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The second to last quarter is busy for us, typically because we commit to our promises made to customers and partners during Sapphire and also in part due to the backend of the year being the time that we commit to doing all the things that we planned at beginning of the yea but haven’t yet managed to achieve. In a small company every man and woman wears many hats and in Product Management this includes being the bearer of good and sometimes bad news. You’re expected to know all the intricacies of the hellish thing you are responsible for and you should be able to apply some insight into the multifaceted capability of your toolkit when faced with a specific business challenge. That all said, our latest version of the popular Winshuttle TRANSACTION record map and run application for improved SAP usability and the mass creation and change of data is due out literally within days and accordingly every effort is being made to ensure that field personnel are up to speed on the features and factors that will help customers achieve the highest possible ROI from their SAP implementation.

I am usually airline agnostic but on this particular occasion it didn’t seem to make sense to travel to London via Paris or Amsterdam unless there was an incredibly attractive deal. The threat of a BAA strike also played into the situation but in the end I stuck with BA. Despite being a ‘loyal customer’, I don’t travel enough on BA to get any kind of status and accordingly I have to take my chances along with all the other passengers when trying to ensure that I get a good seat on the plane. A good seat as a seasoned traveler will know, is one that is not next to the bathroom, not next to the bulkheads (screaming children) and not in a middle seat. For some random reason my initial seat assignment was a middle seat even though my seating preference is aisle in my profile and the only alternatives available were at the back of the bus so to speak, next to the facilities.  I’ll take a back of the bus seat as long as I don’t have to be sandwiched between two other people. I checked on a recollection  that there was a time when I could indicate seat preference in my frequent flyer profile but  I guess that aisles were all used up and  the system fills up the seats like gravity as if one was a marble being dropped into a beaker – should I change to a window seat preference – would I be any luckier? It would be interesting to know how frequently passengers change their assigned seating at check-in and I wonder whether airlines actually do any reporting around this? If they did, what would this actually be useful for? My first thoughts are that improved seating assignment at least for loyal customers would be an improved customer experience. I believe for example that British Airways uses SAP extensively for HR,  engineeringand aircraft maintenance since 2001 but do they use it for passenger booking and customer relationship management?

My second adventure was when I collected my luggage, for some inexplicable reason the luggage for our plane came out on two carousels when only one was earmarked for our plane. It is likely that this was a human error, since as far as I can tell Heathrow at least, does not have as sophisticated a luggage handling system as say Frankfurt or Schiphol, or maybe they do, it just wasn’t working as it should have been – perhaps just as it misbehaved back in 2008. Back in April of 2009 it was reported that BAA was embarking on a 10 year deal to implement an ERP renewal but they chose the big red O supposedly because migration from their existing system was likely to be easier, I wonder if that really was the case in the end?  Two carousels of luggage may not seem to be a big deal but when you have a mission, scanning between the two carousels is both stressful and time consuming. Another case for customer service improvement perhaps?

My final example is also transport related namely the London Underground, having traveled on a number of metro rail systems across the world, I have to say that I think that the Tube is not half bad, It is old and quirky and the lines sometimes are challenging to negotiate but for the most part it does what it is supposed to do and with relative reliability every time I need to use it. Since I don’t live in London, no doubt Londoners will have a few choice words of their own. I mention the Tube because I did have some experiences that caused me some concern and frustrations and again were things that I felt could have been improved upon. Last week the Victoria line was out for a period of time and there was disruption on the Central and District lines. My journeys were largely not impacted but on the weekend the congestion in some of the stations was particularly bad and instead of digital signage being repurposed to messaging they continued to blaze away with advertising. For foreign visitors and out of town visitors in particular it was all very disruptive.

With the exception of airline seating, most of these examples involve mechanical or human elements that disrupt daily living or utilization of transportation to best effect however even with the first example, surely the application of a little more thought to the end-to-end process would result in a better outcome for all concerned. All this would lead to less stress for everyone and in particular perhaps those who support and manage those systems – a lot of the problems that carriers, transport organizations and airports seem to have relates to handling volume of activity.

One of the reasons I bring up transport and airlines in particular is the fact that plant maintenance, spare parts, financials and human resources all seemed like obvious candidates for the implementation and use of SAP but have you considered where the users possibly spend a great deal of their system time? During a recent Winshuttle Business Value Assessment of a SAP customer who is a major global carrier.

These were some of the takeaways in terms of transactions and transaction volumes for a given year

Top transaction usage

FB01 Post Document            3 Million Documents averaging 27 lines per document

MIRO Incoming Invoices  350k Documents averaging 1,000 p/day avg 30 lines per

FB05 Post with Clearing 328k Documents averaging 12 lines per document

MIGO_GR Goods Receipt   303k Documents averaging 18 lines per document

VL01N Outbound Delivery 299k Documents averaging 50 lines per document

CO15  Production Order  115k Documents averaging 16 lines per document

FB60  Vendor Invoice    84k Documents averaging 10 lines per document

 

High volume low line count

VF01  Create Billing    100k Documents averaging 8 lines per document

F110  Automatic Payment 256k Documents averaging 3 lines per document

FB1S  Clear GL Account  85k Documents averaging 5 lines per document

 

Watch this space, over the coming months I am hoping to see what more flows from this analysis. As things stand at the moment this is an interesting profile for an airline carrier.

On the face of things this is heavily finance activity bound which is likely a very different profile to say a manufacturer a wholesale distributor or a utility.

I wonder if the profile is different for others carriers or whether there is some uniquely differentiating characteristic for this one.

In any Business Value Assessment getting a good understanding of what transactions are being run and used and the associated transactional volumes is key. Any customer who has gone through one of the many SAP services will know that having a good understanding of transaction volumes or projected transaction volumes is key to understanding system performance improvement opportunities as well as potential system bottlenecks and failure dependencies. If you don’t know your business transaction volumes or those of your customer how well do you really know the business process?

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