What happened to my SAP Project? Let’s start by firing my Lowest Price Configuration Bid! A Saturday night dinner conversation!!



Saturday night and visiting with some family members from the other side of the table. One is quite adamant, when he learns that I worked for SAP, that SAP is “Just an Finance System” and doesn’t  handle change orders or manufacturing logistics.

I feel my ire rising as I explain that Sap has a strong Logistics presence, it easily handles change orders (not their kind of change orders, the Uncle protests. He is talking about the kind of change order where an order changes after the sales order is made and before the goods are shipped). I shake my head. This is a social gathering , but again I can’t resist talking about SAP Change Orders from the variant configurator to Engineering Change Orders, Recipe Editing and so on.

Uncle shakes his head. Is this new in SAP he asks? I answer that these functions including all for the reporting on these function had been in SAP at least 15 years, maybe longer.

He insists Change Order were not available in SAP and they could only use what SAP was created for: Finance.

Boy, did someone blow it! Here is a typical company. Nothing fancy but an old school Electrical component manufacturer and they were sold a bill of goods.

Not only were they poorly trained, but they spent their valuable project dollars on building weak and limp interfaces to a series of systems. Systems, they had intended on replace when they purchased SAP originally. But rather than learning what SAP offered and how it could be set up to meet their needs, they probably contracted with the lowest priced configuration team, did a poor job in training themselves before the Project began (because their own IT staff did not “buy into” replacing the 150 “Good” patched homegrown systems they had tweeked and tweeked and re-tweeked for the last 20 years. They did a below average job of training before the “Go-Live” portion of their project and the building and distribution of Reports were dismal.

If only SAP had reports, the Uncle moaned. If only they could look at data from SAP and all of the legacy systems they had continued to maintain after they went live.

If that was my company and I had heard that company, I would:

  1. Fire my current SAP Configurators. Make sure they are replaced with a proven strong team. Interview each and every member of the team you are bringing in. Your company does not want to be a training site for newly hired configurators!
  2. Train a select group of internals what “thinking outside the box” really means and provide them with written 100% support of any and all management over the heads of the team. Make up a set Progress Meeting dates
  3. Pick a primary Project Team from the best of the best of my Company and send them offsite to determine a strategy, especially of what they had learned about SAP to date.
  4. List the important aspects of what they must accomplish in SAP including reducing the number of systems they were maintaining outside of SAP.
  5.  Train the Project Team in the Applications, Integration and Configuration of SAP. Make interfaces and special programs a “Last Case” scenario, not a follow the path of least resistance. The Project Team cannot be afraid of the decisions they are about to propose.
  6. Before the Re-Project begins, establish a Reporting strategy to control every aspect of configuration. No Configuration step is made without first testing it against the reporting requirements.
  7. Set up a Super User and End User training scenario. Start Training and maybe re-training some people. Every company has some old-timers that refuse to do it the new way! It is a time to be harsh if need be!
  8. GO!

In addition to these steps, I would guarantee that while on the project, the Team Members are “ON THE PROJECT” and not pulled 15 ways. The must be dedicated in each and every phase. If they are pulled away from this important task, then someone in Management is not fully supportive of the investment that the Company is about to make in SAP and the Company’s future!

I was so disappointed to hear that SAP had been set up so shabbily at this little Electronics Manufacturer. He acted as if they were they only Electronics Company that SAP had ever worked with. He had never even heard of ASUG or various SAP User Groups.

I reminded the Uncle that if they built a house and when the house was complete, if it learned or a wall fell in or the foundation cracked that they would not stand around yelling at the bad hammer. The owner of the house would seek retribution from the carpenter not the tool. SAP is a tool and works. It works well in a variety of environments. We just need commitments, our brains, know our business and a little forward thinking before we undertake implementing SAP.


Another Class Graphic!: Sources of SAP Data

Frequently in my SAP Configuration classes, I draw this simple diagram on the board.  When we are trying to fix a challenge or shortfall in the data, it is always necessary to understand what was the source of the data.

Knowing where the data originated is half of the struggle to correct our Reporting and Implementation problems. It is certainly easier to correct a problem than to build an ABAP program or make some fishy “down & dirty” code-modifying solution!

Hey, I don’t hate code modifications or User Exits, I just believe half of them are unneccessary and weaken our initial SAP Implementation and the on-going project.

SAP as a Data Source: You typically don’t change any of the information that is provided by SAP: Client ID, System Date, User Name.

Master Data as a Data Source: Using Account Groups, you can control what information is captured in the Master Data of objects like the Customer, Vendor or Material and more!

Configuration as a Data Source:Of course, the data captured in Configuration is far-reaching: number ranges, document types, clearing procedures, defaults and so much more. Review any number of test transactions and determine what was the source of that data.

USERS as a Data Source: But the MOST DIFFICULT to control and predict is the End-User provided data. This is typically where your largest problems can originate, especially if you fail to properly train your User Community!

Transaction Code se13 is also a helpful tool in determining what information is being stored from the results of the transaction.

Please, as always, I appreciate your comments and questions and especially the tips and tricks that I try and share here!

IBC Education Store now Open!

These are good friends of mine. Their Organization ALWAYS produces the best SAP service and Instructors available anywhere! Bar None!
IBC is excited to announce the roll out of the IBC Education Store which can be found at https://www.ibcllc.com/course-catalog/.  Through our close partnership with the SAP Authorized Education Partner program, IBC offers the highest quality educational experience to our customers. Whether a customer is looking for a public class, virtual class or computer based product, the IBC Education Store is the place to get it all. The store offers educational products for all of SAP’s solutions including the SAP Business Suite, Business Objects, HANA and Sybase. There are six primary education offerings: classroom, virtual classroom, eLearning, Subscriptions, eAcademy and Online Knowledge Products.

