More about Deepak R M
Deepak is an SAP Program Management Leader and a Senior IT Executive with a solid 16+ years track record of leading some of the largest and most complex SAP transformation programs in the world. Often dubbed as "Mr. SAP" he has rescued FOUR large troubled SAP projects that were on the verge of failure. Over these years he has served his clients in the roles of SAP Program Manager, Trusted Advisor, Head of SAP Transformation for North America and also Head of IT which include Fortune 500 clients. He is the Managing Partner of iii Technologies and dedicates 100% of his time in heading SAP program for one of our signature clients. He has held several executive and leadership positions including 8 years with SAP America. He has two national awards for contributions in science and technology industry. He received a Master of Science degree in engineering from Purdue University.

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Smart Practices to Deliver a High Quality Blueprint on a SAP Project

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Blueprint phase of an SAP project is where you define the business processes and operating procedures for your company to support the corporate growth initiatives and also to adapt to the new SAP system that will be implemented. I often refer to SAP blueprint as the foundation for the success of your project. This is where you define your business requirements, set expectations from the new system and gain alignment of the key business stakeholders with the capabilities and expected output from the new SAP system. I will review some of the pre-requisites that companies should follow prior to entering a blueprint phase. If you haven't met the pre-requisites in the planning phase of the project, you can still fulfill these in early blueprint provided these will not impact the estimated delivery and overall schedule of the blueprint phase.

Pre-requisites to SAP Project Blueprint

Defined project leadership roles and responsibilities: To the minimum your SAP Project leadership for the blueprint phase should comprise of Executive Project Sponsor, Project Manager, Business Lead, Org Change Lead and an IT Lead. Also make sure that there is a Client Partner or delivery executive from your chosen SAP systems integrator who is accountable for the successful delivery of the blueprint. The responsibilities of each of these leadership roles should be clearly defined in the project charter.

Identified Key Business Stakeholders: The steering committee of the project should already be established by now. The organisational change team should work with the executive sponsor, steering committee and business lead to identify corporate leaders who will be directly or indirectly impacted by the new SAP system. Example of stakeholders may include VP of operations, VP of Sales, VP of human resources, Director of e-commerce, etc.

Selection of SMEs and SAP functional experts: There is a heavy emphasis on the business workstream during the blueprint phase. It is important that the business lead and executive sponsor have chosen the best associates from the company as the Subject Matter Experts (SME) for the project. These individuals will be responsible to explain the business processes and requirements for the new system and also communicate the output to seek alignment with their respective business stakeholders. Make sure that each of the business work stream has at least one SME.

Defined high level business requirements: It is very important that the SMEs and business leaders have defined very high level requirements that you expect from your new SAP system. These requirements should include requirements around key business processes and requirements that support important steps in these key business processes. I strongly recommend that these high level business requirements be included in the blueprint Statement of Work (SOW) in the scope section. These requirements will also serve as a starting reference in scheduling blueprint workshops and initiation of future state process design and requirements gathering work sessions. Your SMEs should also be able to explain the AS-IS business processes and conduct a walk-thru of your current system. If any preparation is required, then this should be done prior to start of blueprint workshops or even better in the project planning phase.

†You will not be able to utilize your SAP system integrator resources in a effective manner if you delay the high level requirements gathering into the blueprint phase. So make sure you have defined the high level business requirements which are ready to be presented in the initial blueprint workshops.

Reviewed and signed Statement of Work(SOW) for blueprint: The Statement of Work (SOW) should be complete and mutually agreed by the SAP customer and the systems integrator. The SOW should clearly describe the scope of the blueprint phase and objectives. The organization structure with the key project roles and responsibilities should also be explained in the SOW. Make sure that it also has all tasks and deliverables that need to be delivered along with acceptance criteria and RACI chart for review and signoff on these documents. I strongly recommend including critical success factors, quality gates and phase exit criteria in the SOW to avoid any ambiguity.

Alignment on Methodology and Tools for SAP Blueprint: A lot of SAP systems integrators have their own proprietary SAP implementation methodology most of which are enhanced adaptation of SAP's ASAP methodology. My preferred methodology is ASAP methodology. Make sure that prior to blueprint your project leadership has understood the blueprinting approach, deliverables and other execution details per the methodology chosen for the project. Make sure your executive sponsor consults with the project advisor or your corporate CIO to decide on whether your systems integrator or ASAP methodology should be used for the project. The key basic approach, deliverables and output remains the same irrespective of which methodology your project had adopted.

