Managing a Successful SAP Implementation – 5 Top Tips

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You would be surprised by how many SAP Implementations fail due to companies rushing ahead without first conducting the required planning and due diligence, or by putting a Management team in charge without the relevant SAP Implementation experience.

Getting the preparation right and getting the right team in place to manage the SAP Implementation is critical to success.

Successful SAP Implementation

To help you get things right, Eursap asked 5 leading SAP Management professionals for their top tip for Managing a Successful SAP Implementation. Here is what they said:

1) Look at an SAP Implementation as a business change program, not just an IT project!

For most companies, despite an SAP implementation being a serious investment, it often does not get the senior business management attention it requires to achieve the maximum business benefits. Often an SAP project is led by IT management, with CFO involvement to control the costs, but other business functions like Sales & Marketing, Supply Chain, Production and Procurement have limited involvement in such a project and often have ‘other things to do’. They have ‘their own’ business strategies to execute; to gain market share, manage inventory levels and WIP or achieve cost savings. They believe they cannot commit their best business people towards what they see as ‘just an IT project’.

Experience shows that when an SAP project is used as a tool for Enterprise Transformation, the business case can be dramatically improved and requires only limited extra costs. SAP projects should not be treated as pure IT projects, but as major business change programs, which require senior management commitment from every affected business function to lead the changes. And they require their Top Users to be made available for the project. These Top Users are required to identify and lead the business change initiatives like the implementation of Shared Service Centers, Global Master Data governance, Sales & Operation planning etc.

Best practice for successful projects is to use a clear methodology to identify, plan, manage and track business benefits, combined with clear responsibilities and communication.
This will change your project from delivering new system capabilities into a business change programme which is embraced by senior management and aimed for business benefits after go-live.

Peter Houdkamp – SAP Project Manager

Peter Houdkamp

2) Anticipate problems and stay one step ahead

We all know there are no SAP Implementation Projects without issues, problems, changes to people’s roles, conflicts and expectations not being fully met…all of this together can transform an SAP project’s implementation into a nightmare. Therefore, a good project manager must be pro-active, and a few steps ahead of the rest of the team, focusing on ANTICIPATING PROBLEMS is really crucial to a successful project. Managing a project is much more than controlling costs, managing people, tasks, and activities and ensuring that everything is executed on time. A project manager is not an administrative role. So how can we anticipate problems, given that project managers are not psychic?

A good project manager should:
• Be business-oriented, understanding the business, studying the company and being aligned with strategy;
• Understand the SAP project implementation goals and what the company wants to achieve;
• Be very close to the project sponsor, always questioning whether what is done is what should be done, whether it was planned or not;
• Have the capacity to adjust requirements if this will lead to real improvements;
• Follow up with people in the project (team resources, stakeholders, key users, end-users) understanding that their feelings and the way their work will be affected by the SAP Project implementation;
• Take into consideration that what seems to be a minor issue can still cause problems and reduce team productivity.

In conclusion, in all projects I managed this was my main priority: always anticipate issues and problems and take actions to mitigate them. Being pro-active: foreseeing and preparing for potential issues makes the difference!

Gil Luis Brites – SAP Project Manager

Gil Luis Brites

3) Focus more on decent Project Planning and Execution than worrying too much about selecting the right Project Methodology

Companies tend to use a particular project methodology for all of their IT projects. Given the range of methodologies available and the maturity of the methodologies and systems being implemented, the methodology chosen, in my opinion, should be pertinent to the requirements of the specific project. My thoughts and recommendations are based on my experience of two of the more commonly used methodologies: waterfall and agile.

Traditionally in SAP implementations, companies have used the waterfall approach which follows distinct sequential phases and this has worked well for most customers if they get their planning and execution spot on. Poor planning and execution results in phases not being completed on time. This invokes contingency planning when things start to fall behind schedule. The next phase then starts and overlaps with the previous phase and you have to plan and react “last” style, never a good thing. You also tend to see deliverable dates shifting to the right within a phase which may look fine and achievable in theory, but becomes unachievable in reality. This situation occurs when all of the deliverables have a due date near or on the end date of the phase. This becomes what I call the “dam wall” scenario, where everything backs up against the end date of the phase.

In a lot of current projects, the agile methodology is used. This seems to be the flavour of the day in many SAP projects and has been used many times in recent years. Agile consists of a number of sprints in which the design, build and unit testing are all done in distinct bursts. Sprints usually cover a time period of a month or even as little as 2 weeks depending of course on the size and complexity of the deliverables being developed.

The benefit of using this methodology is that with the smaller packages of work allocated to a sprint, it becomes easier to manage, design, build and unit test the discrete work packages. Scrums are held on a frequent basis to ensure that everyone understands the issues and which deliverables are currently being progressed. Slippage is also more easily visible to management and scope changes are more easily catered for using this methodology. If you haven’t completed the required deliverables by the end of a sprint then you are technically behind your planned schedule. Of course, that could just reflect overly ambitious project planning, but these items not delivered in a sprint will need to be re-allocated to a further sprint as part of the re-planning or will need to be escalated to programme management as required.

The key factors in using this methodology successfully are driven by the success of project planning. You need to be aware of the key dependencies and ensure that the allocation of the deliverables to the various sprints and the order in which they are completed is crucial to the success of the project. If the planning is not done well you will see delays, unnecessary impacts and missed deliverables which will impact the overall success of the project. Make sure that you don’t just select the easiest deliverables for the first few sprints to please the stakeholders and to show good progress against the plan. The most complex and challenging deliverables need to be given the appropriate planning time and consideration to mitigate any risk they may present. Remember that whilst it is really important to get the planning right to start with, there is nothing wrong in tweaking the content of the subsequent sprints based on what you have learnt in the first few sprints.

