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How to Know It’s Time to Switch Your SAP Implementation Partner

Switching your SAP implementation partner is a big decision. It involves a lot of stakeholders and requires people to admit they made the wrong decision. It can be messy, uncomfortable, and costly. Add to that the risk that your next implementation partner might not be a better match for you.  You’ll also likely be jaded from your first partner.  But, sometimes it is the right thing to do. So, how do you know when it is time to change your SAP implementation partner?

In my experience with more than 20 years of successful takeover and green field implementations, there are usually three telling signs that indicate it’s time to look for someone new.

3 Signs It’s Time to Switch Your SAP Implementation Partner

1. Design and Build Activities Churn and Miss the Mark

As one of the first tests of your partnership, the ability for your SAP implementation partner to quickly connect with your team to draw out your organization’s requirements is critical.  The team must be aligned on the project objectives and success measures by the time the design is finalized.  By this phase of the project, the SAP implementation partner should have demonstrated their understanding of your business needs, a straightforward solution design, a solid implementation plan and approach, and the capabilities to execute.

If you have doubts about the quality of the work, or the partner’s ability to work well with your team, it’s time for a checkpoint.  You may even consider bringing in an independent third-party to conduct an audit. This is usually a one-week engagement, designed to ensure you have the tools and resources to keep the project on track.

2. Frequent Delays and Budget Overruns

Once you get through design, you will have a sense for how important your business is to the consulting firm.  Is their leadership team spending enough time on-site? Do you have evidence that you can receive the resources, support, and commitment that you would expect from your SAP partner?

One of the biggest warning signals of a project going off track is habitually missed deadlines. Are milestones repeatedly missed, efforts underestimated, and/or spend exceeding planned progress? If dates are moving and there isn’t a clear business reason for pushing back the schedule, like an acquisition or change in scope, it’s time to start asking whether there is a commitment issue from your SAP partner.

3. Declining Trust in the Team’s Capabilities

The success of large project teams is based upon mutual respect and trust. Team dynamics are extremely important in your partnership. Although you may not like everyone on the team, you should have confidence in the team’s collective capabilities.  If you have identified an issue with the expertise or capabilities of one of your consultants, the issue should be addressed by your SAP implementation partner right away. If the issue is not properly addressed, mistrust ensues. Although all partnerships can have uncomfortable aspects, when trust is eroded, it’s more than uncomfortable – it’s detrimental to your project’s success.

Even if there are several cautionary signals, it’s not always the right decision to switch SAP partners.  An independent audit or quality check from SAP or another certified vendor could be one option to steer your project back on course. You may also need to look at your own team to determine if you have the right support and sponsorship for the project – and that your implementation team is staffed with “A” players.

Characteristics of a Strong Partner

If you do decide to switch SAP partners, I would suggest you look for these characteristics from your next business partner:

  • Executive-level commitment
  • Experienced resources (specifically with takeover projects)
  • Industry and business process expertise (in your space)
  • Client satisfaction ratings and referral rates

The decision to switch partners comes with a lot of consequences and it is a difficult decision to make for your organization.  There is both a risk of unknown impacts to the project timeline and the reputation risk related to going back on a previous decision. But, at the end of the day – when blueprint materials are underwhelming, you’re experiencing frequent milestone setbacks, or you’ve lost faith in their capabilities – it’s time to change your SAP partner.

If you are ready to start down the path to a successful SAP implementation or you have some questions that you would like to ask an outside expert:

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Tags: IT Strategy, SAP