NSSA goes live with $10M SAP project after two year delay

L.S.M Kabweza Avatar

IN a recent announcement, NSSA, Zimbabwe’s social security company, revealed that it had finally gone live with the implementation of SAP for its National Pension Scheme.

The project, which was started back in 2013, experienced a two and half year delay. The implementation was being carried out by Twenty Third Century Systems, a regional SAP consulting company.

Said the NSSA chairman in the update:

The Board is pleased to advise stakeholders that modules of the new ICT SAP system relating to the National Pension Scheme went live in the quarter with the remaining module relating to the Workers Compensation Fund projected to go live on 1 May 2016. This will bring to a close the delay, which extended to some 2. 5 years, in delivery of the new system to the Authority.

According to a Zimbabwe Independent article that reported on the project’s delay last year, the US $10 million SAP project was expected to be completed 1 year after its October 2013 commencement. So unhappy with the delay was NSSA that they fired their IT head in charge of the implementation.

As for the cause of the delay, apparently there was typical project management problem of consultant blaming the company for not creating conditions necessary for the completion, while the company execs accuse the consultant of not delivering as promised.

If government plans work as planned, NSSA may be one of the last parastatal SAP implementation contracts that Twenty Third Century Systems get.

Last year government acquired an SAP consulting company, Portnet, and according to reports then, the acquisition was meant to address what the ICT Minister Supa Mandiwanzira described as security threats that the government is exposed to by getting services from non-Zimbabwean private companies (a discussion triggered by the acquisition of a majority stake of Twenty Third Century by EOH of South Africa). The irony, of course, is that SAP itself is a German company.

Other parastatals and private companies running SAP in Zimbabwe include ZESA Holdings, Grain Marketing Board, Air Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund, Zimbabwe Revenue Authority, Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe, National Railways of Zimbabwe, NRZ Pensions Fund, Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation, Sakunda Holdings, Dairibord and Marange Resources.


  1. chanyane

    Starting a SAP ERP in 2013 and implementing in 2016 for a business as complex as NASSA can hardly be said to be a 2.5 year delay. How long did they expect it to take. Just the data conversion and file pick can last for 2 years, even with automated tools. I think someone is setting up the chairman to show his/her ignorance. If I was him, i would not be very kind to the PR and IT guy.

    1. L.S.M Kabweza

      based on the reports looks like there was some understanding initially that it would take 12 months. So yes, not a 2.5 year delay. an 18 month delay instead.

      1. chanyane

        More like it. My experience is that for a company the size of NASSA, even 12 months would be the first module not an entire SAP for a complex business like NASSA (i.e Industry Solution, in NASSA’s case being pension admin, a bit of medical insurance, investment module etc. plus financial, HRMS, maybe real estate management etc). I feel that the initial contracting lacked detail and a experience contractor like 21 Century probably refused to make it a fixed term contract since they are likely to have been aware that 12 months is a pipe dream. An a related issue, I have observed a generally immature approach to ERP implementations in Zimbabwe. Most clients try to cut costs by a) insisting on unrealistic implementation schedules, b) not engaging and independent project manager, c) not engaging a change manager (part or full time), d) not investing on data migration. The result is usually the overruns of the magnitude experienced by NASSA.

        1. Cruncher

          I agree. People are not realistic with these issues.
          Implementing SAP in an org. like NSSA should a probably be planned over 5 years or so and be done in phases; given the changes in processes flows that need to be done and let alone the technical implementations.

          NSSA should have engaged an independent and knowledgeable project manager to stand between them and TTCS.

          1. Freddy Ndhlovu

            Yes having an independent Project Manager is always the best for big projects like this!!

          2. King Zaka||

            So City of Harare which is using Legacy software will take 10 years to implement of the system

        2. Shorai T

          NSSA will have complex business processes. This can be seen as a delayed implementation if an out box solution was sought (rarely does it fit customer needs) or celebrated as on time (depending on complexity of modules customised). It also depends on what was in the requirements catalogue and solution designs. There will have been a lot of detail to uncover, following a waterfall cycle it could probably take 6-8 months gathering requirements only. So the project review needs to give us more detail before we can conclude that it was a delayed IM.

          Good point raised by Chinyanye about investing in a data strategy. My experience of major implementations of SAP give me nightmares and worse from data management. You are dealing with a national system and your data model and migration must almost be 100% on point. And let’s not start on future proofing. It is quite difficult to future proof in SAP/Oracle type systems. They are large and monolithic.
          This Titanic nature of them also increases cost either way the management team go. Early engagement of experts helps to mitigate down stream risk should be standard practice.

          However in general, my personal preference, particularly with public sector IT, I dislike vendor lock in systems. They make responding to tech and citizen trends slow. I appreciate they provide solid back end functions but there needs to be a strategy for newer technology that can mitigate some of this risk. I look at example implementations on other public sector organisations I work on in other countries. They are moving to a data centric model and exchange of data across gvt dpts by use of APIs, MicroServices and open source while keeping the vendor lock in to a minimum and only for back end storage/processing (i.e you want a financially accredited system to process you pension modules hence SAP makes sense) but if the whole organisation relies on just SAP, it may be recipe for issues years down the line.

          I will post about government as a platform on a more relevant article.

  2. cost per unti

    well look at this way longer period more money. dont know why the gvt doesnt penealise contractors for overruns. and peope in gvt have been know to not do real analysis before launch meaning goalposts shift and contractors if left alone will look for ways to get more money

    1. Hwindi Minister

      RARELY is software meeting all the requirements finished on time.

      1. Itaitione

        But 2.5 years no something and someone made mistakes. In the 1.5 years they should have had something online. In private industry the companu i worked for ended up demandidng the contractor add more people to meet deadlines. This was a dull oracle db and applications migration for over 750000 clients and from about 4 different vendors. Intially it worked though only 3 months after deadline did they make sure most of the bugs were sorted.

  3. Itaitione

    Ps in 3 years time the platform could have been updated. Meaning thatthe version they are using willneed to be upgradedeven 2 years after launch

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