What Makes a Great SAP Project Manager?

A project manager’s job is to deliver a defined scope on time and on budget.  This expectation comes from the overall project leadership, the business community and the IT organization.  To do this an SAP project manager needs to know:

  • The project goals and success criteria
  • The tasks to be performed
  • The dependencies between the tasks

  • The resources and skills needed

  • The key milestones and critical deliverables

Coordination, execution, review and sign-off throughout the project lifecycle requires marshaling different resource types at different times including business team members, functional consultants, ABAP developers, PI/XI developers, the Basis team, technical infrastructure, network operations, production support, training teams, etc.  A great project manager needs to be comfortable and confident interacting with different audiences, communicating in their language and using terms and jargon they understand.  A great project manager has a rolling horizon always looking a week, a month, a quarter or more into the future anticipating needs and planning ahead.  A great project manager lives with the belief that fire prevention is far more desirable than firefighting.

A great project manager monitors critical tasks and recognizes when to be flexible and when to dig in. There is constant negotiation, evaluation of information to separate the important from the inconsequential, and refinements to keep the project on track.  A great project manager knows to cultivate team member engagement, motivation and drive and maintain a common vision of the end goal.

DataXstream project managers understand all of this.  They live it every day.

Lessons Learned for Decision Makers and Leads from a Successful SAP Retail Project

I have spent the last 2 years working on an SAP Retail implementation.  An SAP Retail project is the last place I could have ever imagined myself working.  I have always been drawn more to SAP manufacturing, distribution, and A&D projects.  Being a manufacturing engineer by trade, I am always a little more comfortable with a manufacturing line or warehouse near by.  Even the facility that we ran the SAP project out of had a manufacturing line in it and a warehouse, so it helped to ease my inner engineer.  It also broke my 12 year streak of not having a project in the state I live in.

I have been working with SAP for over 15 years.  This was my first SAP Retail project and once again SAP has proved to me that it can be successfully leveraged and become a competitive advantage for those companies that implement it.  Each time I start a new project in a new industry I think about the vast differences in how the new company will need to leverage SAP and the challenges that unique business will create for the SAP application.  Time and time again a reasonable solution path is achieved and SAP becomes a solid foundation from which the business operates.  The diversity of my own personal experience working with successful SAP customers demonstrates this point.  There are not a lot of similarities in how A Flooring Retailer, Rocket Manufacturer, Pharmaceutical Manufacturer operate, yet they are all very successful at leveraging SAP.

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SAP Technical Consulting Services

DataXstream’s technical consulting teams have been committed to our customer’s success with SAP for over 15 years. Our focus on SAP technologies allows us to have a positive impact on our customer’s SAP projects and businesses. Our team members have a broad cross section of industry experience, working on both large and small teams, allowing them to quickly adapt to the needs of any SAP project. DataXstream’s investment over the last 10 years in SAP development capabilities gives our consulting teams an advantage by providing a solid foundation for advancing their SAP skills. This investment has given DataXstream the ability to build and maintain tools and project accelerators; allowing our consultants to set the right direction for your project, accelerate your timeline, reduce delivery risk, control cost, and ultimately, provide your business with meaningful SAP services and solutions.

“DataXstream was by far the best partner during our SAP implementation. Their level of knowledge was extraordinary, their dedication was unquestionable and their integrity was never a matter of concern for us. I would recommend their services to any company that is serious about SAP.” – SAP Project Manager, Wholesale Distribution Company.

SAP Mid-Month Go-Live: Got the T-shirt

Conventional wisdom says you don’t go-live with SAP financials in the middle of the month (strictly speaking I should say the middle of the accounting period, but I’ll say month as a generic term for the posting period).  I recently went through a mid-month SAP financials and logistics go-live and so far it has been a success.

