We were all excited. After almost 8-10 months of intense work on the response to the RFP followed by powerful negotiations on almost all the aspects of the SAP implementation, finally, we received the wonderful news that we are the chosen ones. It wasn’t done yet. Once again, the management started discussions and negotiations with the clients, their legal team and our own legal team to finalize the contract. At last, the contract was agreed upon and signed.
The scope of the SAP implementation for this healthcare organization which has businesses in almost 45 countries across the Americas, Europe, EMEA, Australia and other parts of the world was huge including modules such as Materials Management (MM), Production Planning (PP), Sales & Distribution (SD), Revenue Recognition (RR), Human Resources (HR), APO (Advanced Planning & Optimization), Project Systems (PS), Financial and Controlling (FI/CO), Quality Management (QM), Plant Maintenance (PM), and Supply Chain Management (SCM). On top of these, we also had SAP Business Intelligence/Business Warehouse, Solution Manager and SAP Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC). The nature of the project was not only complex but it was also humungous in terms of the scope of work. Geographically disbursed client and disbursed team made the implementation and the management of the project was even more complex. The worst part for me was that I was assigned as the Project manager for this global implementation with limited knowledge on SAP Business Warehouse and practically no experience in managing a global team.
My then manager lied to his teeth by telling me that many of the sites will be replicated by utilizing the first implementation in North Brunswick, NJ. I was fully aware of the myth behind his “so-called” fact-presentation. I do understand that the manufacturing law and practices are different for different countries, configuration for each plant will be different and the wide differences in governance, risk, and compliance across the geographies for a drug manufacturer. Nevertheless, I readily took the project due to the obvious reasons for my exponential career growth, if implemented successfully. As a project a seasoned project manager, I duly understood the risk of unsuccessful implementation.
As expected, my nightmares started from day one. We had a huge challenge in sourcing this project with highly skilled resources. Almost all of the resources available currently was suitable for this implementation and we were running against time to fulfill the resource requirements to start the project within 8 weeks of contract signoff. During this period, we were also engaged in prioritizing the geographies and I was able to convince the management to start the implementation from the largest plant in the United States of America requiring almost all the SAP modules. Another reason to prioritize this geography was the medium complexity of the scope of work with some complex processes related to MRP, APO, Bills of Materials (BoM), taxation, and compliance. My logic was to build something that can be appreciated but at the same time, my resources don’t get burned out for doing ultra-complex implementations. During this period we also built the strategies and the approach to implementing SAP on such a large scale, globally with a multi-cultural team diverse across the USA, Canada, India, and Belgium for clients that don’t speak and understand technical jargons and have limited to no knowledge of SAP.
The approach, though seems simple, was a complex metaphor of a repetitive process of tweaking a pre-built solution, testing the customization and handover the tested solution to the client’s non-existent IT organization. The biggest challenge was reaping the benefits of the project and communicate with the client’s IT organization of the already completed systems. The complex scenario entails innovation in terms of processes and/or strategies. Like the old saying, necessity is the mother of invention. I decided to merge the communication management process and benefit realization process despite a strong push back both from the client and my management. The management’s logic was we are venturing into unchartered territory. The merged process was simple enough to include the measured KPIs for the benefits in all the communications to the key stakeholders. For example, we started reporting the production effectivity gain in the US plants while implementation at Mumbai plant knowing that the Mumbai plant has an issue with productivity. Another such example that worked in our favor was the reporting of stock reduction over a period of time in Mumbai to the Sydney plan which was thriving to reduce their stockpile. We simply chose to report the benefits from one plant to the other based on their needs and wants. The idea was not to provide the wrong information but to lead the local leadership team to think of the benefits that their plants will get. Once we tasted the waters of merged processes, we were high and devised several processes based on the client’s need.
At one point during the implementation, I was almost convinced that the project will fail and the irony is that there was no mitigation plan. It worked in my case, however. I, along with my team worked hard to meet the objective of the project. There are many such projects which ends up with an unfavorable fate.
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