“We are incredibly proud of what has been accomplished to bring this vision to reality. Many months of hard work went into the creation of this new channel. While IBC has been providing most of these products for years, the Education Store will provide our customers a simple and user friendly mechanism for identifying and purchasing the education they need.” Todd Barber, Managing Partner, IBC.

Integrated Business Consulting, LLC (IBC) is a Certified Small Business founded in 2003 with the goal of providing the most talented Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) functional and technical experts in the Commercial and Federal industries. IBC has extended into other focus areas including State & Local Governments, Retail, Transportation, High Tech and Aerospace & Defense. IBC provides consultants with exceptional knowledge and experience in multiple ERP packages (SAP, CGI Federal’s Momentum Financials, and Oracle E-Business Suite), Business Intelligence, Quality Assurance/IV&V, and Management Consulting. Additionally, IBC has been an SAP Authorized Education Partner since 2010. As SAP’s primary provider of instructors since 2007, IBC has the largest staff of certified instructors in the program.

SAP Graphics I draw on the Board! Helpful Hints to Success!

SAP Project Triangle     (<–Please click this link to view the SAP Project Triangle!)

When I teach an SAP Course, I use two diagrams that I draw up on the board at the beginning of class. The SAP Project Triangle is one. The Sources of Data in SAP is the second and I will cover that shortly. Both are simply diagrams, but very helpful in class and when pulling together a project!

I believe that many SAP Project, start by an analysis of the Client’s reporting requirements. This assists the Project Team in defining what the Organizational units (what is a Company? What is a Plant? What is a Cost Center?) are and how does the Client’s existing internal structures, translate into SAP.

We know that we can not create a single piece of Master Data (Customers, Vendors, Cost Centers, Material Records, Fixed Assets and so on) without first defining our Organizational units. Once the Organizational structure is defined, we can begin the definition of the Master Records.

One of the earliest bits of SAP we learn, is that transactions are just combing the information found on two or more Master Records(More to be covered in the Sources of Data in SAP Diagram coming soon), From a Sales Order to a simple two sided journal entry, the user simply provides the Master Record IDs and the rest of the necessary information populates the transaction.

It is at this point we consider what information has been populated in the SAP Data Base tables. If we are missing a key piece of data, we return to our design and adjust the Account Group, Field Status Group or some component in configuration that will allow the data to freely flow into our reporting tables.

The information that is required in our Reporting tables forms the foundation of our configuration. Those that chose not to consider what information is available for standard Report at the conclusion of the design phase, does a disservice to the client.

You must build a house from an architectural design plan, you plan a vacation trip on a roadmap: you would do nothing less on an SAP Project. But boy, do I hear that it happens and people just start building away without ever considering the consequences, especially if they believe that someone can “write an ABAP” or laughingly “Download to EXCEL” to solve the problem of their poor planning. They get to the end of the project and look to their reporting requirements from the Users and then exclaim “Darn SAP…they have no Reporting” because they didn’t follow the simple roadmap when they began!!!

Back soon with more. Don’t forget to click the SAP Project Triangle  above!!

Training (alas) is not Consulting…

Training (alas) is not Consulting…

Really? This was the Class you took?

Last week I taught a class and the entire (almost) last row, had been using SAP for almost a decade. Their system had been set up and was live. They had purchased a “Pre-configured”, Industry solution and immediately began to throw in modifications, z-programs, user exits, etc. etc.

Was a Pre-configured SAP system what they needed?

I have no idea.

But the fact that they spent bazillions on consultants to change and change and CHANGE the system says NO. Somebody did a good job selling a product.

That will be a topic for another blog.

Besides, the sales person that probably inked that deal and sold the SAP product, could sell any product and might not have had any real interest in SAP as a solution and may be off selling shipments of industrial spot removers or failing mortgage futures by the time this is written or by the time the “Solution” was being installed.

And what about the Consultants? Did they play a part in this opera of Corporate Dissatisfaction? Was it their role to get SAP in and running while make it look like the Clients’ legacy system? Transfer knowledge to the User staff? Train anyone?

That will be a topic for another blog.

Besides, the person or group consulting on that the SAP product, could probably consult on any product, be it CRM, SEM, IBM or any other TLA that you threw at them!

(Get the feeling I am miffed?)

As far as the attendees went, they were attentive, asked good questions, discussed solutions, accepted the presentation and went away knowing little more than some new tips and tricks, instead of a large portion of a set of CORE SAP applications. But they had responsibility as well. They SHOULD have found out if this over-view course of basic basic quick basic SAP functionality was going to give them any clues they needed to find the answer or the directions that would lead them on their quest.

They could have called and asked SAP Curriculum what this course was about, or the Course Instructor or ASUG Members or someone: Will this course present the type of information that we will need at the level and depth that we will require with our advanced knowledge of SAP, to help use SAP to our advantage and make better decisions?

I suspect, they would have been better served by finding an empty hotel room, having pizza and Chinese delivered in and had dozens of whiteboards and coffee set up and then tried to create a plan!

This course and especially what SAP has said is LEVEL 2 course material, will rarely have sufficient data to really take you underground to see how SAP works. There just is not enough time during the span of a week.

Everyone was happy with the class and evaluated it so. But the Instructor knew that this group had some basic issues and sometimes the best solution is to throw everything out the window and start again. When I heard the phrase “Well we are trying to please these (Industry-Type here) old-timers and they just don’t understand how costing works or allocations or secondary elements and they want to see it the “old way”, I knew I had a problem. When I heard, “Oh, we modified this and created this Z transaction and wrote this Z program, I knew I had a problem.

Well I don’t have a problem. They are gone. I have the guilt that there is little I can do to make it better. No, they and their company have the problem and I can only imagine what they will do to fix it!.