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Preventing SAP project delays - 7 tips to supercharge your RAG document

By Simon Davies

If we carry on tracking this well against our plan we are going to run out of green printer ink.

Okay, I know that printer green is made up of yellow and blue - but then the joke doesn’t work.

The quote itself cropped up while Avtar and I were talking about a weekly status report.

It was a nice-looking status report. Very neat, not too much commentary - all looking pretty good. (All looking pretty green in fact!)

The problem was that the Red, Amber, Green (RAG) status against each of the lines didn't really stack up with the meetings we'd been having during the week.

Things looked green, but they didn't feel green. Why?

  • Were people being overly pessimistic when we spoke?
  • Had things been turned around since our meetings?
  • Were people just too optimistic when they completed their report?

Maybe it was a case of rosy-coloured status spectacles (or more precisely, emerald coloured!).

It got me thinking - sometimes when we kick off a programme the milestones are so far out in the future it feels  we don't need to worry about them for a while.

But in reality the decisions we make - or fail to make - at the start of a programme have a direct impact on our ability to deliver in the future.  We plan forward, but it still has to start somewhere. The clock starts ticking from day one.

Yet somehow, at the start of a programme, doesn't it just feel like we have more time?

Still, the day comes that you hit (or fail to hit) a key milestone and with that, word goes round from somewhere up top that the project is “officially” delayed.

But in truth, when we look at the cause of the delay it’s hardly ever just one thing.

It's lots of little things slipping by a day here and week there which overtime conspire to create that one big shift to the right.

So why is it only months down the line that someone makes a big announcement saying the project is delayed?

Are we just too relaxed early on? Don’t we notice things slipping?

I have heard people try and justify this lackadaisical approach to the start of projects:

“You have to pace yourself”.

“If people work too hard they’ll burn out”.  

And, my personal favourite

“It's a marathon, not a sprint”.

Good point - but how many marathon runners do you know that start with a target time, leisurely stroll for the first 20 miles, then make a madcap sprint for the finish when they realise they’re behind?

That doesn’t sound like a plan for success (unless you class success as getting scraped off the floor by St John’s ambulance).

So how do we stop this incremental slippage?

Maybe if we look after the hours and days the weeks and months will look after themselves. Here’s are 7 places to start.

Try a different perspective to prevent SAP Project Delays

When i think about my perfect looking RAG, could something so complex ever really be all green? Look for the inconsistencies or the incongruous to prevent SAP project delays, such as:

  • Costs - are we tracking to our forecast consistently across everything?  Is an underspend a saving or a worry?
  • Resourcing – are all the roles being filled in a timely fashion?  Late resourcing can mean late deliverables, and project delays.  Are there any hot areas for resourcing? Should we raise a risk?
  • Morale - arriving late, long lunches and leaving early? Number of people off sick? If people aren’t getting the work done a delay to your SAP project is just around the corner.
  • Language – how are people describing the way things are going and how they are feeling?  Any one talking about being stressed but reporting green?

When does a risky plan start to cause SAP project delays?

Review the plan along site the outputs of the process for managing Risks, Assumptions, Issues and Decisions (RAID). How many risks do we have recorded against each area of the plan? As you read through the descriptions, ask yourself, are they consistent with the RAG status for that area.  An overdue, high impact, high probability risk stating ‘There is a risk we will not be able to exit design phase if…..’ yet the status green? Is this process being actively managed, and accurately reflected in the reporting? If you don’t get this right a risk can quickly turn into something that will delay your SAP project.

Dependencies that could delay your SAP Project

It’s all green but is anyone considering the cumulative resource requirement?  One requirement for 50% of someone’s time is a big ask. Particularly if they already have a day job.  Two for 50% of the same someone just created a key person dependency. Three plus is bust, simple as that.  But how would you pick that up? And is anyone really thinking about it? Before you dismiss this point, it happens, I know - and it will delay your SAP project.

SAP project Milestone anyone? How about a checkpoint to combat delays.

RAG status is not just for a horizontal. Step back, try a vertical perspective and ask yourself does that column stack up?  Does the number of ambers add up to a red at a programme level? Do the comments match the colours?

Read between the lines.  What are we starting to tolerate now that could cause a serious delay to our SAP project in the future?

RAG me now or lose me forever - proper tracking prevents SAP project delays

What gets measured gets done?  If so, start measuring it from the start of your SAP project and make sure it gets done.

Avoid amber to avoid SAP Project Delays

“Now, open your mouth and can you please NOT say ‘Aaaah’ for me.”   

We know that sometimes proceeding on amber can get you into trouble. Once in a while, try avoiding amber all together.  Stop sitting on the fence, be decisive and call it red or green. If it isn’t a hell yes - green it’s got to be a red. Deep dive on anything you are not bright green on. Your SAP project will thank you.

Remember, trust your SAP-sense when it comes to preventing project delays

Gut-feel that RAG. I know what it says, but how does it feel? If we are honest - and I mean really honest - most people working can tell when their SAP project has been delayed. Just because it says green on paper doesn’t mean everything is miraculously going to be alright. If you can feel things slipping, things can go badly wrong quickly.

Instead of waiting, take action today and do something to put your SAP project back on track and prevent the delays before they happen - even if your RAG does have an awful lot of green printer ink.

If you need help tracking your project and prevent delays, then try our SAP PMO Services.

PMO for SAP


by Simon Davies

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