The Beginner’s Guide to SAP Activate – Best Practices, Guided Configuration and SAP Activate Methodology
Project Management is something every one of us has done in our lives. Be it researching and completing your school and university assignments by the given deadline to organising your day to meet with friends and family, we always make a mental plan before we act on it.
In a way, each, and every one of us are project managers. We need to plan and schedule our daily tasks and meetings. Sometimes, it is difficult to manage our own day and we feel out of control.
Can you imagine the difficulties faced by Project Managers who are leading projects internally and for customers? Now imagine the difficulties a million-dollar SAP project holds in terms of planning your deliverables, resources, and deadlines!
SAP has come up with SAP Activate, a framework to enable SAP project managers across the globe to deliver projects with ease and clarity. A common misconception among the SAP fraternity is that SAP Activate is a project management methodology. It is much more than that!
The 3 Pillars of SAP Activate framework:
SAP Activate is a framework that consists of 3 important pillars:
- SAP Best Practices
- Guided Configurations
- SAP Activate Methodology.
These 3 pillars together can empower project managers and consultants and even the business end-users to easily understand the SAP solution that is implemented to solve their business pain point.
How does SAP Activate help all stakeholders involved in a project? Let’s find out!
Pillar 1 – SAP Best Practices:
SAP, with their 45+ years of widely accepted industry-specific, best practice knowledge and experience has delivered ready-to-run business processes that are optimized for SAP S/HANA. These business processes are well documented and pre-delivered by SAP and can be viewed in the Best Practice Explorer. It consists of best practices for integration, migration, and extensibility to expand the existing processes with the customer’s own processes. The Best Practice Explorer provides consultants and customers with all the best practices across LoBs in the form of business process flows, roles and responsibilities and standard test scripts that also work as a user manual. This forms the first pillar of the SAP Activate framework.
Pillar 2 – Guided Configuration:
The second pillar of the SAP Activate framework comes in the form of guided configurations to make it an easier experience for consultants and customers to configure their SAP system. SAP is working to globalise and standardize best practices across industries. In accordance with the same, SAP provides users with standard configurations that can be used to run a business process. Additionally, for customer-specific requirements, SAP is providing a self-service configuration user experience. The guided configuration also offers capabilities of content lifecycle management that essentially involves looking at the configuration settings and ensuring that the configuration settings that are set in that solution are not impacted by a new version of best practices or a new version of processes that are being shipped in the next release of the SAP solution. This is extremely important in the cloud where the release cycle is much more compressed.
SAP S/4HANA Cloud comes with new capabilities and functionalities every quarter for the Public Cloud/Multi-tenant Edition. The Private Cloud/Single-tenant edition of SAP S/4HANA Cloud comes with 1 optional and 1 mandatory upgrade a year. SAP S/4HANA delivered on-premise receives a yearly upgrade. Since the rate of upgrades is more for the cloud variants of SAP S/4HANA in comparison to on-premise, it is very important to use the guided configuration tools provided by SAP to ensure standardisation.
Pillar 3 – SAP Activate Methodology:
SAP Activate Methodology is the next generation project implementation methodology used to implement and deliver SAP innovations and solutions. Built on the Agile methodology, SAP Activate methodology takes an iterative approach to continuously improve and deliver to increase the project quality and success.
What is the difference between SAP Activate Methodology and SAP Launch/ASAP Methodology?
The SAP Roadmap Viewer has provided 15 different SAP Activate methodologies according to the SAP Solution in question and has segmented them in the following way:
- SAP Activate Methodology for New Cloud Implementations (Public Cloud-General)
- SAP Activate Methodology for Business Suite and On-Premises- Agile and Waterfall
- SAP Activate Methodology for SAP S/4HANA Cloud
- SAP Activate Methodology for SAP S/4HANA Cloud, extended edition
- SAP Activate Methodology for SuccessFactors
- SAP Activate Methodology for SAP Service Cloud Roadmap
- SAP Activate Methodology for SAP Data Warehouse Cloud
- SAP Activate Methodology for Intelligent Spend Management Roadmap
- SAP Activate Methodology for SAP Analytics Cloud
- SAP Activate Methodology for the Intelligent Enterprise
- SAP Activate Methodology for SAP Sales Cloud Roadmap
- SAP Activate Methodology for Transition to SAP S/4HANA
- SAP Activate Methodology for Transition to SAP BW/4HANA
- SAP S/4HANA Upgrade and Product Integration Roadmap
- SAP Activate methodology for S/4HANA Central Finance
These 15 different SAP Activate methodologies have little to major differences between them depending on whether it is a Greenfield Implementation or a Brownfield Conversion project from SAP ECC to SAP S/4HANA. In this blog, we will see what the SAP Activate Methodology says for a general greenfield implementation.
