I know we need more SAP Training, but is this the answer?

 

Over the last week or so, I have gotten several sincere comments from a person, from a company that offers SAP Training.

Before I release a comment, I have to review it and without fail, I have released every post, every comment, positive or negative.

Until I received the last set of three comments.

The responses said things like:

you should focus the selected specialization where you already master on that functionalists.
You need to use the previous experience of project and simultaneously upgrade up to the sap market requirement.”

I am not sure that makes any sense to me. And seeing how it makes little to no sense to me, I would be doing a disservice to release these comments. This is really the problem we face in Training today whether it be SAP or Oracle or whatever software is being implemented.

Do the Implementation partners really understand the business they are working with or do they know how they set up the project at their last assignment?

This is the reason that so many new Enterprises failed to utilize SAP Report Painter and Report Writer.

This is the reason that so many Enterprises went without the flexibility of using the Business Area (I have been hearing for a decade that Business Areas are going away! Balderdash!), setting up the Assignment field, using quick text.

This is the reason so many Enterprises even fully utilize 1/5th of the vast power of the New General Ledger with using Roll-Up functionality, using Profit Centers in FI, avoiding for special ABAP reports or silly downloads to Excel Spreadsheets, Planning in FI and on and on and ON.

Consultants know how they did it at their last project and that it what many will recommend at their next project whether it is right or wrong!

I was teaching at a Client in the last month and the “Project Manager” came it to sit in the back row. I asked if I could help or bring him up to date and he uttered with disgust as he walked away “Well I can see that SAP Training is still screwed up! We are not even going to use (whatever my colleague was talking about).

That Project Manager had it all wrong. The Client did not order a special class to reinforce what the Project Manager has laid out as the right course of action. The Client was contacted MULTIPLE times prior to the beginning of class delivery to see if there were any specific areas the Client internal Project Managers wanted us to omit as Trainers, which we did!

But our job has NEVER been to tell a Client what SAP cannot do. Our job is not to hide other solutions to business processes just so the SAP Project Manager will look good.

Our job, first and foremost is to train, to educate, to let the Client know about all of the functionality that is availability right out of the BOX. We don’t deal with user exits, special interfaces to legacy systems; we don’t solve problems that arise from antiquated Business Processes. We show Clients how to use the tools that they have been provided

We Train. We Educate. We open doors and let the client look in, see what it available and only then can they make a decision on what is the right path to chose.

I understand that End User Training is End user Training and not Project Team Training. I understand that after the decision has been made on how the system with work and respond that my job is to understand your needs, how our software meets those needs, how is it configured and design courseware that COMPLEMENTS the project.

I’m sorry. I can’t in good conscious, post a comment that says something so off base as:

Training provided by functional consultant to end user before project go live. End user roles involves like a data entry level, who creates inquiry, quotation, order, shipping and billing transaction, i dont think so additional enduser training required..”

Imagine if they can’t write a simple marketing piece, how effectively will they train you end-users or your project team? And I really don’t care if they say their name is Peter…

Write back. Tell me I am off base. I still am puzzled if all of these Software companies are selling so much, just who is doing the training. I just know it is going to the lowest bidder. I am not blowing my own horn, but I have nearly 21 years of SAP implementation FI and Reporting experience. My colleagues have equal amounts of SD and MM and you name it. Each year we teach fewer and fewer courses. These teams and these users are being trained by someone. MANY of the companies I cross paths with or who contact me every day to represent them can spell SAP, but that is about it.

It is very distressing!

 

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CA710 Report Writer offered this week in Newtown Square

 

 

I am just a little shocked and bewildered at why people have not signed up for the SAP CA710 course November 13-15, but some are taking the ca705 the first 2 days of this week.

 

I just wonder where are people getting there reports from. Where do people go for transactional reports? Do they download to spreadsheets? Are they writing ABAP code? Heaven forbid: are they doing transactioonal reporting in their data warehouse?

This is a perfect User Report writing tool that can be used throughout the SAP ERP system and these classes should be packed. But the one coming up was cancelled…

What am I missing?

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

(BLOGGER’S NOTE> THERE WAS A LONG CONVERSATION ON FACEBOOK ABOUT THIS POST> ICOPIED IT IN FULL AND PUT IT IN COMMENTS!!) THANK YOU!

