Which SAP systems integrator is best?

Some SAP systems integration projects are tougher than others, and each systems integrator has strengths and weaknesses.

There is no single metric that can capture the overall success of an SAP implementation project. Rather, patterns

in performance tend to be more revealing and actionable than any single statistic.

Performance Monitor LLC has been tracking the performance of SAP systems integrators Accenture, BearingPoint, Capgemini, CSC, Deloitte, IBM and SAP Consulting since 2005. Its research examines four types of SAP systems integration projects: initial implementations (38% of projects), geographic rollouts (19% of projects), upgrades (23% of projects), and optimizations and enhanced applications (20% of projects).

As a general rule, clients with initial implementations and geographic rollouts report that delivery was not as smooth as it was for clients with upgrades and optimizations. Part of this is intuitive -- it is easier to upgrade, enhance or optimize systems that are already in place than it is to start a project from scratch or try to roll it out across the globe.

Typically, upgrades and optimizations are shorter, more focused projects, so it is easier to train staff and plan for the changes after it's over. Initial implementations and geographic rollouts tend to be longer and more complex and thus more expensive. As a result, management is often looking for ways to cut costs and adjust project timelines without moving the end-date.

"Not all the blame [for project problems] can be laid at the systems integrator's doorstep," Michael Doane, founder and chief intelligence officer for Performance Monitor, writes in The New SAP Blue Book. "Too many clients are overly concerned about the impending cost of an SAP engagement and refuse to add the 3% to 5% more in consulting costs that will provide sufficient post-implementation planning. Often, clients are using an antique statistic -- Total Cost of Ownership -- as the measure of their success."

The lesson is that a focus on time frames and costs can be detrimental to the long-term benefits your organization is expecting from your SAP project.

"The life expectancy of an SAP installation is anywhere from 20 to 30 years," Doane continues. "Given this life expectancy, wise clients will look beyond the implementation costs and provide themselves a proper operating foundation for the long haul."

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Provider performance

Just as there are patterns in performance by project type, each provider has its own respective strengths and weaknesses. No one provider is the best at everything, regardless of their claims.

Here are some snippets about the leading SAP systems integrators that Performance Monitor follows:

Accenture is among the most frequently short-listed SAP systems integrators and receives strong performance scores from its large clientele.

BearingPoint performed better for clients in 2006, after a dip in performance in 2005, and received the highest score on the goal attainment index.

Capgemini has a strong record of delivering projects on time and receives strong performance scores for upgrades of existing SAP systems.

CSC receives strong performance ratings for SAP systems integration projects below $50 million in total budget.

Deloitte has been steadily improving its performance over the last three years and demonstrates strong results for attaining client goals related to cost reductions.

IBM has been a consistently strong player over the last three years, with particular strengths around SAP technical skills and knowledge transfer.

SAP Consulting has been steadily improving its performance as both the lead integrator and sub for its alliance partners. SAP Consulting performs well on several of the more critical delivery problems.

Conclusion

The SAP systems integration market is generally being well served by the leading systems integrators. Clients should scrutinize the quality of a provider's personnel and methods during the selection phase, as these are among the most crucial factors for a project's success. Use your best technical people -- dealing with the difficult questions early will pay off down the line.

For every SAP project there is a right systems integrator. Take the time to investigate your choices -- each provider has its own strengths and weaknesses that should be matched against the needs of your organization and the type of project you are contemplating.

Once the delivery process begins, be sure to invest the time and resources in your end users and planning for the post go-live environment. It may be painful to do so in the midst of a long project with time and budget constraints, but this research reveals that tending to these issues will improve your chances of thriving after go-live.

This is the final part of a three-part series on SAP systems integrators. Part 1 looked at hiring the right firm for a particular project, and Part 2 examined some common pitfalls of SAP systems integration projects and how to resolve them.


Paul Reynolds is chief research officer of Performance Monitor, an independent research firm that monitors the field performance of the leading service providers. He is a contributing author of The New SAP Blue Book.

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