An SAP Overview Classroom Failure: What Happened? You decide!

What was this client thinking?

The theme of today’s posting is simple: Are you seeking for a Consultant to do some training because they know a little about your company and a great deal about their area of expertise or are you looking for an Instructor with a broad base of knowledge of SAP and have only had a brief review of your enterprise.

Today, after nearly 20 years of SAP Training in hundreds of locations in many different environments in several countries, my SAP Overview class disintegrated in 20 minutes!

The Client, new to SAP with a brand new SAP Pre-Configured Project facing them, cancelled their overview class saying that I was unprepared and did not know their company.

Question 1: This is an SAP Overview Class. I asked for a review of the materials days before the class start date, but they never got to me. Why not?

Question 2: No dedicated space was set aside for training even this short 2 day class. Why not?

Question 3: The class was a mixture of Executives and Senior Management. Having their support and “buy-in” is important. Were they ever informed that in an SAP Overview class that there may be topics covered that were not specific to their immediate area of responsibility?

            Question 4: The Client said they were already 6 weeks behind in their project because they dumped their first batch of SAP Implementers because they were just “1099” people. Really? Why?

I have a feeling that this class was a disaster waiting to happen. The Client said I did not know their business. If I am teaching a Sap Overview class, is that important? They are a precision metal fabricator using discrete processes and maybe some defense contracts. What else do you need to know as an Instructor?

When an Instructor asks: How many currencies do you use or how many legal entities do you have or how many location or plants do you run, that is not due to the Instructors lack of knowledge, but it is an Instructor trying to make the class as pertinent and relative as they can teach without re-writing the entire re-defined course.

There are lessons to be learned here.

SAP Classes are expensive. Good Instructors are expensive. Pay cheap, get cheap. Pay the going rate for a good SAP Instructor and you had better have a room prepared, systems that have been set up and checked and confirm an agenda with your Instructor days or weeks BEFORE the course begins. Get the books to your attendees early so they can review them and prepare questions.

Set aside time and space for a class and whatever you do, try and avoid those essential emergencies and dragging people out of class. 2 people were pulled for 2 days of one of my classes last week for site emergencies and they never caught up the rest of the week! Plan to bring in coffee, snacks, lunch. Keep the class together.

Encourage the attendees to act like a team and discuss topics that may arise in class. Have enough time in the class, for valuable discussion time. There is nothing wrong with a class going long on any day but the last day.Team work is incredibly important to a successful project. I knew I had a problem today when someone said “At the end of this class, I want to be an SAP expert!” Good Luck. Show me an SAP Expect in all of SAP and I will show you a lunatic. Don’t hire them. They are delusional!

Half or more of SAP Consultants and Instructors are 1099. Doesn’t mean they are bad. But it is the client responsibility if these 1099 people know anything about SAP or are you doing a long term training project for the Implementor at your expense. I have heard many Instructors and Consultants get the third degree set of questions to figure out if they know anything about SAP except how to spell it! Don’t kick someone out because they are a 1099. Find out if they know anything!!!

Not all topics in a class are going to be relavant to everyone in attendance, But guess what! SAP and Oracle and J.D. Edwards and all of these ERP giants are INTEGRATED SYSTEMS. You should understand a little bit more than just how to push the Purchase Requisition “Approve” button.

I asked how they planned to do reporting in their new system. No response. I asked how they did reporting in their existing system. No response? Really, Reporting is and will always be the foundation of every project and quides every single configuration step. If information is important to anyone, it should be the lifeblood of every single executive and senior manager that was in that room.

This class was one mistake by the client after another. Audience that didn’t know why they were there, lack of dedicated training time, equipment not set up, insufficient time to have an Instructor prepare to lead a 2 day discussion. The ONLY thing they had worked out was that lunch would be there at 12:00 ON THE NOSE!

At least they had their priorities in line.

Do not waste your time of your company’s time in poorly arranging the very important training that must accompany your SAP Project. Do not believe in the myth of Knowledge Transfer from your Consultants. Do not take everything your consultant says about your Enterprise as Gospel. You have some responsibility. Exercise it!

It is just too bad that this client, who has wasted so much time and money, will not see this blog or all of your valuable responses! Your responses on how to do this correctly are so appreciated!

Thank you!

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.

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.

Posting Keys, Document Types and More in SAP FI. Do I have to teach my User Community to understand German?

Every week that I teach a class, every time I visit an SAP Customer onsite, I have to explain: Why Document type DR? Why Document type KR? And on and on and on (und so weiter!)!

I explain SAP originated in Germany and to the German Business Community, DR. KR, SA makes perfect business sense to them. The same way IN and JE and PO abbreviations make sense to the Business Community in North America.

It is SIMPLE in SAP to change many of the document types the users employ everyday to abbreviations of terms they comprehend! Abbreviations that make sense to you and to your End-User Training. IN equals Invoice, JE (or JV) equals Journal Entry, BD for Bad Debt Write off or even FR for a manual freight invoice. Simple…easy…10 minutes of configuration settings.

This information is not only easier to train the User but it makes the searching for that information so much easier. I usually use the example of Ebay, which has nearly 16,000,000 items for auction and sale each day. If I were to search for pants or hat or truck, I would get thousands of choices across dozens of categories. In order to search effectively on Ebay, you must provide additional information: Men’s pants, Men’s blue plants or finally Men’s blue pants with cuffs size 36. Now I am down to a reasonable selection.

SAP works the same way, except that so many automatic transactions that use Document type SA and DR and DZ and KR as well as posting 40 and 50 that they are rendered useless in using posting key and/or document type for searching!

Yes, there are document types and posting keys you should not change but there are dozens and dozens of opportunities and changes you CAN make in the SAP FI ECC system, to make this a much easier and more profitable conversion for your Enterprise.

And with posting keys, in the automatic transactions: When SAP uses 40 debit and 50 credit, create 41 and 51 or 42 and 52 and put those into your automatic transactions! If everything is a 40 or 50, they are useless to use to audit, reconcile, search your millions or records or even find a simple mistake!

Don’t be afraid! This is why you have a QA system.

Please write with questions!

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.

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!