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Want to make your ERP go-live bulletproof? Do it remotely!

BloggausUnlike the Olympics, an ERP go-live is all about winning. Our project team has been challenged by the pandemic during the go-live preparations. Working daily in extraordinary conditions, we endeavoured to venture into the unknown, fighting all the risks and obstacles. In the end, this resulted in superior team cohesion and very sharp focus, despite the fully remote mode. The lock-down situation pushed us towards creating a cutover approach, which simply works.  

Episode 1: The front-runners

Our first go-live was going to be extremely challenging for several reasons, even before COVID-19 kicked in. Our business owner nicknamed us “Front-runners”, because we were the first S/4HANA implementation in the company. We served as a “testbed” and an important pre-requisite for the 10-year long implementation roadmap. Our scope covered end-to-end processes in the areas of production, global supply chain and logistics, maintenance, finance and reporting as well as the enablement of over 50 business critical integrations. The original plan for the first go-live was to locate the project team consisting of over 300 persons in three main hubs in Europe, South America and APAC, in order to secure the best possible result. Travel plans were already in place.

Despite the exceptional situation caused by the pandemic, the project’s business owners made a bold decision to proceed with our go-live, despite the additional risks. The cutover PMO took action to entirely re-think the cutover execution approach to meet the constraints of a fully remote work environment. “Thanks” to the COVID-19 situation, we also became the first ones to manage an S/4 go-live completely remotely.

It involved over 300 team members executing their tasks from home. Most of us were scared of failure. Fear of failure, among other factors, boosted the team’s performance and resulted in superior interpersonal cohesion that was achieved in an online collaboration mode. Towards the culmination of the business go-live, the team performed as an orchestra. During the 48-hour blackout period, we executed over 1500 tasks and met all the targets that had been set. There were less than 20 issues encountered, which is a very low number for a project of this magnitude.

Ingredients of success

A well-prepared detailed plan, risk management, remote collaboration methodology and extraordinary team performance were the key factors behind our success. The remote execution mode was appreciated by most team members, as well as the business owners. Remote collaboration unexpectedly enabled the “team becoming one” and synching up to the common “cutover heartbeats”. We reached greater team cohesion compared to face-to-face environments, which was not expected when all team members were located at their homes.

Episode 2: No plan B

The “specialty” of our second go live was the complexity of the solution architecture. There were so many interdependencies in the cutover activities, that the cutover team consisting of very senior integration and functional experts, concluded that roll-back was not possible. This meant that we literally had no plan B, and we had no other choice than a successful go-live. There was a temporary relief in the lock-down measures caused by the pandemic. However, the management decided to follow the #fullyremotecutover approach, because it worked almost miraculously in the first go-live. It felt safer and more predictable to rely on the same approach, despite the fact that the second go-live had very different challenges. We adopted our remote execution methodology and approach to meet the new challenges and mitigate possible risks of failure. The success of our second go live proved that a fully remote cutover can be called “best in class”. After we went live very fluently and almost seamlessly, it became apparent that the success was not a miracle or a coincidence, but rather the result of a well-planned and orchestrated performance by our project team.

Episode 3: Go-live in the middle of holiday season

The project team is going full speed towards the final planned go-live, which will take place on January 1-3, 2021. This is going to be the final mile for our team – and it is not going to be an easy one. Planning go-lives at year end is always a challenge. The project’s final mile combines the challenges of two previous ones, and it is already decided that it will be done completely remotely. What was scary at first – now turns out to be the comforting factor for the execution team. Making people available to perform their tasks during the holiday season, is much easier if no commuting is required. There are also savings related to travel. Therefore, the story of the fully remote cutover continues. We are keeping our fingers crossed for the last mile.

Project background

The article is based on a real customer case. The customer is a leading global player in the manufacturing industry, with strong international presence and a well-developed supply chain. The customer is using SAP R/3 as their enterprise back-bone, with multiple business critical applications integrated towards it. The project is aimed at implementing S/4HANA – a new version of SAP ERP software, to support company growth and build synergies in global finance and consolidation. The scope of the project includes all key SAP modules (production, logistics, maintenance, finance and reporting) and the implementation of business-critical integrations to support end-to-end processes. The project was initiated three years ago. It consists of three major go-lives and is now undergoing the final mile towards the last go-live planned for January 2021. The author has been leading the cutover PMO and acting as a core team member in the program.

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