 

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.

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!!

Some Rules!

I was feeling a little cantankerous this morning and thought I would assemble some “Rules” for your SAP Project. Please add some rules and guidelines you have thought helpful! These are not necessarily in order of importance.

  1. Knowledge Transfer from your Implementation Partner: Do it! Set up a regular time for it to happen. When I was a Platinum Consultant for SAP, I said when I left at night I wanted the Project Team at the Client to assemble questions for the next day. Then meet me the next morning with those questions! Sorry, but I think your expensive consultants may sit around too much. Get your moneys worth!
  2. Set up End-User Training BEFORE you go live. These can quickly degenerate into a “Complaint” session or a User attempt to set the course for the Project. Listen and note the input (I usually suggest the Users write-up their request, because like Instructors, Users like to talk. Set a Training Agenda! Give a quiz! I am not a fan of Training games, but that doesn’t mean you can’t devise something fun to help in learning SAP!
  3. Exhaust looking at as much of the delivered SAP Reports and Reporting tools as possible. Nothing is worse than hearing a group of Users download to Excel spreadsheets or worse yet, they have a “Z” report or ABAP report written esp. for them. No sooner will that report be written, then the business requirements will change.
  4. Document, Document Document. Convert your completed BUP’s (Business Procedures used in the Implementation process) to EUP (End User Procedures). Include menu paths, Transaction codes and screen prints. All will help the End-User figure out that they have arrived at the correct screen.
  5. Run a copy of all Standard Reports, so that people can review available report options BEFORE the End-User throws up their hands and exclaim in frustration “It isn’t in SAP!”
  6. Set up End User Teams to work alongside your implementation Partners and Project Teams. These chosen few can easily become your Super User Group and deflect many questions before they reach IT. Fast answers, fast response, greater productivity.
  7. Question your SAP Instructors before the class to make sure the course covers what you need to know. It won’t cover your requirements 100% but as an Instructor I wonder why I have HR people in my Production Planning courses… (as an example)
  8. Did I say Document? Documenting your procedures as you complete your implementation is one of the big myths of the SAP Implementation. The other big SAP Project Myth: Cleaning up all of the duplicate, triplicate and quadruplicate Customer, Vendor, Material etc. Master record files. So many companies just copy the same dirty, messy files from their legacy systems into SAP. Take the time to do the necessary housecleaning before the transfer.
  9. In addition to the myth of Documentation and Master Data Cleansing is Archiving. Even though we tend not to do it in North America (7 years of records, remember?), someone should at least learn the process. I have long-held that the lonliest person is the SAP Archiving Instructor in North America.
  10. Somebody on your team should join ASUG (America SAP Users Group). I don’t get anything from them, but they have great information. There are regional companies just like yours who face the same problems you will have during your implementation and oddly enough, they do share how they solved a challenge in SAP. It is amazing how many advanced classes I have taught at SAP and find that the Client does not know about ASUG. Somebody should join, go to their reginal and national ASUG meetings and then report back to the group. There should be a meeting on your site before your representative heads out where people can submit questions your representative can ask about.

So I look to you now for some rules you can recommend. I can always say that your success can be greater if you have upper Management or Executive support (for some reason they feel isolated from this process). We could discuss whether Organizational units be physical or logical to support SAP Processes. We could even answer the big question:Are we rushing the SAP Project? But we will save things for another blog entry.

I am heading off to teach a 5 day class that used to take at least 15 days and then I will wonder why the attendees look so overwhelmed and dazed come Friday.

     Remember you can eat an elephant, but you must do so one bite at a time.

Can I use SAP OLTP Reporting?

SAP Instructors get these questions with every class.

How come SAP only offers reports in CO?

Wrong! People think that since two SAP Reporting courses CA705 and CA710 use CO as a foundation to build reports from, that that is the only place SAP can provide Reporting. This can’t be further from the truth. Reports could just as easily been written in Logistics, Finance, Human Capital Management…you name it, any ERP Core process!

Is there any Reporting available in SAP?

Of course there is. SAP delivers hundred of pre-defined ABAP Lists (sometimes referred to as SALR Transactions. I have used the same report to reconcile cash applications, run Bad Debt Write-Off and Small Balance Write Off reports and on and on. ALV Screens can be designed to assist every type of Transactional User to get their hands around all the information they would ever want. Report Variants, help even the most Jr. of User “customize” an SAP List to their specific requirements!

