The effect of taking shortcuts on projects

By Mervyn George on August 1, 2011

As a consultant I wore two hats. The first was as the freelance resource always looking for long-term project roles and contract extensions. The second was as the face of the customer looking for ways to cut down implementation time and costs while ensuring project completion and success.

Any consultant, whether a freelance individual or an outsourced consulting house, is looking to maximize their revenue from project engagements. It’s the nature of their business. Hours are billable hours and the more billable hours you have the bigger the cut you receive. The second hat requires having the customer’s interests in mind. Although I have experienced working with many colleagues who hold the customer’s interest at heart and aim to deliver the best solution they can, I have also experienced working with colleagues who would do anything to ensure they remain billable for as long as possible. The latter comes at the expense of the customer, both in the short term and in the long term. For example, I helped a customer evaluate how their system had been pieced together after the first phase of their rollout. The consultants who set up their system had introduced so much custom ABAP code for no apparent reason and with no documentation, that it was almost impossible for the in-house analysts to interpret what had been done and why it had been done. The implementation consultants had attempted to secure their involvement with this customer by not disclosing their design activities. So much for getting the cheapest consultants on board.

There are many shortcuts project teams can take during an implementation. During solution design, they can avoid thorough evaluation of all possible solution options or simply stick with what they have done before. Sometimes this works, but in most cases you will miss out on newly released standard functionality that can be very beneficial. Lack of research leads to unnecessary custom developments that could have been solved in a less time-consuming way. Testing of new functionality can be skipped over by assuming that minor tweaks would simply work or by not performing thorough regression testing. It may seem mundane but testing everything is always a good idea, provided you have the time and resources to do so. Training efforts can be slimmed down as well, especially during schedule planning and content preparation, which affects the basic understanding of the most important people in your implementation – the users. Never underestimate the time required to prepare training content, visual guides, presentations and also to deliver the training over various skill levels and to a range of audiences in different locations.

While shortcuts seem appealing during a project they quite often have short term and long term effects. The short term effect is a delay to a project deadline, based on extra time spent to correct minor errors. The long term effect is having to continuously revisit the same flaws in your solution based on a couple of bad decisions. To repair these flaws you may have to use additional resources in trying to fix what should not have been a problem in the first place. Even worse, you could find yourself in a detrimental situation where you cannot roll out upgrades or new features because of those bad decisions. You may also need to retrain a segment of your user community.

Planning correctly is always the most important aspect of SAP implementations. In fact, we quite often observe (but usually ignore) how important planning is to most aspects of our lives. If only we could obey our logical side and not let other factors get in the way.

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