Starting your SAP career is an exciting time, but it can also be very overwhelming. Like any technology or new career, there is a steep learning curve that can feel insurmountable. The goal of this blog is to concisely give you three major concepts to focus on when starting your career.
As a SAP beginner, you need a basic understanding of business processes, SAP acronyms and project concepts. I first learned about SAP and ERP’s (Enterprise Resource Planning systems) while in school at Grand Valley State University. The SAP Alliance business program included a mandatory ERP course. Before fumbling through SAP transactions, we were given a framework of common business processes. For example, to understand how to process an invoice, you must first understand the purpose of invoices and where this step fits in the overall order to cash process. We also needed some key SAP and project terms to get a foundational understanding of what’s involved in a SAP project and the key components of the system.
1. Business Processes: If you have little or no exposure to a functional area, you first want to start with understanding the business processes that flow through SAP. Also keep in mind that most processes are cross-functional and go end-to-end, meaning they pass through many departments in an organization. Even if you are in a technical role, you need a general understanding of what business drivers are behind your role. Michael Management courses provide a functional understanding as you learn about SAP. You may also find it valuable to invest in business/or SAP textbooks specific to your functional area. As you dive in to SAP, remember to always focus on how technology drives the business. Focusing on streamlining business processes can avoid creating unnecessarily complex technical design and avoid creating waste in the system.
2. SAP Acronyms: Secondly, understanding SAP acronyms and how you fit in the overall SAP project is important in quickly providing value. As a beginner, you’re probably finding the world of SAP to be filled with intimidating acronyms. Before you get too overwhelmed, realize that there is probably only a subset of acronyms and terms that will actually be relevant to your role in SAP. As you meet people in your project or organization, you can start to build a mental list of which areas you will integrate with and hone in on those terms and acronyms. To start, I recommend you check out Michael Management’s course SAP100 Essential SAP Skills. It’s the perfect course to feel comfortable with basic SAP concepts and terms. I’ve also found many websites that feature a list of SAP acronyms that you can use as reference. This wiki on SAP’s community network may be helpful: http://wiki.sdn.sap.com/wiki/display/HOME/SAP+Acronyms. Finally, I recommend following SAP news to learn more about the SAP terms you hear. SAP’s community network is an active community of SAP customers and partners and its one of the best resources to learn about functional modules, SAP trends, and news. Keep in mind that it takes experience and your own research to feel comfortable with SAP acronyms.
Here are some common acronyms that every beginner will hear:
- Functional & Technical Modules: FI (Finance), CO (Controlling), SD (Sales & Distribution), MM (Materials Management), HR (Human Resources), BI (Business Intelligence), BW (Business Warehousing), PM (Plant Maintenance), QM (Quality Management), LE (Logistics Execution), FSCM (Financial Supply Chain Management), PP (Production Planning), CRM (Customer Relationship Management), SEC (Security), Basis (Business Application Software Integration System)
- SAP Technical Acronyms: ABAP (Advances Business Application Programming), ALE (Application Link Enabling), ALV (SAP List Viewer), BAPI (Business Application Programming Interface), BEx (Business Explorer), BAdI (Business Add In), CATT (Computer Aided Test Tool), GUI (Graphical User Interface), HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language), IMG (Implementation Guide), EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) LSMW (Legacy System Migration Workbench), OLE (Object Linking and Embedding), OSS (Online Support System), R/3 (Real Time 3 Tier), RFC (Remote Function Call), SOLMAN (Solution Manager), WD (Web Dynpro), SPRO (SAP Project Reference Object).
3. SAP Project Concepts: Finally, every beginner should understand basic SAP project concepts like the phases and roles people involved in a SAP implementation.
Let’s begin with SAP deployment phases. ASAP, Accelerated SAP, is the standard implementation approach that is used on every SAP implementation. The approach consists of 5 phases: Project Prep, Business Blueprint, Realization, Final Prep, and Go Live & Support. Each phase includes important milestones that allow the project to continue to the next phase. A successful project has clear ‘exit’ and ‘entrance’ criteria that must be fulfilled for the project to move to the next phase. These criteria are reviewed by project management and key stakeholders to assess the projects performance.
In the project preparation phase, project goals, scope and timeline are defined by project stakeholders and project management. In the blueprint phase, current business processes are documented and then redesigned to fit in SAP. Any requirement or process that does not fit using standard SAP functionality is documented as ‘gap’. This is a key part of the blueprint phase called ‘Fit/Gap Analysis’. In the realization phase, all requirements are configured in the system and the system is testing using integrated scenarios. Integration testing is cross-functional testing used to identify ‘defects’ or issues in the system that need to be resolved. In final preparation, testing is completed, training is delivered, and cutover steps are performed. Cutover involves all the steps necessary to go from the old, legacy system to SAP. Finally, Go Live and support occurs when users begin to perform their job in SAP and the project team monitors and supports users.
If you are fortunate enough to join a project in the beginning phases, you may have a better understanding of how a project moves from project preparation, to blueprint, to realization, to final preparation, and in to go live and support. Realistically, most resources are brought in to a project as things ramp up in the blueprint and realization phases.
Next, it’s key to understand who is involved in a SAP implementation to understand where you fit in. At the top level, you have corporate executives that are deemed project stakeholders. It is their job to oversee the project from a high level and ensure it fulfills the defined goals and objectives. Below stakeholders is the project management which is more hands on in overseeing the project and closely monitors each functional and technical area of the project. Project management helps mitigate risks and issues, delivers project messaging, and keeps the project within the timeline and budget. Heading up each functional and technical team is a team lead. Team leads oversee team members and communicate status, risks, and issues to project management. Functional team members configure the system to meet business requirements and write functional specifications for customized needs. Technical team members work in a variety of roles: security, ABAP development, data conversion, Basis, etc.
By focusing in on these 3 concepts, I hope you can quickly come up on the SAP learning curve and provide value on your project.
If you enjoyed this blog, you may be interested in my book, The Essential SAP Career Guide. It is a comprehensive guide to starting your career and covers job search tips, key skills for your first job, and how to choose consulting vs. industry positions.