We are all well acquainted with ERP ‘buzz words’ and have become accustomed to S/4HANA, but now the “Cloud” is gaining more traction. Not only is it recognized as a keystone of SAP’s strategy, but also society in general, which has wholeheartedly accepted this technology.
But what does “Cloud” mean for an ERP? What are the differences between SAP’s on-premise and Cloud latest ERP? We have recently started to drink our own champagne, with our own implementation of S/4HANA Cloud. Our journey has already begun. Are you looking to start yours?
Let’s assume you are already familiar with SAP ERP products, for example ECC6.0 and let’s say that you have also expanded your knowledge of what S/4HANA is. You will soon find out that a lot of things are different with S/4HANA Cloud (but don’t worry, in this instance, different means easier!)
The purpose of this post is to highlight the main points to consider to ensure a successful SAP S/4HANA Cloud implementation. I will share some insights from my personal journey deploying the S/4HANA Cloud 1702 (now upgraded to 1705 🙂 ) for BackOffice Associates. The scope of this project included FI GL, AR, AP, Asset Accounting, Cash Management, Profit and Cost Center accounting, Basic Procurement processes and Migration of data from a legacy system. The implementation was completed in just 6 weeks.
This post is the first in a series of 3 that will cover the S/4HANA Cloud project lifecycle and the following areas:
- Where do I start? SAP Activate
- What keeps us awake at night? Changing the mindset: Prepare and Explore
- Lean Go-Live: Realize, Deploy and Run
As I said, these posts will be entirely based on the S/4HANA Cloud deployment option. If you want to know more about what S/4HANA is and what the differences are between the different deployment options, please refer to my colleague’s blog, where Frank Schuler uses the analogy about old wine in a new bottle.
1 Where do I start? SAP Activate
First things first, S/4HANA Cloud and Activate go hand in hand. The whole system is based on this; therefore, the first step is to learn about Activate:
Activate is built on these 3 pillars:
1 Best practices
SAP Best Practices are all about reusing 40 years of accumulated experience that SAP has gathered accompanying organizations and supporting their business processes.
To make all this knowledge available, SAP has created SAP’s Best Practices portal, where we can find the details of all those underlying processes and integrations that have been proved to be efficient and solid in business over time.
In addition, SAP has grouped the processes of each line of business into its CORE capabilities and has released them as scope items:
Each scope item is an autonomous set of processes already configured that work out of the box the moment you activate them in your system. In the S/4HANA Cloud, a specific app is provided to manage the activation of the required scope items:
Activating a scope item is as simple as clicking on it. All the processes included and all its dependent configurations become immediately available (more details on this in the second post).
Best Practices also provide a specific migration tool based on spreadsheet templates for migrating each relevant object (Master data and transactional data) .
My takeaway: Stick to best practices as much as possible, they work out of the box, they are efficient and they have been proven over the years. Get used to the different scope items and what is included in each of them. You can find all the information at https://rapid.sap.com/bp/ (you need to be logged in with your user to see all the attachments). For each scope item you can check the process diagram to easily learn the details of each process.
S/4HANA Cloud is primarily Fiori-Based, therefore, all the tools are designed to work using this UX framework, that means that you can no longer type SPRO to customize your system. Instead, SAP has created the so-called Self-Service Configuration IU (SSCUI). It consists of a set of Fiori apps that allow us to customize the system Step-by-Step to meet our customer requirements. In the example below you can see how to use the SSCUI to manage the organizational structures:
Note that not all of the options you had in the SPRO are available in the SCCUI’s. Even though in each release more SSCUI’s are added, you could find yourself with a customizing requirement not covered in those apps. If that is the case, you can always reach out SAP through a Ticket to create what they have called an Expert Configuration. To carry it out, SAP provides an Excel spreadsheet including all the details of all the available Expert Configurations. These documents have also attached screenshots of the SPRO path with the specific configurations covered.
For instance, check out the example below for account determination. This is an Expert Configuration item:
For some of you who already had previous experience with SAP ERP, this screenshot may look familiar, that’s because the S/4HANA Cloud’s DNA is very similar to its S/4HANA On-Premise brother.
My takeaway: download the Expert configuration template as the first step. Follow the link below and use your S-user to login: (S4H_043 Expert Configuration Template – EM.xlsx at https://roadmapviewer-supportportal.dispatcher.hana.ondemand.com/#). This template includes both all SSCUIs and Expert configurations available, and it is very helpful to have all the configuration options available in a single file.
Note: Eventually SAP will replace the expert configuration with self serve UI’s.
Note: Do not expect every on premise configuration item to become available in the Cloud version
One of the great innovations that is worth highlighting on the S/4HANA Cloud solution, is the “Test your processes tool”. Let’s add some context: typically, once we had our configuration done and some test data to check our process, we started preparing those long test scripts, that included all the processes to be tested, all the logic, the screenshots of each step tested, the data used…
Now, with the new “Test your processes” tool, you can get rid of these test scripts, the system does it for you! You can either use the existing process tests included in the Best Practices’ scope items, or build your own Tests (preparing a recording, selecting a subset of existing processes or simply by applying your own variants to the existing tests).
Let’s see an example; when testing the processes customized in the project, I created a test plan that included a subset of the processes in the scope Item J60 – Accounts Payable and changed some variants with my own data:
Once I had defined what I wanted to test I was all set! You can then move to the “Test your Processes” app, and run the test as many times as you want, for instance, to check that your processes are still working fine and are consistent after a new quarterly release of new functionality:
And then you can navigate and check the different process status of the items being tested:
The tool reproduces each step into a Batch-input mode and does a screenshot for you:
Once it finishes we will have the screenshots of each step including the data used. If it fails, we can go straight to the screenshot to see the error message as if we were testing it online or just checking the log.
The next interesting feature that has been specifically designed for the new SAP S/4HANA is the data Migration Engine, a simplified version of the LSMW, where you can download the templates for loading master data and transactional data into spreadsheet files; fill the files and then load the different objects into the system:
By clicking into the menu path; we can see all the migration objects available:
In every migration object, you can download the current template and once it is filled, upload it to start the migration:
The migration steps are divided into different steps:
- Validate Data: to check the integrity of the data filled in the template (this is checking that the fields that are mandatory are filled, that the ones that have data dictionaries behind had the right data, etc…
- Convert values: where the mapping is checked with the existing customising in the system (those of you that had been using LSMW as a migration tool will be familiar with these steps):
- Simulate Import: once all the mapping is validated, the system runs a simulation to check if the data can be loaded.
- Execute Import: at this step the data is loaded into the system:
If no errors appeared in the log you should find the data in the system using the standard Fiori reports.
My takeaway: Before starting an upload of new data, download the latest template from the menu path indicated in previous section of this blog. In each release, they may have changed some fields, and older versions may lead to inconsistencies.
The Migration tool is the only way to upload the data into the S/4 Cloud. In complex migrations, we will probably have to manage high volumes of data, a lot of data type validations, complex checks and relations between templates. This part can easily become the painful bottleneck of the project. Advanced tools like SAP Advanced Data Migration by BackOffice Associates is our recommended approach to gather and prepare all the data from multiple sources, transform it and load it into to the templates in an efficient way. In my colleague’s blog you can find a glimpse of what this tool is capable of.
Note: The migration from files is a scope item Itself (BH5). The specific configuration and documentation can be found at the Best Practices portal https://rapid.sap.com/bp/.
3 Activate Methodology
As you may already know, Activate is also the name of the new methodology used by SAP to manage S/4HANA projects. It is divided into the following phases as per the screenshot below:
In the next posts we will get into more detail on each of the phases and the most important things to bear in mind during the implementation.