It's SAP's way or the high road

Companies need to wholeheartedly embrace the SAP way of doing things if their implementation is to be successful.

David Lindill, manager ERP program office, Greater Asia region for Kodak, which is 70 per cent through a global rollout of SAP R/3 ERP system, said not adopting this sort of mentality could be the downfall of a project's success.

"You cannot change SAP to reflect the company's current processes as the deployment will fail. Companies need to embrace SAP and not try to change it too much."

During Kodak's implementation, Lindill said, the company decided to keep doing some things the 'Kodak way', not the 'SAP way' and had problems.

Paul Hawking, chairman of the SAP Australian User's Group, said most of the problems companies come up against with SAP centre on people issues; "They underestimate the impact of the change".

"Training is the biggest concern."

Ally Thorne, IT manager at the Wine Society, agreed that training, and staff who did not understand the software are top issues that need to be overcome during a SAP implementation.

"It's a big process and people don't understand this."

The Wine Society implemented SAP R/3 in 1998-99. The system was fraught with invoicing problems and in its 1998/99 annual report the society said there was a cost of more than $1 million in unforeseen expenses.

Lindill said invoicing had been a problem at Kodak too.

"There is a demand to provide a physical invoice with goods (in Australia) and SAP doesn't do that. We had to create a system to do this."

Hawking said that, in his experience, if there are technical issues during a SAP implementation, it is usually due to trying to get legacy systems to talk to SAP.

Lindill said Kodak did not go down this road. Instead they chose to make changes on the legacy side with minimal changes to SAP.

He said this sometimes resulted in a long lead time, about nine months for the Australia rollout, which is due to go live on July 1.

"It took six months to make changes to our manufacturing system, ForthShift. There was not much SAP development, there were only 20 changes to SAP."

* Next week Computerworld reveals the story behind Kodak's global, single-design SAP implementation.

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