Does SAP have any Reports?

We will not address the world of OLAP Reporting in SAP with Business Warehouse, Business Objects, Crystal and on and on. That is an entirely different website. SAP offers extensive and flexible user tools with Report Painter and Report Writer. Basically these are the same tool with Painter being an overlay of Report Writer, but Writer offers much more flexibility in Presentation of data, formulas and distribution!

SAP is delivered with again hundreds of Report Painter and Report Writer Reports, that any user with a few hours of training can copy and make them your own! When you build an SAP Library, it is linked to an SAP Transparent Table. Take a look at all of the tables available to build your reports from. And if they are not on that list, simply use transaction code “MCS7” to add your transparent table to that list, build your library and off you go! With a little ingenuity, you can even learn how to do Table Joins using the MCS7 transaction! Write me a note and I will give you the BIG SECRET!

Do we have to write all of our report requirements in ABAP? Double

NO! As soon as you get the report specifications and have written the reporting requirements ,the report has changed and it is back to the drawing board. Big waste of time and resources!

Do we have to download all of our data into Microsoft Access or Microsoft Excel?

No…and why would you want to. You can’t assure that the data is accurate, you can’t audit the data. It is easily modified in Excel and you would be forever trying to reconcile the spreadsheet with the one version of the truth you built so carefully by using SAP in the first place!

You have so many SAP Transaction Reporting options available. Use them. Share them, put them into production. Standard SAP Reporting is your friend. Learn to use it. Drop me a line and I will share an idea.

Socialization of Data in SAP

Socialization of Data in SAP

    Over the years, I have felt that one of the benefits of SAP and SAP’s User reporting tools like Report Writer, Report Painter, QuikViewer and even ALV enabled screens, was to get User quick access to data. Traditionally, a department would have to request a report, design or “spec” the report request and then wait 1 to 6 months for the report to surface from the IT Department.

    This is not a slam of the IT Department. However, because of the heavy burdens placed on that organization, creating new reports was usually at the bottom of their pile after “Brush Fires”.

    This changed with SAP. No longer would a user be forced to wait, design Report specs that would be modified anyway, and receipt a product long after the business had changed, rendering the report and it’s results useless.

    Something had to change. And with SAP and tools it offered, things did change. Data, transactional data results, timely data results could be assembled, distributed and IMMEDIATELY audited quickly. Users had a greater control over their destiny.

    I have seen organizations ban users from these tools and kept the responsibility in IT. Hmmm. Knowledge is power and access to data is power. Keep the access in IT, keep the power.

    Wrong. An Organization needs immediacy, it needs to respond. It is not the fault that IT can’t fill all requests quickly and completely. They have too much responsibility already. I have seen a MAJOR U.S. University require that all User designed reports first get “approved” by an IT Review Committee. That process could take weeks asd frequently did.

    There are tools in SAP to give Users access to data. Insure that there are many variables available with ALV Line Layouts throughout SAP transaction. Insure that each department has at least a user that understands Report Painter, Report Writer or even QuikViewer. Discourage “downloads” to Excel. There are few controls on how the data is manipulated once downloaded to the spreadsheet and they are nearly impossible to audit.

    I have seen an organization train multiple user in Report Painter and then a more advanced group converts the Report Painter into Report Writer. Report Painter almost becomes a Report Request tool. A Report “Spec” generator.

    Take a quick look at these tools. These are not meant to replace OLAP tools like BW or BobJ or Crystal. These are transactional Reporting tools meant to increase the visibility of data.

    Later I will discuss the SAP transaction code MCS7 and the importance of establishing naming conventions when it comes to reporting.

A List of SAP Reporting Transaction Codes

http://wiki.sdn.sap.com/wiki/display/ERPLO/SAP+Standard+Reports

The list above is certainly not a complete list of SAP Reporting, but it is a good list!

I also like the SAP Program RFABADAB to find SAP Lists.

I also do not try to memorize the “Salr” codes like S_ALR_8701249, but would rather use the Report code I can usually retriece from looking at the reports under Report Writer and Report Painter.

