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Six tips to ensure a successful global SAP rollout

Managing a global SAP rollout is complex and challenging. But by limiting custom development and following other tried-and-true lessons, you can better navigate the challenges.

Companies already using SAP systems eventually want to ensure that their regional or global operations also use...

SAP systems. Companies make such a move to create a single source of truth for financials and operations that an integrated system, such as SAP, offers. An SAP rollout at global or regional levels puts all of a company's operations on a single ERP platform, while doing away with disparate, third-party systems.

Given the complexities and challenges involved in managing global teams located in different geographical areas and time zones, and with varying country-specific business processes, companies will do well to decide if they want to pursue a big-bang or phased approach to an SAP rollout. A big-bang approach entails rolling out an SAP system in all relevant countries and multiple locations within each country; a phased approach rolls out an SAP system in a few countries at a time.

Whether or not a company follows a big-bang or phased approach to an SAP rollout, the following lessons learned will help make the rollout a successful event:

Use your original systems integrator. Companies can benefit greatly by drawing on the knowledge and experience of the systems integrator that implemented the parent company's original SAP system. Often, when performing an SAP rollout, the systems integrator can use the same design document used for the parent company's SAP implementation. Using the same design document not only saves time, effort and cost, it helps ensure that business processes and reporting are uniform with each SAP rollout. If the systems integrator does not have a presence in a specific region or country, it can subcontract its rollout services to a regional or local systems integrator, while maintaining overall control and responsibility for a successful SAP project.

Limit custom development. Unless legal or business requirements have significant financial implications, countries must strictly limit custom-developed approaches that deviate from a parent company's global standards and best practices. For each required custom development, a country should prepare a business case explaining why and how the standard or already-implemented approach does not meet its requirements, and the limitations it will address while using available alternate approaches. Based on the merits and demerits, an advisory board will then decide each case.

Countries involved in rollouts can help mitigate challenges and foster collective success by sharing resources and knowledge.

Use change management effectively. Extensive change management efforts ensure that countries transitioning toward an SAP rollout are aware of the business impacts that such a project will bring and how to effectively manage them. Communicating with stakeholders whom to approach for help mitigates risks and fears that come with an SAP rollout.

Forward-book your resources. A proven and effective strategy for smoother rollouts requires that countries preparing for the next wave of an SAP rollout -- if using a phased approach -- engage their key resources in earlier rollouts. This approach ensures that a country's key resources will have rollout experience and will be effective change agents when their own countries roll out SAP.

Have a balanced mix of stakeholders. An all-inclusive team that has a balanced mix of stakeholders from all the rollout countries -- who will each have their own concerns -- helps achieve project success. Similarly, the systems integrator should maintain a balanced presence of on-site resources in each of the rollout countries so that every country has equitable access to resources and can gain from an extensive knowledge transfer.

Share rollout knowledge and resources. Given the complexities of managing large teams involved in rollouts, it is only natural that there'll be challenges everyone needs to surmount as one team. These challenges may be the unavailability of consultants or in-house resources, a natural calamity or political disturbances. These challenges threaten to negatively affect a project's timelines or quality. Countries involved in rollouts can help mitigate these challenges and foster collective success by sharing resources and knowledge.

Next Steps

Major SAP rollout begins

Big-bang SAP transformation dropped

Planning a phased SAP implementation

This was last published in November 2015

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