Initially the project team had the expected you-can’t-do-that reaction when the idea of a mid-month go-live was suggested.  We took three main steps to determine whether or not we were crazy or had a viable go-live option:

  1. We asked SAP.  As one of the main participants on the project we got them to do an internal review with some platinum consultants with the objective of telling us why we could not go-live mid-month.
  2. We asked our project team, both client and consulting resources.  Again, the goal was to tell us why we couldn’t do it.
  3. We Googled like maniacs to find something to support and justify the conventional wisdom.  We failed to find anything substantial that would deter us.

Armed with the conviction that there was no reason we couldn’t go-live mid-month we set about defining the details of how we would pull it off.

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SAP Project Management Consulting Clichés – Part 2

Following my previous post I got a couple of responses from folks out on the interweb and decided I’d steal their suggestions and expand on their consulting clichés.  After all repetition and overuse are the start point for any cliché and this means I’m doing my part to sustain the cycle – reuse, recycle, renew!

Is Your Project a Hotbed of SAP Consulting Clichés?

I felt compelled to come up with a 2-by-2 matrix to help you decide whether your project is cliché generator or a cliché consumer.

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Virtualization, Sustainability discussions at SAP TechEd 2010

Sustainability is one of many topics being discussed at SAPTechEd 2010 in Las Vegas.   In addition green being ‘the right thing to do’ it also makes good business sense, so much so that Timo Stezler, VP Green-IT SAP, frequently said, “We have found carbon is an indicator of inefficiency.”

One area in which businesses can make improvements to reduce waste is in Virtualization.  Eddie White, Sr. VP with Sentilla, noted that data centers account for 2% of the power usage in the United States.  In addition to actual hardware costs, the cost of power to the data center, power drawn by the servers and power used in cooling, can be reduced by 25% through efficient use of hardware and through virtualization.

In addition, virtualization allows a business to “sweat the assets it already has instead of adding new ones.”  Through smart virtualization a CIO can delay the need for a new data center, which can cost in the area of 10 million dollars.  White noted that IBM’s data center accounts for 6% of the company but utilizes 30% of the company’s power usage.

Stezler stated it simply.  “Virtualization has a huge impact.”  SAP was 60% virtualized servers in 2009 and the goal for 2010 is 80% virtualization.   In more detail Stezler notes that Energy Management is a new challenge for IT.  In recent studies 50% of clients and investors state energy efficiency and carbon footprint are among deciding factors when making consumer or investor decisions.   The data center is typically 30% to 40% of energy cost associated with any business.

With this in mind DataXstream offers virtualization services as part of our SAP integration focus.  DataXstream is a certified partner with Dell and has also partnered with VMware the global leader in Business Infrastructure Virtualization.  These partnerships allow DataXstream to streamline the virtualization process as well as allow excellent pricing options.

In each session Timo Stezler advocated, “Become a strategic Sustainability advisor to your business.”  Work to streamline efforts within your business.

For more information on Virtualization:

SAP Virtualization Solutions:  http://www.dataxstream.com/sap-virtualization-solutions

SAP AIO Virtual Infrastructure: http://www.dataxstream.com/sap-aio-virtual-infrastructure/

SAP Data Migration – Dealing With Fallout (Part 3)

One of the inevitable aspects of data migration is dealing with fallout from automated data loads.  Typically, this process includes identifying the data that will not load, analyzing the error messages to determine the root cause, formatting a readable report that can be used as a tool in the cleanup process, and fixing the root cause of the problem so that it does not happen again.

Why the data will not load correctly.

There is a litany of reasons why some data records will load correctly while others will not.  Here is a list of some common root causes:

 

  1. Poor quality legacy data.
    Legacy systems which are not as tightly integrated as SAP, and are not under master data control allow the end user a bit of freedom when entering data.  A zip code may contain too little or too many characters; the email address is not properly formatted; numeric fields have transposed digits; various forms of abbreviations (especially in the city field), a quantity of zero (0) permitted by the legacy system and uploaded into a field where SAP will not accept a quantity of 0 and even simple misspellings  all can cause stringent validation checks to trigger an error and prevent the record from loading at all.  A more sinister type of error occurs when the data is functionally incorrect, but good enough to pass all of the SAP validity checks.  In this case, the data record will technically load into SAP, but will not be functionally correct.  Duplicate customers, duplicate vendors, and the data entry error for a quantity of 1000 instead of 100, and the wrong pricing condition applied to a sales order line are examples of this scenario.

