In this kickoff to the Walking the Tightrope podcast series leading up to the Managing Your SAP Projects 2013 conference, we speak with SAP platinum consultant Kevin Moore about lessons learned from a large-scale global SAP consolidation.
Ken Murphy: Hi this is Ken Murphy with SAPinsider, and I’m pleased to be joined by Kevin Moore, who is a platinum SAP consultant. Kevin will be a speaker at the upcoming SAPinsider Managing Your SAP Projects event in Orlando which begins on November 20th. He will be presenting a session on managing large-scale global SAP consolidations, specifically talking about a project with UCB where he was one of the project leaders.
Welcome to the podcast, Kevin.
Kevin Moore: Thank you Ken.
Ken: Kevin helped UCB as one of the project leaders for a large SAP system consolidation project resulting in the successful migration of users, processes, and data from three separate legacy SAP systems in three countries to a single global SAP ERP system.
Kevin, can you talk about the importance of team structure in a large-scale consolidation like this. What is it about the global aspect of the project that perhaps changes the approach for constructing a project team?
Kevin: For a global project such as this, it’s very important to align the teams globally and locally. You have the obvious things such as time zone differences and locational differences, in our case we had seven sites in North America that all had teams and then we had the global team, most of the global team members were either in Belgium or Germany or somewhere in Western Europe, so building teams where you have that cross-ocean approval process and review process it’s important to identifying up front in who the key players will be so that as you’re going through your project, you understand who the key points of contact will be, what the documents will look like, what the deliverables will look like, and who will be approving each one. So it’s very key to understand that from the very beginning of the project so that the assignment of duties and tasks and due dates are all understood by all.
Ken: I’m curious if there’s a key learning you can share about the project, something you wish you had known when you started?
Kevin: Well, with this kind of project of course it’s a lot of work and it’s even more work than you probably expect, so one of the key things is that if you have the opportunity to bring some of your better business resources into the project full-time, it would be a definite advantage, and then back-fill those positions in their normal jobs. So one of the key things is being able to have users that are available to the project at all times, or whenever needed so that they can fully focus on the project because the timeline moves very quickly and response time is very important.
Ken: What would you attribute the main reason for UCB’s success with its consolidation? Anything spring to mind as perhaps more important than something else?
Kevin: Well, a number of things came to mind. First of all senior leadership, this project had full support from senior management within UCB. They had clearly identified this as a strategic effort, a business critical effort across supply chain, finance – we had 12 domains, 12 functional areas such as sales, finance, manufacturing, quality, all those key areas – and leadership was there from a senior level and that cascaded down through the team. We had great people on the project so during our resource selection process, we were very diligent in trying to find the best resources we could find. And then also we made a lot of focus on the data, we were able to migrate from three different legacy SAP systems and migrate all that data into a live fourth SAP system fairly well. It took awhile to get that done, but in the end that became very successful and key to our cutover and our go-live success that we had and without any serious business interruption.
Ken: Let’s talk for a moment about some benefits. What are one or two of the key benefits that UCB has realized from this project?
Kevin: Yes, they realized a number of benefits. We started out with a global template approach, so global processes. We were able to get to a single chart of accounts, three different legacy systems all had different charts of accounts. We also went to global master data from a material master, a customer master, a vendor master. Those objects came in with one source, so now all the sites were operating with similar data. We were also able to implement many of the inter-company processes. With SAP the inter-company functionality is very strong and deep and they were able to leverage inter-company process vs. being on separate systems or third-party processes. So those were some of the key benefits for the projects and the results of the project.
Ken: Kevin, as an SAP platinum consultant in your experience even apart from this UCB project, is there a common mistake you see clients making that can usually be avoided?
Kevin: Yes, I think one of the key things is begin able to identify the right people for the project. We had the opportunity to select resources from multiple providers, multiple consulting firms, and we were able to find the best resources for the project. So I think sometimes it’s the people that drive the project, it’s not necessarily SAP. SAP is a strong solution, it’s not perfect and people aren’t perfect. But when you get the right people on the project and you have great leadership from top management on down and throughout the project, then you can be very successful. So I think that the people were the key to getting the project done.
Ken: Again, this is Ken Murphy with SAPinsider and I’ve been speaking with Kevin Moore, a platinum SAP consultant who again led a global consolidation project for UCB. Kevin, thanks for joining us today.
Kevin: Thank you Ken.