What are the real reasons behind the project you are working on?

14 June 2011

Mark Chalfen

Mark Chalfen

Former SAP S/4HANA Global Lead

As a consultant, you are sometimes drafted into projects where the business users are the main blockers. Some might feel that their job is on the line because of the project you are working on. This is a hard working environment as you have a clear remit, but there will be resistance internally. Working with new technology can be challenging, but not having the buy in from business users only add to the challenges. When you are replacing one system with another, comparisons are a natural mindset. Again where you have business users who are confident using an existing system with existing business processes, the user community will have a negative approach to the project. Rather than seeing all the great new functionality that is available, the users will look at holes where the existing system is better than the new one. These issues and other similar ones can be easily avoided through clear and concise change management.

You don't implement a system or solution just for the sake of it

I've worked on a number of major SAP implementations. The costs have been significant and at times there has been some resistance. The one thing to make clear to all those involved in the project is that, it is not being done because someone wants to. To get a significant budget from a board, a business case is normally drawn up. Typically the business case will either identify a current issue or risk within the business that the new system or solution will solve/ mitigate.

Example reasons of an ERP implementation could be...

  • Reduce the volume of current systems
  • Increase business integration
  • Provide a consistent way of working across the whole business
  • Utilise new functionality that is available in the ERP system
  • Use a single system to cope with the current business growth, or future growth.

All of these reasons should lead to an outcome.

  • Reduction in IT costs - hardware, support and licences
  • Reduction in cost to service the business - head count reduction, closing down offices
  • Improve efficiency - new functionality will increase sales, reduce costs due to current process limitations.

So to keep this content non specific, every project will have a reason or an objective. The reason or objective will have an outcome, and the objective of the outcome should add benefit to the business in either the short term or medium term.

Getting this message across

The project sponsor should be able to articulate the reason, objective and required outcome of the project. They will need to do this, to obtain the necessary funding from the board. However once they have acquired the funding, and got the project team ready a change management strategy needs to be in place.

Firstly, and most importantly the project team need to be aware of the reason, objective and required outcome. The project team is normally made up of a mixture of internal and external resources. It is important that the whole team is armed with this information. The project team need to be foot soldiers for the project sponsor, and should be spreading the messages.

Whilst informing the project team is important, to get full buy in from the whole of the business, the middle managers need to understand the reason, objective and the required outcome. From experience, a project team will take business users away from their day job, and put them into the project for the duration of the project. Where a project or programme lasts over 12 months, and in some case 3 years, the middle managers can be upset and resistant to providing critical resources to the project for this time. Without knowing why the project is being done, the middle manager will quite rightly be negative towards the project. However if the middle manager, can see that by losing a critical resource for say 12 months, the outcome would be beneficial to them in the long term, their team they become less resistant to losing the individual and the change that is being delivered.

And if you don't do it...

If senior and middle management are overlooked by the project sponsor and are unaware of the key messages they will be naturally resistant to the project. This will lead to a negative perception of the project which in turn put more pressure on the project. Secondly as pointed out before the business users on the project will see the negative aspects of the project, and will focus on them. Both of these will delay the project. This might seem strange, but in reality this actually happens. This is because the scope of the solution may take longer to be signed off by the middle managers. Further to this, the business users on the project, may look at removing from a standard design to obtain the current functionality that is not available as standard. This will increase the scope, and the cost which could delay the planned go-live. In turn both will increase the cost of the project, leading to a lower level of benefit to the customer.


So if you are on a project, where you don't know the reason of the project, the objective of the project and the required outcome ask someone that does. As a consultant you need to be armed with this information. Further to this, knowing this will enable you to design and implement the solution in accordance with the reason, objective and outcome. If you sense the business users in the project or the middle managers are being negative, challenge them to see if they know the reason, objective and outcome. By re-focusing the mind to these three key pieces of information should help remove the resistance and lead to a process where you can all work together to achieve the required outcome and add value to the customer.

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About the author

Mark Chalfen

Former SAP S/4HANA Global Lead

Mark tells it straight - as an ex-boxer, what else would you expect?  Both his knowledge and experience of SAP products allow him to cut to the chase dispelling myths and hearsay.

As a result of working closely with various SAP Finance Product Management teams on product development, Mark understands these products inside out. This depth of understanding has led to him become a ‘thought leader’ in his field; after all, it is not often SAP consultants have helped shape and develop the very product they are selling.

Having such a strong relationship with SAP alongside being an SAP Mentor and Moderator means that Mark has an extensive network within SAP. For clients, this relationship proves to be a huge advantage and leads to configuration issues being resolved rapidly.

Mark has worked on short proof of concepts through to year-long multi-million pound global roll-outs. However, no matter how large or small the project, the true value Mark brings to his work is in the guidance he provides to senior stakeholders. In essence, he assists them to implement more effective processes and drive better behaviours within their finance teams.

Helping organisations transform their business with SAP S/4HANA is Mark’s current focus. The benefits of S/4HANA are numerous, including the simplification of tasks, embedded analytics and improved user engagement. Whilst the eventual move from SAP Business Suite into S/4HANA is inevitable, the journey to it is not always clear. Mark’s ability to understand an organisation’s needs coupled with his deep understanding of S/4HANA provides clarity and eases their transition.

Bluefin and SAP S/4HANA - welcome to the one horse race

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