The Role of Communications Management during SAP ERP Implementation

By Benson Sifuna

thCommunication is defined as the activity of expressing ideas and feelings or giving people information by the Oxford Advanced Learner’s dictionary. Communication plays a huge role during SAP ERP implementation since it is a huge project that brings together several people with different skills, mindsets and aspirations. SAP ERP is not a typical project where managers call the shots and expect results from juniors. Every single stakeholder under SAP ERP implementation is actively involved in the actual implementation exercise. There is therefore a need for proper communications management during the course of the implementation.

What is Communications Management?

Communications management refers to the aggregation of activities to ensure that project information is generated, collected, disseminated and stored in an appropriate and timely fashion. The nature and extent of communications management will depend on the communication environment. The most suitable communication environment during SAP ERP implementation is the open communications environment where information relating to the project is shared freely among all the project stakeholders. A communications management procedure is then set.

Objectives of Communications Management Procedure

Goal setting is one of the most important functions in modern organizations. Goals and objectives are usually set in accordance to the overall mission statement of an organization or in accordance to the vision of projects. The overall vision of the SAP ERP project is set at the Project Preparation phase of the ASAP implementation methodology. This vision shall then guide the objectives for different activities and systems within the SAP ERP project. The following are the objectives of a communications management procedure for an organization that seeks to maximize shareholder value through implementation of SAP ERP:-

To ensure that all Project Documents is appropriately Logged in

thThere are three implementation methodologies for SAP ERP. These implementation methodologies are: the original SAP R/3 procedural model, the ASAP implementation methodology and the Agile Implementation methodology. These SAP ERP implementation methodologies are listed in the order of their introduction to the business world. The need for documentation is appropriately captured in the ASAP implementation methodology. In fact, a complete phase is exclusively set aside for blueprinting. A communications management procedure helps an organization implementing SAP ERP to log in all documents in an orderly and appropriate manner. Documents that are required to be logged in include the ASIS and the TO be documents, the client sign offs after each stage during implementation and questionnaires.

To ensure that all Project Documents are Well Organized and Secured

Organization of documents during SAP ERP implementation goes hand in hand with their security. A communications management procedure clearly stipulates how all documents relating to the SAP ERP project will be organized and secured. Security of project documents is important as it protects vital information from falling into the hands of unauthorized people with ill motives.

To ensure Proper Cross Referencing of Documents

Cross referencing of documents is important as it ensures that a clear trail of the different SAP ERP implementation activities is left. This will come in handy especially when errors are detected in the Final Preparation phase of the ASAP implementation methodology during testing. Efforts and resources to track the source of errors will be significantly reduced. Proper cross referencing will also help auditors provide assurance on whether the SAP ERP implementation methodology was conducted in accordance with the ASAP implementation methodology roadmap.

To ensure that Documents are Handled in an Efficient and Timely Manner

Documents such as sign off papers are vital in determining whether or not there will be movement from one phase of the SAP ERP implementation to another. It is therefore suitable for these documents to be efficiently processed within the allocated time. A communications management procedure will help in the processing of documents in an efficient and timely fashion.

Contents of the SAP ERP Communications Management Procedure

The communications management procedure contains different information. It identifies all the stakeholders who need project information. A stakeholder map in a typical SAP ERP implementation contains the following stakeholders: the project sponsor, the steering committee, the project management team, the project work groups and the staff in the client organization. The information needs of each stakeholder group shall then be identified and a communication role is allocated to each of the stakeholder.

thThe project sponsor will need information on the key decisions made during SAP ERP implementation and information on any milestones achieved. The information needs of the steering committee are similar to those of the project sponsor. However, the steering committee will be updated more frequently on relevant information to do with the SAP ERP project than the project sponsor. The project management team will need information to do with the status of the individual project activities. The will need detailed project reports. The employees of the SAP ERP project will require information on the progress of the SAP ERP implementation project.

The SAP ERP communications management procedure will also give a detailed account of why the information is needed. Information required is simply not set without giving a basis of need. The reasons why the different stakeholder groups need the information are listed.

The media for communication is also included in the SAP ERP communications management procedure is also listed. Media for communication refers to the ‘vehicles’ used to channel information from one stakeholder group to another. The media could be hard copy documents or emails. Hard copies are preferred to emails especially when all the stakeholders are in one site. Emails are used when the SAP ERP implementation exercise is in different sites.

Communication activities that will take place in the SAP ERP project are also laid down in the SAP ERP communications management procedure. Communication activities include project work stream meetings and steering committee meetings. The SAP ERP communications management procedure also specifies the frequency of the communication activities.

Communication is indeed vital during SAP ERP implementation. It is listed as one of the critical success factors for successfully implementing SAP ERP in organizations. Due importance should therefore be attached to communication and its role in the SAP ERP implementation exercise.