SAP Business One Implementation – Winning Strategies

By Dattatreya R.Kulkarni Posted July 11, 2016 In Management

1. Executive Summary

Implementing SAP is a business led initiative and not an IT project. It is a journey which starts with building of a business case for implementing SAP, getting required internal approvals, followed by identification of the partner and several other preparatory activities before project start. Matters like identifying project team, key users, creating a detail project plan follow. Executing a project successfully is not a matter of chance but a function of several critical success factors (CSFs) which when addressed well, forms a winning strategy.
Whereas majority of large enterprises have already moved to SAP platform years ago, the Indian Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) is actively engaged either in evaluating solutions or implementing projects.
This paper is intended to be brief guideline for such SMEs, who can, hopefully, make use of these learnings gathered over two decades of experience in this domain. It is assumed that the business case exists in the SME and the company has decided to adopt SAP Business One solution.
Those who may have read the article “SAP Business One – The Right Solution for SMEs” at http://tinyurl.com/zsp7tnh may note that the critical success factors (that are being covered in this article) were mentioned towards the end of the article.

2. Three Key Constituents

As evident in the picture, the three constituents of successful implementation are:
  • Choosing the right product
  • Top Management commitment towards the project
  • Working with the ‘right’ implementation partner
Further to this, there are certain project level strategies that need to be adopted to ensure smooth execution.

3. Choosing the ‘right’ product

SAP Business One is a robust and flexible ERP system that comes from SAP. It has world’s best practices incorporated. It is quick to implement, easy to understand, has low total cost of ownership and has a solid road map for the future. Hence, choosing SAP Business One makes lot of sense for any SME. Please refer to “SAP Business One – The Right Solution for SMEs” at http://tinyurl.com/zsp7tnh to know more.

4. Commitment of Top Management

SAP Business One is indeed the right solution for SME and has immense potential to make a big impact on the company’s performance. Decision to choose SAP Business One is the first step or decision taken by business owners. Top management should continue to participate in the key activities undertaken during the project execution. It is observed sometimes that top management leaves project execution to its team alone. Unless the team is headed by a very senior person who understands the business inside out, it may become difficult for the team to drive the project by themselves. Sometimes critical decisions are required to be made or a conflicting situation between two departments needs to be resolved. Such situations, if not handled on time by the top management, the project is likely to get stalled.
It is highly recommended that top management communicate to the entire team that implementing SAP Business One is a high priority activity. It should back this up by allowing key people to spend the required time on project related activities. Further, it should perform regular progress review meetings to ensure that things are moving forward as expected.

5. Choosing the ‘right’ Implementation Partner

Committed top management team is key to the project. Equally important is to identify the right implementation partner who can guide you through the implementation smoothly. There are certain criteria that you should be considering at the time of choosing your implementation partner.
5.1 Business Knowledge
SAP project is an initiative that has to be led by business process owners. The primary objective of this initiative is to bring about process improvements, increase transparency, improve productivity, and cost reduction and so on. However, each company may have its own specific business drivers For example, some companies may implement SAP primarily to control inventory, and some may do it for batch traceability, some for tight budgetary and cost controls and some for monitoring order (project) wise profitability.
Hence it is important that your partner should have good knowledge of real world industry processes and practices. In case they have experience of working in your specific industry vertical – even better, though it’s not really mandatory.
5.2 Competency in SAP
SAP Business One is a comprehensive ERP solution and comes packed with rich functionalities. It is a robust application that helps companies adopt best practices. At the same time it offers enough flexibility which enables mapping of very unique requirements of companies.
Your partner needs to have expertise on the product capabilities (different business modules and inherent process flows etc.) & flexibilities and should have technical skills in order to ensure that the product is leveraged to its fullest while delivering the business solution.
5.3 Approach towards Implementation
It is very important that both you and your partner look at the SAP project as a business initiative and not a software project. The project team (though part time) needs to be made up of employees who are experts in their respective business processes.
Your partner needs to deploy consultants who can understand business language and communicate effectively.
5.4 Customer References
Partners who can offer references of their existing customer base to a new prospect make it easier for the customer to evaluate both the partner’s capabilities as well solution fitment.

6. Project Level Strategies

Implementing SAP is a joint effort between the customer and partner. They need to work together as a unified team with common objective. There are certain important factors that need to be taken care of while executing the project, which have been elaborated below.
6.1 Project Management
Like any other project, SAP implementation also needs to be tracked and monitored regularly. Customer and partner need to work out a detail project plan, share it with concerned stakeholders and review the progress frequently.
It helps if the customer appoints a project manager who can ensure that things are getting done on time. Even though there is no need for a full time SAP team, it’s important that the key business process owners dedicate time for this project as and when needed. Management needs to support them fully.
Usually there are five key milestones of an SAP implementation project. Completion of these milestones should be tracked and if delays are anticipated, then appropriate actions need to be re-adjusted. The Go live date is the target towards which the entire team should be working.
6.2 Prioritizing business needs
Companies should follow the 80:20 principle while finalizing their own process flow needs/requirements. They should focus on those key processes/issues (20) which when addressed takes care of a large (80) part of their requirement. It helps if the needs are classified into “Must Have”, “Optional” and “Nice to have”. Instead of trying to address an entire laundry list of requirements (containing all three categories) in the limited project time span, they should prioritize and focus on the “Must Have” ones to begin with.
Trying to achieve everything in one go usually leads to unnecessary delays in the project.
6.3 Keeping the solution simple
It is during business workshops that the solution starts taking shape. It is important that the partner shares best practices with customers during these discussions. Equally important is for the customer to have an open mind. It is likely that some of the current practices may have to be modified or sometimes discontinued.
Another important aspect to keep in mind is to keep the solution as simple to use as possible. Complicated transactions/screens can discourage the users and can potentially delay the solution adoption.
6.4 Master data accuracy
Quality and accuracy of master data plays an important role in making the implementation successful. During the project phase, customers are required to collate their key master data like items, BOM, vendor, customer, chart of accounts, price list etc. in simple excel templates. This is an important task and takes time if done properly. Customers should give this activity the due importance and assign the right people to work on this and deliver good quality and accurate data. If compromises are made at this stage it is bound to lead to incorrect transactions and reports eventually.
6.5 Communication with business partners
Companies work in collaboration with their business partners – they could be customers or vendors. When a company decides to implement SAP, it is recommended that it communicates with its business partners well in advance about this plan. Implementing SAP leads to a disciplined way of working by following set processes. For example, if the suppliers have not been following a certain process with respect to their documentation that accompanies the goods, they need to be informed in advance that the company will not be able to accept goods without documents any more. This will give sufficient time for the supplier to change its way of working.
6.6 Teamwork
Implementing SAP is a team effort. It is critical that the company identifies the right people for participating in the project work as and when needed. This team should work cohesively within itself and with the consulting team from Partner’s side. Together, the customer and partner should become a unified team trying to achieve the very same objective of implementing the solution within timeline and budget and ensuring quick user adoption. All members of the team from customer side should be subject matter experts who have authority to make decisions under top management’s guidance.

7. Conclusion

Choosing SAP Business One as the solution for your company is the beginning of a journey with its first milestone being successful implementation of the solution. As discussed here, top management’s commitment and working with the ‘right’ partner are two essential and critical decisive factors. Once the project starts, it’s important to follow certain project specific strategies as described above to ensure smooth implementation within timelines and budget.
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