Cross-application SAP Solutions
As cross-application SAP function I understand universal solutions which are designed to support business proceses no matter from SAP module. Usually these are located somewhere on the tom of application structure. Using of crross-application functions together with standard SAP modules brings extra value to the Customers and usually leads complete SAP solution more autometed and user frendly.
Hereunder are listed the functionalities which are part of my skills portofolio.
Worklow | DMS | ArchiveLink | EDI/ALE | Data Migration | Data Archiving
SAP Business Workflow
Remember the days of the early 21st century, when he began his adventure with SAP Business Workflow. Due to the lack of qualifications on the Polish market to rebound training BC600 (Workflow Build and Use) had to go to the Training Centre in London. This knowledge was immediately by me disposed of on my first independent project Workflow (Power Kaliska, 2001). Since that time, I was able to realize a number of projects where Workflow was treated as a separate module and comprehensively serviced are scenarios workflow management, and information in different areas of the company. Depending on the industry through SAP Business Workflow automates support for both simple (classic) type processes approving supply documents, processing of applications holiday in SAP HR, processing purchase invoices, service notifications in SAP modules QM, PM, CS, processes for data management and basic materials (BOM ‘ y, contractors), supporting processes reception performance of the services, processes associated with records of fixed assets, error handling EDI and a few others. There were also unusual processes eg. Support the use of dangerous goods or Registry workwear for employees (reminding of the date of exchange). Among these different fields of use of SAP Business Workflow deserve special attention processes related to handling purchase invoices. Of course this has to do with my competence in the field of ReadSoft’s systems but not only. In the case of invoices (not only paper but also of invoices sent as PDF attachments in e-mails, e-invoices or invoices sent as classic EDI) I think I can safely say that my knowledge is profound. Issues of integration mechanisms scanning and recognizing the content of invoices (OCR) are most dear to me. Also often used in these processes optical archiving of SAP ArchiveLink in various configurations (Archaving Early, Late Archiving, Archiving with Barcode) are known to me.
In addition to the automation of entire business processes to Workflow is increasingly being used ‘inside’ the main processes of SAP acting ‘in the background’ – knowledge of this technology greatly facilitates life consultant in case of problems with the operation of these mechanisms. I also often in their designs introduce elements of the workflow to automate certain tasks or to communicate with users of the system in cases of exceptional events, eg. A task running in the background at night returned an error message.
Through all the years of my career in consulting obvious to me it is that the solutions simple, readable for users, preferably within the SAP standard (minimizing the amount of expansion and modification) work best. In contrast to many consultants Workflow I do not have past programming (ABAP consultant) and do not strive to meet customer requirements 1: 1, as this often leads to generate solutions that require custom coding. When designing a workflow scenarios always try to use 100% of the capacity of SAP Standard (there are hundreds of pre-defined scenarios in SAP Workflow), and if you have to try to prompt changes in processes before their automation through workflow. Real seems to claim that ” if business processes are not defined correctly, the automation of these processes through workflow will bring counter-productive – will be the same mess just running faster. ‘” Because I have extensive experience as a consultant in logistics application first I try to optimize the process and secondly to automate it.
Due to the frequent but the fulfillment of specific requirements of the customers by extending and quite unusual for SAP coding standards (macro programming BOR objects or for classes) with time expanded its programming knowledge in this area. While I’m not a programmer so much in the application of workflow programm. Award-mail chance to also conduct trainings with SAP Business Workflow (including workflow programming or internet technologies Webflow SAP) in the Training Centre SAP Poland or dedicated training at the headquarters of customers.
During my adventures with Workflow many times I carried a SAP Business Workflow integration with external systems, groupware (eg. IBM Lotus) so that one business scenario was implemented in several systems.
In my opinion SAP DMS (Document Management System) is a little undervalued functionality of the system. I do not know why is that, maybe becouse of the lack of senior consultants in the market, or from the nature of the solution that does not support the business processes itself, but makes supporting role for other SAP applications areas. I suspect, that companies implementing SAP (especially on the Polish market) focus on serving Core Business and often stop there during SAP implementations, not going one step further towards supporting solutions , often leaving them in external islet systems, not integrated with SAP.