So, it doesn’t matter which methodology you select, the key is to get the planning done correctly from the get-go. Good project or programme managers will ensure a successful Go Live and project execution no matter which methodology is executed.

Evan Hatch – SAP/SuccessFactors Programme Manager

Evan Hatch

4) Get Business Involvement right from the Beginning of Implementation Phase – Business Acceptance is A Critical Factor for Success

A considerable number of SAP implementations struggle with business acceptance before and after go-live, when project execution takes place, due to insufficient involvement of business representatives.

Many projects are based on the classical project management methodology ‘Waterfall’ where business involvement means:
• Documenting business requirements (Business Blueprint, BBP)
• Very little involvement during implementation by SAP Competence Centre (SAP CC)
• Execution of integration tests mainly by business representatives and supported by SAP CC
• Participating and partly taking responsibility for final preparation
• Providing 1st level support for business departments during hyper-care phase and afterwards

If the implemented SAP solution does not match business expectations, it could mean the SAP CC has to do a lot of work again to correct this (with negative impact on time and cost).
Worst case: the scope must be adjusted – dependent work packages or even go-live have to be postponed.

Example: high-level project schedule

There are different options for avoiding such situations by using specific project management methodologies like ‘Agile Scrum’, however, there are given limitations, like
• Organisational readiness is not given (e.g. organizational structure, competences or responsibilities)
• Project team members have difficulties changing mind-set and adapting the new way of working
• Project character and scope do not allow a project management methodology other than ‘Waterfall’.
Often there is not enough time to establish and stabilise new project methodologies in the rush to start new projects.

My recommendation:
To gain the maximum business benefits out of an SAP implementation phase:
• Combine project management methodology ‘Waterfall’ with…
• Higher involvement of business and/or 3rd party representatives during project phase implementation by…
• Planning and conducting ‘presentation or handover’ sessions between SAP CC and business or 3rd party and SAP CC for functional unit results.

Example: high-level project schedule with ‘presentation or handover’ sessions

Preparation and Prerequisites
•  Do not document BBP in too much detail (focus on real business critical topics, allow flexibility)
•  Define smaller work packages (scope, effort, delivery date and documentation, acceptance criteria) as part of work breakdown structure (WBS)
•  Define a clear process for ‘presentation or handover’ sessions
– How to involve business or 3rd party representatives (e.g. key users, key players, externals) during implementation phase
– Define maximum number of iterations and durations per work package
– If not already provided, define functional release/acceptance criteria for each work package
•  Schedule a ‘presentation or handover’ session for each work package or for a combination of work packages

The intention of the ‘presentation or handover’ sessions is to show what the new SAP solution will look like. This is purely related to functional results, not integration aspects. But it’s more than just a simple mock up – it’s reality with real function behind it and can be used productively, if no adaptations or changes are necessary!
Results from SAP CC to business or 3rd party to SAP CC could be
•  Screen definition (e.g. for sales order entry or accounting process)
•  Screen/process flow (e.g. sub-screens)
•  Interface definition (structure)
•  Price calculation schema (e.g. sales/customer order)
•  Programming logic and more…

•  Stronger cooperation between business and SAP CC
•  Feedback from business at an early date
•  Adaptations and changes can be made directly and before execution integration tests
•  Integration tests can really be focused on integration aspects rather than on functional topics (less time-consuming)
•  Reduction of efforts and (fundamental) discussions during integration tests
•  Necessary and meaningful, but not go-live critical, topics can be put on ‘list for optimizations’ for implementation after hyper-care phase (approved by steering committee)
•  Preparation of end-user training materials can start earlier
•  Smoother integration tests, final preparation, go-live and hyper-care phase

Although the ‘presentation or handover’ sessions do not provide results which are immediately available for business use (like Scrum after sprint reviews), it is proven that this approach does improve the acceptance by the business of the transition from ‘old to new’. It also gives a better understanding of the new SAP business solution by the business.

Rolf Kössig – SAP Project Manager

Rolf Koessig

5) Get the right SAP resources/team in place

An SAP Implementation team is only as strong as its weakest link, having the right resources in place is therefore essential for a successful SAP Implementation project. You need a top team built to attend to the wide spectrum of threads that need to be woven together, from political dimensions, organisational change management aspects, project management perspectives, technical topics, operational pragmatism, quality requirements, business process engineering, to create the final tapestry/deliverable that is a satisfied constituency of shareholders throughout the business, driving improved profitability on a business process platform engineered for the future.

A few important considerations when hiring resources:
• Don’t just hire Consultants with the relevant SAP experience, hire Consultants who also have the relevant business process/industry-specific experience
• The continuity of retaining the same team members throughout the project can be a huge asset. Where possible hire local resources or those who clearly motivated and keen to join you and relocate for the foreseeable future (high staff turnover and having to replace key members mid-project can really set you back)
• Use “tried and tested” resources from your trusted resource partners or own network.
• Always hire Consultants with strong communication skills. Communication and understanding are essential for a successful SAP implementation, even for team members in non client-facing positions.

Andrew Paterson – Chief Information Officer

Andrew Paterson

We hope you have found this blog helpful and wish you good luck with your SAP Implementation!

Please keep in mind that Eursap can help you find the right SAP Project/Programme Managers to lead your SAP Implementation project to success. We can also help you with your other SAP resourcing needs, whether they be for in-house employees or temporary external SAP contractors. Get in touch with Eursap – Europes specialist recruitment agency to discuss your recruitment needs today!