to end users, are required.
The Change Manager must have a deep understanding of SAP as a system. In this turn, managing every aspect of OCM at the lowest level is the key to successful change management.
I remember the first time I encountered the SAP system as an end user, and during the training, I did not understand all these terms at all, such as “outbound delivery”, “goods issue”, “the movement type” etc. At that moment, all my colleagues and I were horrified and simply showed great resistance in working with this system. Although, in fact, these were the usual processes of shipment and movement of products from warehouses.
When I implemented SAP as a consultant a few years later, understanding basics of Change Management, using basic tools in my functional area, and drawing parallels between the system and real processes, I noticed that the level of understanding and involvement of employees was significantly higher.
When deploying a template, it is fair to assume that the organization understands how SAP works. But the complexity of the change management lies in conducting a FIT-GAP analysis to identify actions in the system that will be different from the usual ones and to build, possibly, a new process of business execution sequence. This, in turn, may have an impact on the current organizational structure, or the authority model in the system.
The aspects that SAP Change Manager needs to handle:
- should be able to advise and train decision makers;
- needs to determine the business benefits the company expects from the SAP implementation;
- should ensure that future processes are agreed with the business and aligned with the business benefits;
- should ensure that the suppliers and the customers who will access the system are well engaged and trained.
According to studies and surveys conducted by Prosci, the “ERP system implementation” was included to the list of the most difficult projects. One of the recommendations for conducting change management in projects of this kind was the following requirement for a Change Manager: “Above-average understanding of the ERP system” (Prosci, “Best practices in Change management”, 2018 edition).
To conclude, the most important criterion should be that change managers understand SAP, and vice versa, SAP consultants or SAP dedicated team are proficient in change management methodologies. Such a scenario will ensure the effective implementation of the SAP system, both from the technical side and the side of acceptance of the new system by users and customers.