A customer goes through 6 different phases right from the minute they search for a solution to solve their business pain point to finally implementing and using the solution to streamline processes internally. SAP has beautifully mapped these touchpoints into 6 different phases during a customer and partner’s journey to making the best out of SAP products.
SAP Activate Methodology has 6 Phases to it:
The Discover phase is where the customer realises there is a need for a solution to satisfy their business pain point and starts looking out for the right SAP solution to map their requirements. During this phase, customers can apply for a free trial solution if applicable and try it out for themselves to check the features and functionalities of the solution. Customers can even reach out to partners like iQuantM to get the best consulting advise based on years of industry and SAP product experience to find the best solution. By the end of this phase, customers finalize to go ahead with the required SAP solution and move to the next phase in their implementation lifecycle.
As the name suggests, this phase is crucial to both customers and partners as key activities that are crucial to the success of the project are completed with mutual consent. The system is provisioned to the customer post-signing of the contract with SAP and the partner. Simultaneously, key resources are identified from the partner side in terms of the SAP Consultants getting onboarded and enabled. From the customer side, business process owners are identified to provide the right requirements to the consultants implementing the project. A high-level project plan along with roles and responsibilities is finalised along with the project team, project governance procedure and escalation matrix and the project is ready to kick-off!
During this phase, an initial level of requirement is already collected when the business process owners fill in the Business-Driven Configuration Assessment questionnaire. This is a readily available document for the project team that can be downloaded and used to fasten the project delivery. Based on the answers obtained from the assessment, consultants need to plan for the next and probably most important phase of the SAP Activate Methodology – the Explore Phase.
The Explore Phase pretty much lays the foundation for the success of the project. In this phase, customers and partners collaborate with each other for 1 outcome – to finalize the business process to be followed in the new SAP system. This is done by a series of “Fit-to-Standard Analysis” sessions, where the SAP Best Practice business process flow is showcased to the Business Process Owner. Consultants first display a flowchart of the business process and later drive a demo of the same using the initial system that was provisioned to them. The project team then have a healthy discussion on how the business can map their business to the best practices. This is the usual process when it comes to SAP S/4HANA Public Cloud, otherwise known as SAP S/4HANA Cloud, Multi-tenant Edition. For the SAP S/4HANA business suite and SAP S/4HANA Private Cloud otherwise known as SAP S/4HANA Cloud, Single-tenant Edition, there is an additional “Fit-to-Gap Analysis” session where, additional requirements of the business can be noted and later mapped to the SAP system based on feasibility.
Another major point that SAP Activate has made easier for consultants is the standard migration templates that are readily available to download. This comes as a point of relief, especially for consultants who otherwise used to spend a lot of time coming up with a migration template to help the business fill in the information that is required to be migrated to the new system. This helps the project team save an immense amount of time and the business finds it comfortable to fill in the required information as advised by SAP. The business users are enabled on the migration templates and they can now internally start working on data consolidation, cleansing, and formatting to be filled into the standard migration templates. This comes as a huge relief to both the customer and partner project teams as working on data is arguable one of the most difficult portions of a project!
One of the best parts of the explore phase is the “Customer Execution of Standard Processes”. What SAP Activate tries to achieve is to build an early relationship between the end-users and the SAP system for an easier and accelerated adoption of widely accepted business processes. Consultants provide the business users with the documents required and help them run an end-to-end cycle in the SAP system. The previously self-enabled business is now familiar with the system and provides their concurrence that they have executed the business process in the system. They are provided with their own user access to explore and get familiarised with the system. This is great, especially in the initial stages of the project because this helps for an easier UAT in the next phase of the project.