Remember, these are OLTP Transaction level reports for the most part. I will discuss the

idea of BW, BI, and the summarized OLAP data they provide in a later post.

But I really wanted to include this because Reporting in SAP is still so misused and misunderstood.

Please share this list, make additions and comments below!

Reporting in SAP

“In God we trust; others bring data.”

So few people know that there are:

  • Hundreds of SAP Lists for Production OLTP Reporting. I use the Fred Flintstone program with the menu path System-> Services->Reporting->enter RFABADAB to find many of these lists.Look at the blue help icon for Reporting type options.
  • SAP delivers hundreds of reports written using the Report Writer and Report Painter tool. These can be copied, renamed and changed easily to meet an Enterprises reporting requirements
  • Project Teams should review Corporate reports before beginning the Project and built the SAP environment so that the reports can easily present the information that people need to make DECISIONS!
  • In SAP, Data is King (or Queen depending!). User need access to information. SAP screens are flexible enough to give users access to information easily. They just need to be trained how to find the information!
  • Forget Excel worksheets if you can! How are they audited?
  • Report Painter Class is not technical and takes 2 days!
  • Report Writer Class is not technical and takes 3 days!

Trust me, I am not selling SAP Education, however, I have seen millions wasted by Project Teams have Reports written by 3rd parties that are unnecessary, slow and usually out of date by the time they are put into production.

And then what? Do you have the report rewritten? Do written a “Z” report if you really don’t have to. Have your Users learn to use the delivered SAP Reporting tools!

From my personal experience, in the 80’s I took a position as an Accounting Manager. Each month my Assistant would give me a batch of reports to “sign off” . I have no idea what they were. The reports were indecipherable. I signed off on this mess for a few months. I would sign, she would take them for retrieval at the Data Center.

One month I suggested that I sign the reports and to leave them in my office. I wanted to see who cam to retrieve them I wanted to know what I had been signing off on. Months went by and the pile of unclaimed reports grew higher. I finally suggested that she not take the time to run the reports.

After a while, it was determined that the useless reports had been created for someone who had left the company years before and yet people still followed these procedures.

A real waste of time and money.

“You can have data without operations but you can’t have operations without data.”

Inital Posting:SAP Training

Congratulations!

Part of the adventure of accepting an invitation to take part in an SAP Project is discovery. By including a search for the best SAP information by heading to the web, you have taken that important step.

Introduction.

My name is Stuart Welch; I live in the California desert, approximately thirty miles south of Palm Springs California in a town called La Quinta. My family chose La Quinta California because I was traveling with SAP nearly 75% of each month. As long as we located a home with a lower cost of living, downsized our home (2 out of 3 of my sons were either just completing college or had finished), a location with a good Airport facility and a low incidence of crime, we were well on our way! La Quinta California fit the bill.

I was employed by Prime Computer who purchased Computer Vision in the late 80’s. One of the challenges was to integrate these two sizable companies, both with an international presence, reduce the number of systems world-wide and establish a single version of the Truth. I was asked to join the SAP Worldwide roll out in 1992. The Project Team completed our SAP Training, set up a SAP Configuration War Room in Utrecht Holland and after several months of teeth gnashing and “thinking outside the box”, we went live between our US Facility, a Holland based Distribution Center and several European office locations.

I joined the Training staff of SAP Education in early 1994 and set up an early office in Waltham Massachusetts. I focused on SAP Finance and SAP Reporting. I later was certified in Waldorf Germany in SAP Business Warehouse. I earned the title of first SAP Platinum Consultant in the area of SAP End User Training and then SAP Reporting. I rejoined SAP Education as an SAP Platinum Instructor until the Boston Training facility was closed down following 9/11.

Almost immediately, SAP Education, through their SAP Education partner IBC, re-iniated contact and I have trained for another ten years as an Independent Instructor. I have also worked with many SAP Projects as a Training Consultant including the IRS and the AMTRAK SAM Project.

I learn something every time I lead a class. One lesson for example is that unless an SAP Client is willing to take the necessary steps to properly train their Project Team and the User Community, that SAP Project is almost certainly doomed to failure. Time after time, I have heard horror stories of Users leaving their office on Friday night only to find new unfamiliar SAP transaction screens on Monday morning.

I will cover additional lessons learned in some future postings.

Thank you and please feel free to comment!