The phrase “business and IT need to be involved” in order to make an SAP project successful is common knowledge. But putting it into practice is well known to be one of the hardest parts of an SAP project.
For Gambro Americas, a Lakewood, Colo.-based medical-device manufacturer that specializes in developing, manufacturing and supplying dialysis products, its SAP project can be best described as “a tale of two halves.”
Gambro’s was a huge SAP project – an ECC 6.0 implementation that included Materials Management (MM), Production Planning (PP), Financial Accounting and Controlling (FICO), Quality Management (QM), Business Warehouse (BW), NetWeaver Portal, SAP BusinessObjects Explorer, NetWeaver Process Integration (PI) and Solution Manager. Gambro would use SAP software to eventually run all order-to-cash, manufacturing, supply chain, finance and accounting, direct materials, purchasing and quality management in the United States and Canada, and manufacturing in Mexico and Daytona Beach, Fla., facilities.
To say this was mission critical would be an understatement.
The first “half” started in March 2009 and was supposed to be completed by January 2010. But it wasn’t. Cue the second half, which involved instituting a better project scope, and stronger governance and project management processes. The new target go-live date was November 1, which Gambro hit. It included full distribution the first week, full manufacturing by the third week, first-month-end close and a successful year-end close. Gambro had been using one of the major systems integrators and also contracted with SAP consultancy NIMBL during the project’s second half.
Collaboration between business and IT is a big part of what made Gambro’s second half successful, said Chris Doerr, Vice President of IT, who joined Gambro to lead the project in January 2010.
When he joined Gambro, it was apparent the SAP project was being managed as an IT project – not a business project.
“There was a very strong desire and instinctive understanding that [business] needed to be much more involved,” he said. “So part of my first task was to educate that group on how they should engage, why they should engage, and really re-involve them in the whole initiative.”
How did he and his team help make that happen? Doerr shared three tips.
1. Make Clear Just How Complex an SAP Implementation Is.
Gambro established a very strong governance process, which had two levels. The first involved the company’s senior executives in key decision-making processes. Doerr’s team went to them for guidance around key parts of the project.
“By bringing decisions and choices to them, they felt much more engaged,” Doerr said.
They also established a standing SAP governance committee that met every week. This included functional experts, such as the VP of supply chain, VP of finance, VP of field services, customer services, two plant directors and HR.
“It was an opportunity for those of who us who had gone through SAP implementations to educate,” he said. “There wasn’t a strong understanding of what it really took to implement SAP and why everyone needed to be involved.”
One of the first things he did was pass out copies of Michael Doane’s “The SAP Blue Book,” a business-guide to SAP. Doerr referenced key pages and gave a copy to everyone on the steering committee. He made it clear that a 60-hour workweek was, in these types of projects, certainly common. The team also planned a series of scheduled work during weekends.
“The 12-hour day was not uncommon, and it happened over a period of several months in a row,” Doerr said. “People didn’t take their vacations.”
In turn, it’s important to be mindful that burnout isn’t just a problem for internal employees, but the consultants hired to work on the project as well.
2. Give Them a Reason to Believe in SAP Success.
How do you get people to work that hard? Give them a reason to believe, Doerr said.
Senior management made it a top priority to communicate the importance of the SAP project. The CEO had lunch with the project team. In turn, the president of one of Gambro’s global business units conducted three town halls with the project team to explain its strategic importance, and the president of Gambro’s other global business unit had informal meetings with some of its key members for the same reason.
The message from these senior leaders was the same—- the Americas is a strategic growth region for the company and Gambro needed a scalable system that will enable growth. The project team was very motivated by the personal attention from senior management, Doerr said, and by being part of such an important, strategic initiative.
“What really helped was giving people a purpose and a belief,” Doerr said. “I think people are willing to work extraordinarily hard, if they understand why.”
3. Involve Subject-Matter Experts Not Only with Smarts but Passion.
The importance of having the best people on the project can’t be underestimated.
“These projects demand a lot of the individuals participating,” Doerr said. “You need people with a real passion to succeed.”
Functional SAP experts need to know not only how to implement Warehouse Management (WM), but exactly what the company wants WM to do to enable a specific business process.
And that requires involving strong subject-matter experts, with not only a solid understanding of the business process and what it will take to get it to the next level, but who also have the passion to get there.
I’d like to know how your team has ensured business and IT collaboration on your SAP project. Drop a comment below, direct message me on Twitter @cbjorlin, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.