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Ways to win, lose at SAP game

Three panelists share lists of the most common mistakes they see at SAP implementation sites.

Chicago--No SAP user expects to be able to go live, and thrive, without mistakes. More often than not, it's the...

fault of an IT team, and not the SAP software, when projects go awry, according to many experts.

Knowing that SAP software, with all its complexity and promise, can be treacherous territory, hundreds of CIOs, CFOs, project planners and others whose livelihoods depend on SAP success packed a Conference session titled: "The 10 Biggest Mistakes You Must Avoid."

The three-member panel included Clive Weightman, a senior partner at Deloitte Consulting; Matt Mosetick, a senior partner at Accenture; and Angie Goodwin, industry director at Atos Origin. Each panel member presented a list of what they believe are the 10 most serious missteps made during SAP projects.

Prompting a lively question-and-answer session and plenty of peer-to-peer exchanges, the panelists offered real-world horror stories and suggestions for making SAP dreams come true.

Some central themes persisted throughout the discussion, including the need for crucial attitude adjustments. The panelists said that one sure-fire way to fail is to treat an SAP project as one that ends, rather than one that evolves.

Bringing together a team of business executives with one person whose job depends on the success of the project (and whose bonuses are tied to it) was named as a way to succeed. Mosetick's No. 4 choice, "Improper executive ownership/alignment to promote ownership and accountability within the organization," spoke to those issues.

The importance of continued training for users was a consistent theme of the session. Goodwin's No. 1 choice, for example, was "Underestimating the amount of effort in training and education that is required."

The panelists also said they saw plenty of pain as a result of second-rate talent assigned to large ERP implementations, usually a cost-saving decision that a company winds up paying for later.

However much they agreed, the presenters also brought unique perspectives to the seminar, seizing upon favorite themes. "Starting too late to address all things related to data," was No. 7 on Weightman's list.

"Data cleansing is just an enormous task," Weightman explained, adding that IT consistently puts data cleansing and data management off until the last minute. "You just can't do it if the data is not 70% accurate," Weightman said. Added Goodwin: "I see very few projects that have a data management team."

Mosetick's No. 10 pick, "Allowing instances to proliferate" was unique to his list. Weightman agreed, forcing the room into a collective groan when he said: "There are some world records out there. There are companies that have more than 100 instances."

Greg Covington, among the 450 attendees at the invitation-only conference, specializes in IT security for Columbia, Md.-based W.R. Grace & Co., where data migration was an issue during the last SAP upgrade. But it was the issue of security, or its absence, from the lists provided by the panelists, that caught Covington's attention.

"All I know is that I got pulled out of a session to take a call, and it was about a security issue," said Covington, who asked the panelists why they had failed to name security as a top priority.

In response, the panelists agreed security was a huge issue but said that it has become less problematic as more companies have made it a priority.

The panelists were also asked by an attendee why three highly respected industry consultants were seeing so many mistakes. After all, isn't it the responsibility of these panelists to prevent such mistakes for clients?

It is, they acknowledged. However, Weightman offered, he had pulled Deloitte out of three big SAP projects in the last 18 months because he could see that companies were not willing to follow the instructions of his team and were not committed to change management.

Weightman addressed the importance of planning for continued IT spending with his No. 1 choice, "Embarking on the journey without a solid, approved business case, including mechanisms to continuously update the business case, and to ensure the savings are baked into operational budgets.''


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