Video: Smart Practices for High Quality Blueprint on SAP Project - PART 1

So What Constitutes a

Successful SAP Blueprint

I look at the completion of SAP project blueprint from two perspectives, one which is the SAP Advisor's point of view and the other being the business side of your company.

As a project advisor, I see that all BPRD (Business Process and Requirements Document or also known as BPD) documents are completed, reviewed by the SMEs and sign-off by the business leads. Organisational Change team have addressed expectations and concerns from all the business stakeholders that were planned to be completed during the blueprint. Business team has produced a finalized RICEFW inventory that can be used for estimating the realization (design & build) phase of the project. Project has also created a business requirement traceability matrix. At the end of blueprint phase, I also like to see that IT team has created the SAP Development environment which is ready for use including the SAP ECC, PI, BI systems and also the SolMan. Finally I expect that all issues and risks are either closed and select few are deferred to the next phase. To me as an advisor, it would also mean that project has passed the Q-gate reviews and steering committee has approved the output of the blueprint.

For your business leadership, successful completion of blueprint would mean that all the high level requirements that were defined in the SOW during the planning phase has now been transformed into quantifiable work products. So what does this exactly mean ? Its simple. Requirement gathering workshops are completed and all detailed requirements are captured in a tool or spreadsheet. The to-be L1, L2 and L3 business processes (L1 is high level, L2 being process step and L3 being the last granular detailed process step) are defined. Each business requirement has been mapped to a L1,L2 or L3 business process. A fit gap analysis has been peformed with the standard SAP packages or solutions and RICEFW inventory has been created to address all the gaps in the SAP software. Your business stakeholders (executives and business process owners in various departments) are satisfied with expectations they had set with OCM and have alignment with the new SAP system the way it is blueprinted. At the end, your project leadership knows exactly what will be designed and built in the next phase to get your business transformed to the new SAP system.

Smart Practices for

SAP Blueprint

By now the assumption is that your company has completed the project planning phase for an SAP project successfully. Most of the pre-requisites must be fulfilled as well and if not, we will discuss a few of them in the smart practices here. During the blueprint phase there are several events and project workstreams that play a vital role throught the phase. We will discuss SAP Blueprint Kick-off meeting, blueprint quality gate reviews (or milestones), activities of PMO, IT, OCM and business teams.

Blueprint Kickoff: Before commencing any activities for the blueprint, it is very important to share the vision, plan and project team expectations with your corporate leaders, project team, business stakeholders and the extended business associates from whom you may need support or direct/indirect participation during the blueprint phase. Blueprint kickoff should be 2-3 hour event which is kicked off by your executive sponsor or by a steering committee member followed by a presentation explaining what the company should expect to see during the next few months of the blueprint phase.
This SAP blueprint kickoff presentation should include the following:
  • Accomplishments during the project planning phase
  • Goals and high level expectations from the project blueprint
  • Project org structure for blueprint and roles of key members
  • High level project plan showing the timeline, milestones and Q-gate reviews
  • Business requirement gathering process and expectation from SMEs / extended business associates
  • Tools and key processes most of the project team may need during blueprint
  • External systems (non-SAP) that will integrate with SAP and role of the team
  • Introduction to Project Management Office (PMO) and their role to support entire project team during blueprint

