Back in 2005, I was part of a team that was transitioning a client to the SAP system from an IBM Mainframe system, it was my first. I was well ‘trained’ to configure the various options in SAP. I was very confident that I would be able to ‘switch on’ the right options when asked. I was local to the implementation team and was there at 8 AM. To my surprise, there was no one to greet me and I waited at the front desk. The team started arriving around noon. Everyone was flying in from all over the country! I was introduced to the team and I realized that teams were divided into processes and there were consultants for each sub-process. In my training, I was taught to configure the entire order to cash and procure to pay and I was confident with all the practice I did, I could ‘configure’ the entire system in a day, but what I saw on the ground was a total shock to me.

The blueprint started with a kickoff and I was assigned to a FICO lead to help him with the workshops. The team was comprised of 30 consultants, team leads, project managers, client teams, and SME’s (it took me a day to realize that SME = Subject Matter Expert).

For the first few days, I knew the consultants based only on their sub-process ownership vs. their actual names! The rest of the days were about planning, planning, and more planning. We were asked to identify all the workshop sessions that were required to gather ‘requirements’. The whole thing was confusing and frankly, I felt that the team was wasting time. I felt it was better to get started with configuring the system and get it done with.

But, I realized that my first blueprint workshop would be an eye-opener when we planned to talk about the ‘simple’ topic of company codes. It started off smoothly as we defined all the legal entities of the company but then questions around financial statements, credit controlling areas, dummy companies, acquisitions, mergers, sales channels, Human Resource, vendors, etc… The customer took the discussion to a whole new level. I realized that SAP implementations are not just about turning on certain functionality, but also to develop a system to enable current business structures, plan for the if’s and but’s and future company growth.

What was your first experience implementing SAP?  What tips do you have for those that might be in the beginning stages of implementation?