Who makes the best AGILE SAP scrum masters?

24 May 2010

Mark Chalfen

Mark Chalfen

Former SAP S/4HANA Global Lead

If you are considering implementing some SAP functionality via the AGILE methodology one of the first decisions you need to make is the appointment of your scrum master (project master in old money).

There are two main options here - you can bring in a scrum master who does not know your industry and will probably not know SAP. The other option is to cross train an existing project manager in your organisation in the AGILE methodology. There are obviously pro's and con's with both options and ideally within time you would have an experienced scrum master who knows, the methodology of AGILE, your organisation, and your software.

So let's start with a scrum master with no experience of SAP and your organisation. For them to play a successful part in your implementation they need to be flexible to learn quickly how your organisation works and the technology you are implementing on. At the same time, they need to provide a strong and clear message to your entire business of the benefits of the AGILE methodology plus they need to gain support of the methodology by all key stakeholders in the company (not just the project). OK so this is quite a task, and let's not generalise here, people and employees are individuals. Some scrum masters can adapt quicker and more efficiently than others. There are a number of risks here, the scrum master not being flexible or has not got the high level approval of the approach within the business. It is sometimes good to have a fresh pair of eyes, and if the project is sold in the right manner to the implementation team and business community then their support of the methodology will in turn help the project and the change aspect of the methodology.

The other option you have is cross training an existing project manager. If this is the approach that you plan to take my first suggestion is after the project manager has been cross trained, they playback the methodology to the key business users and the whole implementation team. A working party need to review how this could work to either accept the new methodology as a whole or try to amend the approach so it fits the current organisation. The benefits of cross training an existing project manager is that they will know the project team and the key individuals in the Company. The relationships that have been built over time should help the project manager sell the new methodology to the stakeholders. The key to the sale of the methodology to the business, is the buy-in (understanding) of the benefits of the new methodology. If the project manager can get their support, the sale to the rest of the company and implementation team would be easier. The key downside to this, is that the project manager does not have any real experience - they only have text book experience. Would you have your lead CRM functional consultant role be delivered by a user who had not done it before?

The role of the scrum master is critical to the success of the implementation. The whole project team need to be trained in the methodology. Following the process to the letter of the law may be hard first time out. The expectation levels of the project should be set accordingly, it will be hairy; people may be waiting around for work to do, or issues to be resolved, but as with everything the more you do it, the better you become.

So if you are considering switching from a waterfall methodology to an AGILE methodology, the choice of project is also critical. Doing this on a brand new implementation of new functionality would be a substantial risk, however if there was a small stand alone piece of functionality that needed implemented that would be a more suitable project to test drive your new methodology.

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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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