All of the customer’s requirements in terms of additional WRICEF objects – Workflows, Reports, Integrations, Conversions, Enhancements and Forms along with the configuration values are noted in the Backlog document provided by SAP which is then signed off to signed off mutually between the partner and the customer. This backlog document consists of all the customer-specific requirements that need to be available in the SAP system for the business users to perform their daily tasks. Consultants then prioritize according to feasibility, difficulty and importance and plan the sprints for the Realize Phase where the primary aim is to close each of the Backlog items one by one.
A change impact analysis is done to understand how the new system will benefit the business and actions to enable a smooth transition to the new system are decided among the stakeholders of the project. Key users are identified and an end-user learning needs analysis is done and a learning plan is prepared for the key users who will help drive the success of the system during the duration of the project.
Once the Explore Phase deliverables are signed off, the project team can start working on the Quality system provisioned by SAP. In this phase, the SAP consultants start configuring the SAP system according to the Backlog document that is signed off. This happens in an iterative approach where the project team works based on multiple sprints that have been planned to execute the project by breaking down the backlog requirements into smaller deliverables that need to be showcased to the business process owner and signed off as completed once it matches the agreed-upon completion criteria. This is the phase where consultants are in regular touch with the business process owner to showcase to them, the SAP system they are building through multiple Solution Walkthrough’s that are scheduled through the Realize Phase.
The technical teamwork on completed the WRICEF objects that were noted in the Backlog document during this phase and work hand in hand with the SAP functional consultants and business users to ensure the custom objects are delivered with quality within the timeline.
User Roles and Authorizations can be a hectic process to finalize on, especially in large projects. For the same, SAP has provided us with standard persona-based roles that help the business users with their tasks through an End-to-End business process. For example, a maintenance technician will be provided with standard roles required for a maintenance technician in the SAP system and a maintenance manager will be provided with the standard role enabling him to perform his tasks as per the best practice in the SAP system.
In this phase, multiple levels of testing such as Unit Testing, String Testing, Integration Testing and User Acceptance Testing is performed to ensure the SAP system is configured according to the customer requirements provided by the business process owners. Data migration testing is also done to ensure the data filled in by the business users are in the correct format and ready to import to the brand-new SAP system.
Once all the deliverables are satisfied, a cutover plan is made to move the configurations, WRICEF objects and master and transactional data to the Production system which will be the system used by the business in real-time. This signifies the end of the Realize Phase.
In the Deploy Phase, once every checkbox is ticked and everything is ready, the business faces a temporary downtime as the new SAP system is Deployed for usage to the business users. This is typically done during a weekend to ensure that customers have little to no effect due to the downtime. The cutover is a process that sometimes gives consultants sleepless nights as this is the culmination of all their hard work being moved into the SAP system for the usage of an entire organisation.
Once the cutover is done successfully and checked by the partner and the customer, the business users are supported by the consultants and the key users who now form the first line of defence in case users have doubts or face an issue. The customers and partners can now relish the success of the project through an intense time filled with dedication and hard work from all stakeholders involved.
The Run Phase signifies the end of the customer’s lifecycle from identifying a solution for their business need to finally implement the solution and running their business process on the same. In the Run Phase, the customer project team are given only 1 task – to be updated with the latest innovation and technologies in SAP, especially in the product they have implemented by having a “Continuous Learning” to keep up with the pace of technology.
SAP Activate has matured to be a great methodology to be used for SAP S/4HANA implementation and conversion projects. Everyone who has been in a project knows how difficult it is to carry the torch from the start to the finish line. SAP Activate has really helped project managers and consultants across the globe complete projects successfully at a much faster rate. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous customers have successfully gone live with SAP solutions using the SAP Activate Methodology. Kudos to Jan Musil, Chief Product Owner of SAP Activate Methodology and his team for streamlining phases, tasks and deliverables for a successful project.
For more information on SAP Activate and how it should be used to successfully implement an SAP solution. You can find some important links for Project Managers, Consultants and End Users below: