Tuesday, September 25, 2012

10 things to watch out for when they come to optimize your SAP supplychain. Part 3 - the last three

...when it comes to SAP supply chain optimizations, I am getting a little excited... but I don't get arrogant. I believe I know a lot about SAP transactions and what you can do in MM, PP, SD and CO. However, I would never walk into your company and tell everybody there, that what they do is wrong.

There are consultants that make a living with that statement and they intimidate their clients with their 'superior' knowledge of SAP transactions and how these should drive someones business. But you don't run a company with SAP transactions. Those are supporting tools that may save a lot of work and bring automation and provide visibility, however, if you would do everything wrong, then you wouldn't be in business in the first place and my question is: why does that consulting company not run a business like yours? when they know so much better how to run your business?

Beware of business improvers... get an SAP supply chain optimizer to optimize your SAP supply chain workings and not a business theory guru who never ran a company in his life (in some cases never worked in an SAP system either - isn't it amazing how these people get by undetected?)

We SAP consultants need to help you with your SAP supply chain and clearly lay out the options you have available with the software you aquired for so much money. These options are the replenishment, planning and scheduling policies one can configure and setup in SAP, so that they support and help to automate the business processes which have worked well for you over the years.

so... Eigth: "An SAP supply chain optimizer enables your user to execute your existing business process more efficient and in an automated, time and cost saving fashion - they do NOT change the way you are doing business (Thank God!)".

Ninth: "Your user needs coaching, not schooling"

There is no doubt in my mind that every Person using SAP needs continuous education on the subject. It is too complex of a system to ever know everything about it.

Where I differ in my opinion with some consultants is how that education should be done. A training class with slides is good for the SAP novice but not for someone who knows some things well and other things not at all. How does that trainer, with his/her standard slide deck, know what the experienced user knows by now and what they need help with? Therefore a 'canned' training class is not very effective.

What I believe works very well is 'coaching'. A coach shows empathy and puts himself into his subjects shoes. In football a coach works with the team as well as with the individual. So it should be in the SAP supply chain. We need more coaches who can make a supply chain team work in harmony (to fight the bullwhip effect) and guide the individual (planners, buyers, schedulers) to supply chain excellence, caring for the individual's need for education.

In my mind that kind of thing can not be achieved with a bunch of 'methodic' training classes and a subsequent testing program where everybody gets a certificate to pin up on the wall. By the way: testing people is for the Department of Motor Vehicles when they ensure that everybody has basic driving skills. Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel didn't get to be exceptional through certification; they got there with a lot of help from coaches. And it usually does not work that well when you try to build a positive environment that is conducive to empowering the user. Especially when some users fail the test - who knows why? Bad question, nervousness, questions unrelated to their job, confusing or mediocre teaching beforehand? - and subsequently have to fear for their job security and therefore: their livelihood (be careful teaching consultant; about what you are doing with other peoples lives!).

Get a coach who can listen and help, not a teacher who shows up to tell you how things are done... and then does like a tree and leaves.

And Tenth: "a rigid methodology does not work for an optimization"

What's absolutely disturbing to me is how some optimizers go out there with their methodology in their bag and then they walk through your door and say: "here is what we're going to do..." ( ok, they might spend a few days pretending to understand your SAP setup - and maybe even your business - in a so-called assessment that they charge an arm and a leg for).

Then they pull out a powerpoint presentation and talk about how you "need" to change your course of action. Here is a guy who has never stood by a production line; and he talks about how you should "value stream map your heijunka pull". Nice graphics too...

Don't sign up for an optimization based on buzz words. Get them to show you measurable results. Don't sign up for a three months project to optimize your supply chain. What kind of an optimization is that? It can't be done in that time and all it means is that the consultant wants an "in" so you have no "out" later.

Here is my suggestion: when they come knocking at your door, give them a chance and let them do an assessment - for free! (They want your business, right?). Then have them propose an action, not a project but an action, to achieve measurable results. Measurable results with a clear path on how to reach them.

As an example: if I were to see your SAP supply chain, I would focus on three things:

1. How do you, as a company, bring in and store purchased parts and raw materials.

2. How do you, as a company, plan for and store sellable products.

3. How do you, as a company, use the information provided above, to schedule your production

These are the three areas where you can use SAP software to optimize and automate your business and if they are not part of the pitch, you might as well ask for your time back.

Should your optimization partner talk about how they get you Process Performance (is that measured in kilograms?), Information Maturity (is there information adolescence and how should we grow up?) or come with shady suggestions to apply 'proven techniques to balance supply with demand', then you know it's shallow talk and you're in for an expensive, worthless ride.

On the other hand; if the SAP partner engages in an effort to measure where you stand in terms of replenishment, planning and scheduling strategies and, on top of that, paves the way on how you get your users educated on how to set and use the right policies in SAP - you got a worthwhile exercise to pursue. Especially if the offer includes a coaching program which ensures sustainability.

This is not a forum to promote certain consulting companys over others, however, if I may make one suggestion then it would involve Marc Hoppe, author, consultant extraordinair and head of SAP Consulting's optimization unit.

Have a read of his books. I strongly suggest these when you want to optimize your SAP supply chain - whether you hire consultants or you do it yourself.