 

 

  1. Functional configuration and supporting data effects.
    Many times I have watched the load statistics for a data object plummet from near 100% in the cycle two test load to near 0% in the cycle three test load.  This is very unnerving to the client because the cycle three test load is getting rather close to the go-live date, and “by the way, shouldn’t the statistics be getting better rather than worse?”  Functional configuration changes can wreak havoc on any data load.  Flipping the switch on a data field from optional to required; turning on batch management or serialization for materials for the first time; changes in the handling of tax, tax codes, and tax jurisdiction codes; that account determination entry that is missing or not set up correctly; a missing unit of measure or unit or measure conversion factor; the storage location in the upload file which does not exist in SAP – any of these can cause a load to drop mostly or completely onto the floor.While change is inevitable on any project, it is important to control and communicate the change so that the downstream impact can be recognized and understood.   Controlled change and communication always works better than total surprise.  Perhaps if we all know ahead of time about that data field that is now required, we can impose a requirement on the data extract side to make sure that the data field is populated before it enters the upload file.
  2. Additional data in the upload file.
    Inserting a new field in the middle of the upload file data structure might be necessary for the business to close a gap, but if that change is not communicated to the technical team so that appropriate adjustments can be made to the load object’s input structures and processing logic, the new data will surely never load, and may cause misalignment of the data fields which follow it in the upload structure.

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SAP Solution Manager Service Desk Integration

Nowadays when you install SAP ECC 6.0 you get SAP Solution Manager (SOLMAN) as part of the deal – ostensibly for free (although it is really included in the purchase price).  SOLMAN provides a wealth of functionality to help manage the technical environment as well as project processes like testing.

Service Desk functionality is delivered to you for use as a ticketing system.  One of the features of it is that it can be used as a ticketing system for both SAP and non-SAP systems as well as in conjunction with other ticketing systems that may be in place already.  In this blog post I’ll briefly touch on some of the scenarios I have encountered and show that there are several ways to deploy Service Desk.

Using Service Desk is beneficial because it can automatically capture a wealth of information about what a user was doing when a problem occurred if the ticket is created directly from SAP.  Also, Service Desk can communicate directly with the SAP mother ship to log issues and manage OSS notes which obviously reduces the risk of transcription errors.  And Service Desk can be extended to include functional components from non-SAP systems which in turn leads to the possibility of one-stop-shopping for ticket management. [Read more...]

SAP Data Migration – The Data Migration Plan (Part 2)

If you are responsible for the success of data migration, you will want to build a detailed plan that will walk you through all of the three phases of data migration: pre-data migration preparation, the data migration itself, and post-data migration cleanup.  I like my data migration plan to contain detailed steps that ensure that I don’t forget anything.  Each step lists a specific named responsible person along with their area of responsibility and contact information.  Unless I am responsible for executing the task myself, I prefer the named person to be a client employee (i.e. the business owner of the process) rather than a project consultant.    This is where the responsibility should be, and it requires that the business process owners actually participate in the activity rather than sit on the sidelines and watch.

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SAP Project Management Consulting Clichés

There’s an old saying (aren’t they all old?) that instructs you to avoid clichés like the plague.  SAP has generated its own set of overworked buzzword terminology and has an eco-viral-collective that churns out more and more each day.  I can hardly keep up with the acronyms.
Over the years I’ve accumulated three favorites of my own that I’d like to share.  The aim here is not to kill off the clichés, instead it is to suggest ways to head them off before you use one and have clients rolling their eyes at you–Or at least have a quick follow up so that the cliché actually has some value.

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