Nowadays, the number of all kind documents in companies is enormous. The matter of storage, indexing and searching in an optional way become a problem. For companies working in the SAP environment,a natural and optimal way for accessing documents is the interface of the SAP system. Let`s say, trying eg. to see the scan of purchase invoices or image of damaged product sent along with customer complaints, these documents should be available from the SAP level naturally, respectively for review purchase invoice or notification to quality from the customer. DMS system allows for this type of ‘context’ joining the SAP application objects (material, a sales order, notification) of business documents (technical drawing, e-mail from a client, customer complaints scan). My experience with DMS include a number of such cases including the construction of an advanced archive to the ISO document management in the enterprise – solution combined with workflow and distribution of new and changed documents management.
An indispensable part of the DMS project is the installation and configuration of connecting to a class of SAP external systems CMS (Content Management System). I`v e been installing the SAP production system called HTTP Content Server many times, to store documents and make them available (via web interface) in the SAP environment. Products of other companies (OpenText, FileNet, Documentum) in this area are also known to me.
One issue, that particularly interests me is the matter of the integration of SAP DMS with the CAD systems for the efficient data management engineering, including technical drawings and engineering change management (Engineering Change Management).
It is worth mentioning, that my experience in the area of DMS also include the application and the name of the SAP Easy DMS, which is a ‘light’ version , installed as a separate component (except SAP GUI) with easy and friendly interface, which allows for intuitive archiving and searching documents (drag-and-drop) as well as viewing in, connecting with SAP applica- objects.
SAP ArchiveLink is not actually separate module. It is an open interface developed by SAP to integrate external CSM calss systems . SAP ECC (ERP), from definition is a transactional system and becouse of performance reasons is not prepared for the storage of business documents in the database ( MS Office documents, scans, photographs, correspondence, prints, drawings etc.). By building an interface, SAP also released a program for partner companies, that can customize and certify their CMS class solutions for compliance with SAP according with ArchiveLink protocol. Currently, there are many of those systems on the market – on the SAP`s sites in the APPLICATION DEVELOPMENT PARTNER DIRECTORY section you can find the current list – but the rules of their integration with SAP ECC are similar.
SAP ArchiveLink has archivisation mechanisms of incoming documents (eg. Invoices of purchase) and outgoing (eg. Quality certificates). Due to various forms of automation processes, eg. E-invoices, often in parallel with the generation of an electronic document from the SAP, a classic document is created(pdf consistent with printing) and archived in an external repository for sharing with fiscal control authorities or auditors. Just as SAP DMS also SAP ArchiveLink is the functionality, supporting business processes and therefore not often used on projects. However recently, I`ve noticed bigger interest in this technology, mainly because of the increased number of documents in enterprises and the need for their efficient management with access from SAP level applications.
SAP application has many mechanisms which enable for various forms of electronic data interchange with external business partners system. The EDI name (Electronic Data Interchange) is universal, and many companies use the mechanisms of it in everyday communication. Over the years , several EDI standards have been developed, of which the most widely used in Europe is the EDIFACT one. It is a common ‘language’ of communication in business, independent of the information system or the industry. SAP ALE (Appliacation Link Enabling) is an internal mechanism that allows for the exchange of business documents, usually within the organization between various instances of SAP systems (joined on rfc technology base ). In both cases forwarded documents take so-called IDOC form that is structured electronic SAP document.
My experience with EDI mostly concern the areas of SAP MM and WM. At the present time, document exchange supply / invoicing between business partners is a standard more often. All matters related to the generation of EDI messages and their integration (including error handling through workflow mechanisms) are known to me and many times I dealt with definition (mapping) and configuring of these solutions.
Recently, working as a Solutions Logistics Architect , I had the opportunity to participate in the construction of complex models for the exchange of data in enterprises and their business environment.
Another very important area of EDI which I use in my projects is the issue of logistics service providers integration(LSP). In complex supply chains, especially in FMCG, companies increasingly decide to outsource warehousing and transport services in distribution centers. LSP companies usually have their own WMS integration system. Documents related to the admission notification or shipments are implemented as EDI messages from the system of the company that own stocks. So far I carried several such projects in cooperation with leading LSP companies (eg. Raben, DHL, Yusen) and each project was different. EDI solutions are typically tailored to specific business needs and IT environment. As the IT environment I mean all sorts of communication forms and applications, including EDI Middelware, managing the files flowing and mapping their structure between standard SAP (IDOC) and the standard of the company LSP.
