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Implementing SAP-GTS: you can’t do it alone!

Implementing SAP-GTS requires a mix of business process expertise and knowledge of SAP-GTS functionality, configuration, and tools. “True”, you might say, “but how is this different from implementing any other SAP module or product?”

The difference is, that the business processes that are supported by SAP-GTS are not primarily within your company’s control unlike, eg the order-to-cash process. Sure, implementing order-to-cash processes in SAP-SD can be highly complex and you may need to comply with specific regulations that are imposed for your industry or geographical location but all these rules and regulations are usually relatively static and very well understood by the project team that will be implementing them in SAP.

In my experience this isn’t necessarily true when it comes to international trade.  Very few, if any aspects about how goods are shipped internationally are at an individual company’s disgression (maybe with the exception of negotiating incoterms and form of payment).  The primary aspects of international trade processes are controlled by tariff systems, trade regulations and other company-external requirements and forms, some of which are almost constantly in a state of change.  Keeping up with the latest regulations and understanding what they mean for your implementation of SAP-GTS requires expertise that neither the in-house SAP experts nor the business group may have, especially if your company currently uses brokers and freight forwarders to handle paperwork, classify materials and determine duties.

As a result, to make your SAP-GTS implementation a resounding success, you should ensure that, in addition to having SAP implementation experience on your team, you also have the business process knowledge of an international trade expert.  This expert will be able to ensure that your materials are clssified correctly for license determination, duty calculation and reporting (something an SAP expert like myself would not be able to do). They will also be able to guide you through regulations such as ITAR, 10+2, mandatory electronic communications with customs, etc that may impact international trade for your country and/or industry.

In other business processes “this is the way we’ve always done it” or “this is how others in our industry do it” may be a feasible approach for defining processes in SAP but in international trade the only way to ensure you’re compliant is to know the law and know how to apply it and to have the international trade expert working with your SAP experts to ensure your processes are configured correctly in GTS.

This can be a lot of work but ultimately it is the best way to ensure that your company has a thorough understanding of these processes and that things are done right.  Remember that making a mistake in international trade is like making a mistake on your taxes: your tax preparer (or import/export broker) may have made the mistake but the IRS (or the customs authorities) will hold you accountable, so it is better to fully understand and control the processes yourself using SAP-GTS than to expose yourself to additional risks by letting third parties handle your processes for you.

My next blog will focus more on the benefits of GTS as well as tools and documentation that are available to help you with your implementation.

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