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Learn SAP: A primer for complete beginners

When you start working with SAP when you have no prior knowledge about ERP system can be tough, though nothing can replace hands-on practice, you need to know at least some basic knowledge that surprisingly is easy to learn.

Here are 2 simple steps to get started.

|| 1. An ERP system is built to solving business problem, so you should try to think in business processes rather than the function.

 

SAP is far beyond transaction codes (t-codes), it is about improving the performance of the business therefore, increase the productivity of all stakeholders. In other words, you have to be able to clearly define the business problem and the company goals.

To put it in perspective, it plays as a single-source of truth for all of its users. Before trying to be fluent in using t-codes, you should have a business process knowledge. Business processes are where the business problem is.

One way to measure your work is to compare your solution with the business problem that you want to solve. Often time, the feature you create could be addressing the wrong problem or could be even worse, solve the problem that doesn’t exist.

Here is a real-life example

I had been a career switcher, from a marketing specialist to an ERP business analyst, in a consulting firm in South East Asia. Like other fresh analysts, my preconception about working with SAP is simply working with t-codes.

My first assignment is about the Production Planning (PP) module. Before entering the system, I was tasked to read Material Management to understand the business process. To fully understand how the system is bringing values to the business, it is important to identify areas that gain the most from it. If you apply that order for your learning curve, (1) gain business knowledge (2) practice on the system, the system behaviour will become obvious to you. 

|| 2. Because SAP HANA is a relational database management system, it is useful to learn the relational database concepts. In other words, learn SQL!

 

Why? Because SQL is so easy to learn.

Photo: holistics

Understand how data tables relate to each other is almost half of the work you need to learn (every) ERP systems. There is a lot of data. How data is organised in SAP, however, is very simple to understand through basic visualisation techniques. When you understand how tables in SQL works, you could visualise any relational database. 

At the most basic level, SAP has 2 types of data that are master data and transaction data. What master data does is to cease the number of repetitive inputting work because you can just assign objects a code for them. Transaction data, on the other hand, is meant to record situations. Since we have new issues over time, the system must be able to handle variations of the object.

Now, imagine you are on a certain view on the system, an interesting way to think about it is to see it as you managed data tables. Thus, you are creating new columns when you customise the parameters. Input, likewise, is posting new data to tables. 

Here is an exercise for your practice:

  1. Think about a lemonade stand that you will be operating in front of your house
  2. Define the business process, and the data you used to manage those processes.
  3. Use excels workbooks to organise the data (now you figuratively understand how the system works figuratively)
  4. Go to the SAP system and observe the behaviour (if possible). 

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