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Practice Makes Perfect with SAP Projects

by Amanda McKeon

November 4, 2011

By Amanda McKeon

It’s the last day of Managing Your SAP Projects 2011 and I’m happy to look around and see that mostly everyone survived the week in Las Vegas! The week went incredibly smoothly and everyone seems thrilled with the amount of information they received in the sessions.

I sat in on Jill Mikros’ case study “Three Projects in One: Inside Johns Hopkins’s Upgrade to SAP ERP 6.0, SAP NetWeaver BW 7.0, and SAP SRM 7.0.” Three upgrades at once is certainly an accomplishment, but the unique aspect of this project is the fact that Johns Hopkins was one of the first customers worldwide to implement SAP SRM 7.0.

Identifying the scope and business case for the upgrade

First, Johns Hopkins had to determine why it needed to upgrade. Mikros listed the following reasons:

  • SAP standard maintenance was running out
  • Users were dissatisfied with the current SAP SRM 4.0 experience
  • The company wanted new features and functionality
  • Could no longer influence SAP on a retiring product
  • Nearly all other peers had already upgraded

Johns Hopkins decided to focus on the technical aspects of the upgrade first in order to limit the disruption to the business. The company learned a lesson early on by missing the deadline for the SAP SRM 7.0 Ramp-Up program. Because of this, they would have no opportunity to influence the product. SAP still provided a Ramp-Up coach, however, which Mikros said was very useful.

Designing the staffing model — Internal and external resources

Johns Hopkins appointed an internal project management team, because they wanted to manage the project themselves, though they did hire a consultant as an upgrade advisor. Because of the SAP ERP 6.0 maintenance being extended to 2020, they realized that upgrade skills were not required to keep the system operational, so they outsourced technical expertise with a combination of on-site and off-shore consulting service.

Creating a project plan and timeline

Johns Hopkins’s team collaborated with the technical consultants to create a project plan and timeline, including a walk-around roadmap, which was a visual of the major project activities (the actual roadmap was handed out to attendees in the session). The timeline did follow the basic ASAP methodology, and included major maintenance and support activities. Mikros encouraged project managers in the room to implement a similar visual roadmap at their companies because it was so effective.

Leveraging the tools used to execute the upgrade

Johns Hopkins used a variety of tools to assist with executing the upgrade, such as:

  • Third-party issue management and wiki collaboration tools
  • An “RBE”-like tool to generate helpful data and statistics
  • A data copy tool to prepare for the upgrade and testing
  • SAP Solution Manager to get familiar with tools already owned that could retire existing custom tools
  • And more!

Diving into strategic project decisions

A landscape design was one of the first major decisions made by Johns Hopkins and a sandbox was built months before the official start of the upgrade. A communication workgroup was also formed to track progress and develo p the content.

Mikros pointed out two things that were incredibly important to their success in the upgrades: Cutover practice runs and SAP Enterprise Support Services. By using mock runs, the company was able to get a clear idea of what the actual software would look like and what problems users would run into. SAP Enterprise Support Services offers upgrade services to assist with a smooth upgrade including downtime assessment and Going Live functional upgrade and implementation analysis.

Mikros left the audience with a few words of wisdom: “Practice makes perfect.” She once again encouraged the attendees to take advantage of the tools SAP has to offer as well as providing detailed, visual aids for the members of your SAP project team.


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