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Life as it is… Implementing S/4HANA Cloud Essentials (ES): Sales

S/4HANA ES is a relatively new product. It is on the market since 2016. For the past two years, TheValueChain has been implementing this solution for our customer on a global scale. Their core business is improving safety and reducing operational costs for airports and airlines worldwide.

In this blogpost I will discuss the difficulties on the road, our successes and provide you with four key ideas when considering S/4HANA ES for your company. I illustrate each idea with examples from the Sales module, which we’ve implemented in 21 offices so far.

 

  1. Avoid comparison to SAP R/3

My first advice for customers who are at the start of their S/4HANA ES story is: stop thinking about your SAP R/3 system. Do not compare!

S/4HANA ES is a template-based solution. What does this mean?

1)      The approach is to adapt your business processes to the system and not the other way around. This was appealing to our customer. They wanted to install the same (SAP best practice) processes in all its offices, as sticking to the standard results in less IT system issues and better business efficiency.

2)      Not all key business processes you know from SAP R/3 are available. For example, in the Sales module, adding information about a letter of credit in the system is not yet supported. And on the logistics side, the Inventory Management packing functionality is only available since the February release, where only manual packing is possible.

3)      Do not expect to tweak the template here and there, because the configuration and development options available to you are limited. For example, our customer did not want to create product codes for documents (manuals) that are sent together with the actual goods. In the SAP R/3 system, they made use of text items. Unfortunately, this easy configuration step was and it still not available for configuration.

Yes, we had some hard conversations with end-users, explaining to them that a certain feature is no longer available. To conclude, acknowledging that the way you’re doing business now will change and set your mind on starting fresh, will save you many frustrations.

 

  1. Be ready for a quarterly adventure

By now, you’re probably frantically comparing the S/4HANA ES feature list with your business processes. But fear not: SAP is adding new features every three months. Today there are far more configuration options than two years ago. So, if a feature is not available today, it doesn’t mean it will never be.

Your company will automatically enroll in a quarterly release cycle and get all the new features as soon as they release it. The SAP Product and Solution Road Maps disclose when and where new features will be available. This has two consequences:

1)      Our project roll-out plan is based on these Road Maps and, consequently, adjusted with every updated version. For Sales, for example, we chose to start implementing S/4HANA CE in the country offices that didn’t need anything more than a simple pricing scheme: a sales price, some discounts or surcharges and a sales margin. More complex calculations making use of routines contained a lot of bugs or limitations. Most of them are solved by now.

2)      Whether you want the new features or not, they will be installed. This means you have to re-test the implemented business flows every quarter. Most end users do not have time for this on top of their daily tasks. Luckily the SAP automatic testing framework can provide some relief. Nonetheless, it’ll still take time and knowledge. So, buckle up for a two-week adventure of testing every three months!

 

  1. Get a creative IT team

Which brings me to the next point: you’ll need a solid IT team. Not only to test-drive your system every three months but also to deal with missing features or configuration options.

First, your team of IT consultants should be experienced in change management. It’s not always easy for key users when project plans keep changing and functionalities they used to have, are no longer available. This needs to be addressed. That is why functional analysts, like me, and business consultants are in constant contact with key users and business owners. Regular and clear communication is key.

Second, your team needs to be able to think outside the box to solve your business needs. How can we creatively adapt the business processes? Can we make use of tools in the system to deal with the business requirement? As a functional IT consultant, I’m often confronted with a configuration requirement that is not (yet) available. When this happens, you can give up … or you can go the extra mile. Some ideas:

1)      Development in a template-solution is possible. We call it “fit-to-standard extensibility design”. You can make use of the SAP Cloud Platform (SCP) or whitelisted APIs. For Sales, for example, we have developed an app that allows us to perform a mass change of custom fields on sales order header and item level.  If you want to gain more insight into the technical part, I refer to a blog post of one of my colleagues concerning “extensibility”.

2)      Apply for, what SAP calls, “expert configuration”. In this case you prepare a case including a clear business justification and ask an SAP expert to configure the needed feature for you. We logged several ones during our project. One of them was a request to have the cost of bach-split items on the main item level, instead of the sub-item level. This because the revenue is also calculated on the main item level. Revenue and costing should be on the same item to have a correct sales margin calculation of course. This was approved.

3)      Log a “change request” with SAP. Define the missing functionality and ask SAP to foresee it. The last change request we logged was to integrate SAP Global Trade Services. Our customer has a lot of cross-border business transactions, so documents need to align with local legislations.

4)      People should be creative with the tools which are available instead of focusing on what is not. We advised our customer to work with one dummy non-stock, non-valuated material (since text items are not available) to be able to get the documents (manuals) on the same delivery as the actual goods. The description of the dummy product code can be adjusted for every type of manual.

 

  1. Yes, it looks better!

S/4HANA ES looks better and is easier to use. Because of the:

1)      SAP Fiori based apps that take user experience to the next level. It impressed the end-users. Suddenly SAP R/3 looks old-school… The go-to app for the customer sales agents (CSAs) is the “Track Sales Orders” app. It allows them to check the end-to-end status of a sales order to verify whether it is on track. In case of issues they can immediately intervene.

2)      Out-of-the-box analytical applications that do not disappoint either. Monitoring and analyzing data can make all the difference to increase customer satisfaction. For example, our client attaches great importance to the on-time delivery of products. With the predictive analytics the CSAs should even be able to predict a delay in delivery and prevent it.

Disclaimer: we are not yet using these predictive apps. The models are still in a learning phase and the predictive trust ability needs to increase.

Two side note here:

1)      Sometimes the collection of apps can be a bit overwhelming for end-users. In SAP R/3 they are used to having one single transaction for a certain action (e.g. “create a sales order” via transaction VA01), while in S/4HANA CE, SAP focuses on apps per level of use. For example, the app “Create Sales Orders – Fast Entry” is for casual users, while the app “Create Sales Orders” is for professional users. However, this is a matter of training.

2)      The Fiori apps nowadays miss some functionalities which are available in the old-school apps. Nevertheless, we notice every release good progress on the SAP Fiori based apps, which are the future.

 

Conclusion

When we started the S/4 HANA Cloud implementation two years ago, I was a bit scared due to the lack of certain features and rigid structure. Nowadays I am looking forward to do more of these implementations!

You need to put in the work, but the user-friendliness, sleek visualizations, great analytical apps and advantages for IT and business efficiency are worth it. Keeping in mind that the product is evolving in a good direction and adding new features quarterly.

It remains a challenge to implement S/4 HANA Cloud, but one we are ready to take on!

 

 

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