It's a question of weighty implication and no real certainty to its answer - how can an implementation project carry on to success in a world where so many things have changed? From businesses closing doors, to workforces confined to home and most seriously, the adverse human health consequences of our pandemic, there are obstacles-a-plenty for SAP S/4HANA Cloud implementation projects.
In this piece, I consider a current customer project experience, lived during early 2020, a time I'm sure will be long remembered.
Whilst the project is not yet fully complete, its lessons are valid and worth sharing. It could be the case that these observations will serve as guidance or even hope for others they come to terms with our contemporary realities.
SAP and the customer are implementing core financials and logistics for government, replacing on-premise SAP ERP, integrating to a great many legacy systems.
Aside from the initial shock, the sudden jolt to mandated and universal remote work, was something that we adjusted to quickly. A new mode of working was established out of necessity, and whilst not everything that came out of it was intentional, this recalibrated approach yielded a number of advantages:
i. One rhythm It's often the case that for those team members billeted away from the project site, a tyranny of distance constrains their ability to be productive, contribute and be recognised. When everyone is remote, there are no longer two classes of project members, instead, a single project rhythm emerges. Those remote on the teleconference are no longer forgotten. We found this simplification liberating and reassuring.
ii. Coverage and agility Aside from those blessed with inordinate budgets, it's usually the case that a project is limited to dedicated expert resources. This traditional approaches garners focus and certainty, but also comes with the limitations in bandwidth and expertise breadth. In our project experience, we substituted some dedicated resources with a virtual on-demand equivalent, giving rise to both extended working hour coverage and access to highly specialised expertise when we needed, in both cases an advantage to our objectives.
iii. Productivity tool byproducts Project collaboration is made possible, in large part, with the use of productively capability, with SAP Jam and Microsoft Teams being prime examples. Whilst technology cannot substitute the valuable tactile interaction of physical meetings, it can provide for an important and often overlooked feature, digital capture. These artefacts, which can include meeting recordings, notes, media and discussion forums provide a non-trivial boost in productivity by eliminating the need to rerun a meeting for a missed attendee or repeating a demo.
iv. A setup for success Whilst projects are often characterised by an abundance of in-person interaction, the Run Phase exploits myriad remote and asynchronous activities including participating enablement for new releases, consuming SAP Preferred Success offerings including Meet the Expert and learning with SAP Education. Adopting a remote consumption mindset during our project sets our customer up for success on the way to Run.
Even though we've weathered the unplanned change in the way our project collaborates, and enjoyed some pleasant side-effects, it can't be said that it's all plain sailing. One conspicuous feature of the non-virtual workplace we've seen is the ability to benefit from the incidentals. There's less chance of overhearing an conversation and therefore course-correcting or airing concerns at the water-cooler with a remote workforce. These are things to understand.
I hope this reflection has been worthwhile reading. I'd love to hear your own experiences.
Lastly, do take a while to look at the highly worthwhile Customer Community Virtual Collaboration content, where expert collaboration and other knowledge resources especially relevant right now are available.