Speaking of EDI is impossible not to mention about e-invoices, which are also usually ‘converted’ into IDOC format and then integrated into SAP ALE mechanisms.
Electronic communication in the context of my recent experience has been gaining wider importance as an internal tool for the exchanging and synchronizing data across the enterprise. Especially I do mean master data management in heterogeneous environments. In large, multinationals companies, which work on different systems (different instances of SAP or a variety of business applications) centralized master data management greatly facilitates communication and corporate reporting. Basic data, like indices material type or no HR staff, often are created centrally and then replicated to distributed systems – SAP EDI / ALE well suited to handle this type of requirements.
Data migration is an essential part of every implementation project. The issue of the quality and completeness of data (especially primary) in ERP system is one of the key elements of project`s success. There are many mechanisms and ways to implement this task. Due to the complexity of the issue, during project implementation separate teams are appointed to reclaim, clean and load data to the target system. This task is multithreaded and requires different organizational capacity, technical (database), as well as purely SAP competence (n. LSMW). I dealt with this issue in my career many times. Regarding data migration problem into SAP system my knowledge includes: LSMW, CAT, IDOC, BAPI (own programs), SXDA and specialized SAP programs, dedicated to individual objects, eg. the migration of inventories at HUM.
For many years, I`ve been the owner and user of Winshuttle`s TransactionalSHUTTEL programm. This is an external tool which helps to efficiently obtain and load data from / to SAP to / from an MS Access or MS Excel. I use this tool on my projects a lot, because it simplifies and automates data migration issues in a great way. My knowledge of MS Access application, obtained at a very early stage of my career (even before I became a SAP consultant) is very helpful for managing large data sets.
Recently, I`ve had the opportunity to work on a several projects as a cutover Manager where I was responsible for process of obtaining, cleaning and loading data managment. I must admit, that the coordination of the whole process of data migration is a difficult task and requires purely managerial abilities.This isn`t area that is particularly corresponds with my predisposition (rather I am a person with technical skills), but I have to admit that I have no problem with its implementation.
So far, the most important project I’ve ever made in this area was I a materials basic data migration in Polish public broadcaster TV, where base index was 120 000 records.
Data archiving in SAP is often confused with optical archiving (see ArchiveLink), although these are completely different functional areas. Archiving is the process of ‘slimming’ SAP database objects (master data, documents) that are no longer needed or are so rarely used that access to them may not be directly from the database but through the archive. Of course, the most common reasons for running data archiving projects in SAP are the performance or the speed of the SAP (access to documents) and the capacity of the system disks. Another very important reasons for data archiving processes are the legal requirements, eg. in Poland accounting documents should be available in the computer system for fiscal control authorities for a 5 years period. Every SAP consultant is familiar with the SARA transaction , through which the process of data archiving can be implemented , however, this process is usually much more complicated than it looks on first glance. First, external data archive system has to be prepared(protocol ArchiveLink). This system should meet all the requirements for this class of tools,eg. Have a backup technology for magnetic media or functional backup management plan.
Usually the archiving project is preceded by an analysis aimed at selection of the sites that require archiving, eg. The analysis of objects that cause the greatest increase in the database. On this basis, an analysis of dependent objects is usually carried out (related) that must be archived differently in order to ensure consistency of data in the archive and for turning the archives back to SAP. These are complex processes that require not only technical capacity but also business acumen, modular, in order to efficiently determine the relationship between object and resolution .
The last step, the physical archiving is just the culmination of the previous, much more labor-intensive steps.
Currently, due to the relatively cheap acquisition of new computing power and storage resources (and ever wider trespassing in-memory technology SAP HANA) data archiving projects are usually postponed. But sooner or later, most of SAP systems in enterprises will have to face the topic of data archiving.
One of the most challenging projects I have ever attended was a project for the separation of part of the business to a separate company (acquisition) operating on a separate SAP system. The premise of the project was to clone an existing SAP system on a separate instance of the then ‘clear’ sensitive data on a separate part of the company in the original SAP system, and similar action with the data on the cloned system. For sensitive data cleasing like material master, sales prices, sales documents, controlling data, HR etc. as a cleansing tool data archiving were selected. As a leader of this project I’ve fully recognised mechanisms governing data archiving in SAP, their complexity and interdependence.
The project was part of one of the biggest acquisitions in recent years where the US company Kraft took over Cadbury.