Jan 05

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.

Project Background

A little bit about my background in SAP Retail.  I have played quite a few roles over the last 2 years.  I have been an Infrastructure Architect (Design Of Virtual SAP Landscape), Development Lead (Initial Implementation), Stabilization Lead (Post Go-live), and SAP Program Manager (2 Physical Inventory Projects, Implementation Of Canadian Operations, POS (Point of Sale) Redesign, and Store Receiving Redesign).  Through these various roles within this project I have learned some very important new lessons as well as proved out ones I already new.

Lessons Learned – Too many to fit in one post

I would like to break down my lessons into the various phases of the project, from start to finish I think there are valuable lessons to be learned.  I will start with a lesson learned that applies to all aspects of the project and you will most likely think “thanks captain obvious for pointing this out”.  Rule #1 – Apply Common Sense in all decisions you make and look to see that other decision makers are doing the same.  Yes this is obvious but more often then not common sense is not applied.  I will reference this theme as I point out specific lessons learned.  Many of my lessons learned apply to all SAP projects or any project in general.  I will try and highlight lessons that I feel are specific to a retail.

In order to keep this post manageable I am going to break the lessons learned up into a series of posts.  I will add a new post each week until I have covered all the areas that I think are important to cover.  So lets start with project resources.

Consulting Resources

  • Eliminate Under-Performers Quickly – I personally am not very good at this.  It is in my nature to look to try and help develop an individual to be successful.  However when it comes to consulting resources, career development does not apply on a project team.  We had several resources (not on my team) that did not have the skills and/or could not keep up with the pace.  We worked around them instead of eliminating them.  DataXstream did have a contract resource we brought on to my team and within a couple weeks we could see that he had interviewed better than he executed.  It is never easy to say we made a mistake to the client but we did and we replaced him.
  • Cheap Resources Are Not Always Cheap – You could also reference the lesson above because it usually applies here.  However decision makers managing budgets tend to try and make the numbers work instead of ensuring they have the right people or are doing the right thing.  If a resource does not have the skills, drive, attitude or lacks all of these then it does not matter if the numbers look good in Excel.  This is a common thread to all SAP projects.
  • With Free Resources You Get What You Pay For – There are many free resources that consulting firms provide that add real value.  However it is important to recognize that not all do and some provide negative value.  Free + Negative Value = Expensive.
  • A Good (Non-Retail Experienced SAP Resource) is Better Than A Bad (SAP Retail Experienced Resource) – An SAP Retail System is 95% the same as any other SAP system.  Yes, there are differences. A good resource will have worked in a divers set of industries in the past.  They will pick up retail differences.  A weak resource with Retail experience will continue to be a weak resource.

Here is an outline of my future lessons learned post topics:

  • Week 2
    • Client Resources – There Are Never Enough Client Resources
    • Planning – Establish Planning Rules That All Decision Makers Agree To And Then Follow Them
  • Week 3
    • Design – If It Is Hard or Complex You Most Likely Are Taking The Wrong Approach
  • Week 4
    • Execution
      • Basis – Size Does Matter
      • Configuration – Prototype And Prove Out Approach Before You Commit To Process
      • Development – RICEFW Can Not Be Developed In Silo’s
  •  Week 5
    • Testing – Testing Design Is More Important Than Solution Design
    • Go-live Planning & Execution – Have An Implementation Methodology That Tests Your Go-live Plan As You Go
    • Go-live – Big Bang Not A Good Idea For  An SAP Retail Implementation (Without A Pilot)
  • Week 6
    • Post Production Support – Figure This Out Prior To Go-live

Hope you have enjoyed this post and I will see you next week.

About The Author

Tim has over 25 years of business experience with the last 20 focused on SAP systems architecture and program delivery. He has a broad range of experience with a pragmatic, get the job done approach to engagements. Tim specializes in development of SAP technical strategies and services for clients having successfully lead multiple programs and projects. His extensive SAP technical and functional background has enabled him to thrive in environments of all sizes and complexities.


  1. Avatar
    Keith Seckman
    January 9, 2012 at 9:51 pm · Reply

    Thank you Tim for your blog on this retail implementation. Wish you were the PM at this implementation from the get go!

  2. […] my first post of the SAP Retail Lessons Learned series, I provided some background information on the SAP Retail […]

  3. Avatar
    January 12, 2012 at 6:06 pm · Reply

    Your comments are fair, and assume the implementation was very successful and retail customer is a retail reference. would be insightful to understand what other retail solutions from SAP they are using and are in production.

    • Tim Yates
      January 12, 2012 at 6:17 pm · Reply


      Can you be a litte more specific what you are looking for? That is to say are you looking to understand what SAP products make up the SAP Landscape at our retail customers? Or are you looking for a specific component within retail itself like have we used the standard SAP POS offering or the SAP Retail Fast Track cash management add in?

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