High Quality Business Blueprint: Business blueprinting is the most crucial aspect of an SAP implementation during this phase. Your business Subject Matter Experts (SME) must have already defined the high level requirements during the planning phase or even prior to that. During the planning phase the SMEs, business leads and your system integrator functional resources must have defined the high level processes (L1) for your project. Example L1 processes can include Manage Sales Transaction (POS/Online), Manage Order Fulfillment, Manage Returns, Manage Employee (HR), Manage Payroll (HR), etc. Likewise across your business departments you will have several L1 processes. If not done already, your team leads should work with the PMO to create a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) for each L1 process and include all WBS under the "Business" section of the project plan. Workshops should be scheduled for each L1 process and its complexity. To the minimum there should be one workshop to understand AS-IS process, 1 or 2 sessions to gather future state business requirements, a workshop to design and review to-be L2 & L3 business process based on the detailed requirements gathered earlier. Business team should create a BPRD (Business Process Requirements Document) for each L1 business process. The BPRD should contain business process (L1, L2 & L3) with process flows and narratives. If you have captured business requirements in a spreadsheet then the spreadsheet should be referenced within this document. The BPRD should also have SAP solution fit-gap analysis, internal and external integration, master data consideration and any organisational impact that OCM team may need to address with the business stakeholders that own this process. SAP functional team should analyze the requirements, processes and do a fit gap analysis with standard SAP module or solution. The requirements traceability matrix should be updated to map all L1/L2/L3 business processes with requirements which can now be used further to map with the RICEFW objects identified from the fit gap analysis. Ensure that each business requirement is fulfilled by either standard SAP solution or a RICEFW object. Once the BPRD is complete with processes design and fit-gap analysis, it should be sent to the SMEs and business leads for approval. I recommend that the BPRD be shared with business stakeholders who may own the new business process for review. The BPRD should be updated with business feedback and sent to project leadership for final approval. Some projects apart from business process have major master data components. For example: SAP Tax & Revenue Management (TRM) implementations have "Maintain Taxpayers" which is maintained in SAP Business Partner component which is a master data. The blueprinting of these Master Data components should be very similar to business process, but instead of BPRD you will have a MDRD (Master Data Requirements Document) for each component. Your project should have a Solution Architect who is responsible for overall SAP solution architecture and integration of all the internal SAP business processes with each other and also interfacing external non-SAP systems with SAP. Solution Architecture document is another key deliverable that should be delivered as a part of blueprint which should provide a high level picture on how your entire SAP solution hangs together and communicates with the external systems.
SAP Blueprint Phase

Effective Project Management: A disciplined and well managed PMO team plays an important role during blueprint to ensure delivery on time and within budget. It is very important to have a good SAP Project Manager with prior SAP implementation experience. At the very beginning of the phase, PMO should rollout and train the project team with tools and processes to capture business requirements, maintain risks/issues logs, report time and use the document storage medium for the project. PMO should also train the team leads to update the WBS and progress of activities on their respective work plans. I personally like to see what deliverable each project team member has been working on a weekly basis. As such I expect PMO to work with each team lead and gather the progress on each work plan task (and deliverable) with appropriate resource allocation. Project Manager should ensure that PMO is working with the entire project team to resolve outstanding risks and issues. Delayed and critical issues that could impact the project progress should be brought forward for leadership review. PMO should prepare a dashboard showing overall project status, status of individual work streams, deliverables progress and key issues/risks. This dashboard along with supporting documents and slides should be presented at the weekly project leadership meeting. PMO shall follow up on all action items from leadership meeting with project team until closure. At all times, PMO and the project manager should operate under the direction of the advisor, program manager and executive sponsor by immediately acting on the recommendations by these leaders.

Blueprint Deliverables Review & Signoff: All along your SAP systems integrator was accountable for delivering the blueprint. Each workstream will produce formal deliverables which will collectively form your SAP Project Blueprint and at some point the reviewers and accountable resources per the RACI chart will need to review these artifacts. Some of the key deliverables in blueprint phase include BPRDs, solution architecture, RICEFW inventory, organisation change impact assessment document (OCM), network architecture document (IT), security architecture (IT), training plan (OCM) and organisational change strategy(OCM), etc. A deliverable should be accepted for review only when it is truly complete in all aspects. Poor quality or incomplete blueprint deliverables have been prime reason where some projects face unforseen challenges. Most common problem being complaints from the SAP customer that system is not working as per design. After review it mostly turns out the BPRD and functional specs had designed to cover scenarios at high level and detailed scenarios were lacking.
Before the business lead signs off on a BPRD, please make sure that business requirements are complete (indicated by SMEs), requirements are mapped to business process, fit-gap analysis on each requirement is complete and there is a high level solution for the business process associated with this BPRD.
To summarize, I recommend that your project advisor and program manager perform quality check on all blueprint deliverables are produced with high quality and complete in all aspects. Final approval on program management deliverables should come from the program manager and all business, IT and OCM deliverables should be approved for quality by your project advisor.