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!.

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!

An SAP Training Thought before SAPPHIRE!

This morning, I was speaking with someone who had just started a new job and they were overwhelmed by the number of new products she had to supply and price for her Customers.

I reminded her that over the last 20 years, my attendees of SAP Courses have said usually on Monday afternoon:

“I will never get this”

“It is too complicated”

“There is too much to learn”

And so on.

On Friday of class, while they are zipping through some exercise, or building some freelance example, I remind them where they were on Monday and I usually say…”This is why they call it Training!”

Don’t forget that! I am also reminded of what I have been told is an old Indian proverb: You may eat an elephant, but you must do so one bite at a time!

I told the person that we should have several follow-up calls, but esp. one in 6 months or so and see if she still feels as frustrated.

I think she will be just fine.

Please keep writing with your Training and SAP Reporting questions. I answer them as quickly as I can. I am teaching an SAP Advanced Fianancial Configuration class next week so I might be a little slow getting back to you, but don’t give up! I will return your message!

By the way, there is a ton of valuable information and contacts to be made at SAP SAPPHIRE and ASUG meetings in May! Make a point to attend!

No reason to reinvent the wheel!

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.

What I see today…

Hello SAP Users and Project Managers and those of you considering a purchase of SAP:

    I spent the last few days reading Tweet feeds of SAP scrolling rapidly cross my Tweet page. Topics included: Data Mining, SAP HANA, SAP Mobile, and on and on they scroll and no one seems to be addressing what makes a Project successful!

     I had a conversation this morning with someone who also has worked with SAP for nearly 20 years and the problems we discussed could have been discussed in 1994 instead of a warm morning of 2013! People are still struggling with getting SAP Training for the people that make SAP run and run well: The Users. I remember holding a meeting with the executives in Education a decade ago and I asked the gathered attendees, how many had been to the “O” Training website (Oracle). No hands went up. I clicked on my Power Point presentation and offered this challenge: Lets find a class in Sales. In a few clicks, we were looking at a list of Oracle courses in Sales, the costs, the locations and an outline of what was what was to be trained. I repeated the exercise on the J.D. Edwards training website.

    I finally pulled up the SAP training website http://www.sap.com/training-and-education/index.epx and offered the same challenge. After several attempts to locate a Sales class, the gathered group conceded. The Chief Executive present said in an exasperated voice “We get the point. Move on”.

    Guess what. I heard the exact same conversation this morning twenty years later and still no solution. Companies are not recognizing how important it is to get the highest quality of education that their Project dollars can afford, that Users must be trained, before an Enterprise “goes live” (It is amazing how many Organizations fail to do this). And most importantly, it remains a struggle to navigate the SAP Education website.

    That being said, let’s move on.

    Work out a Training schedule to include first your Project Team Members. Definitely DON’T count on the myth of Knowledge Transfer. It just will not happen!

    If you are not sure of the materials to be covered, contact SAP Training and ask to speak to the Instructor, the week or so BEFORE class date.. Ask about what is to be covered. Trust me, it will not be 100% on target, but you want your Project Team to know more of what SAP has to offer, not strictly what is in your scope! Trust me, it should happen more than it does.

    The people you send to class should bring a generic list of topics they would like to see covered in the materials. If it is pertinent to the Class, the instructor will include the topic. If not, the Instructor will make time before or after class time to roughly cover associated topics. This happens. Bring a printed list. I ask for this list before every class! I am not shocked there are not more.

    Remember this is a PUBLIC training course. It is not a specific SAP consulting opportunity for just your company. But, again, Trust me! Your questions are just like everyone else’s. In 20 years of Training, I ran into very few questions that only were only relevant to a specific company. It happens, but not often!

    If you arrange for an onsite course, keep the Attendees in the classroom, without interruption. People are pulled from classes constantly and it is a loss overall to the Enterprise.

    SAP End User Training is a different beast. It is not a bitch session. If you have Users, bring in a Project Team member to answer Company specific questions when appropriate. SAP End User Training is a different beast. It is not a consulting session. SAP End User Training is a different beast is not a Project design session. If the Instructor has to deal with these issues, then you have not properly instructed your User Community on the new directions you are taking the Enterprise.

    As always, if you have questions about SAP Training, SAP delivered Reporting Tools, drop me a line. If I don’t know the answer, there is a pretty good chance; I will know where to go for an answer!

    But it starts with you!

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!

You have invested in SAP Training…

Now what?

One aspect of SAP Training that has always confused me is how an Enterprise is so willing to pay top dollar to train the users and Project Teams, but then at almost a drop of a hat, the person is yanked from the classroom to “put out a fire”!

One on the downfalls of onsite training is how easy it is to pull someone out of class. I have rarely taught a class with a full roster from beginning to the end. I don’t believe it is that the team doesn’t need the training, but it goes to Management’s Project Dedication.

If I was boring, if I was teaching non-essential information, I would suspect after teaching nearly 80 percent of each month for nearly twenty years, I would have figured that out. No. The attendee, the User, is pulled to complete a report, to bring a system up, to solve a problem. Heaven forbid if you were asked to solve that problem yourself. Heaven forbid that this employee were to come down with the flu or break a leg OR WORSE!

How would your organization survive?

Has the Management Team fully committed to this Project? Most Trainers, including myself, are paid the same, no matter if there are 1 or 100 in the class. I have had classes where there have actually been 0 (ZERO) attendees. Trust me, it will still cost your organization around $5000 per day plus expenses.

Commit to Training. Commit to the Project. Unless you have allowed months (and you have not!) to learning and implementing SAP, you need to be training. Your Users, Super-Users, Power Users and especially Project Team members, must be available to take advantage of the training. One of the huge errors and myths that arrive from every SAP Project to date is that there will be a “knowledge transfer” from your Implementation partners.

Trust me, it is truly not in their interest to “knowledge transfer” to your internals. It will not happen or will not happen well. What is their incentive to “knowledge transfer” and cut into their future billing hours?

None!

Trust me. You are not learning Microsoft Office. But SAP is not difficult. It just needs to be understood. It is harder to find someone that you can pull out Production wherever for several months that understands the flow of your Organization. Upstream and downstream! And you should not accept that SAP has failed you in some way. There are too many Enterprises in too many locations around the World, JUST LIKE YOURS, that have managed to use this tool to meet and exceed their ERP requirements.

Once you accept that, and stop accepting and listening that it was a bad decision to purchase SAP or it doesn’t work and start training your organization and looking for the answers in SAP to solve your problems, the more efficient, and timely, on budget and complete your SAP Project will be.

PS: I am not an Apologist for SAP. They can stand on their own. I don’t work for them. But two areas that are woefully failing on most SAP Projects especially in North America is Training and Reporting in SAP.

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.”