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Begin Your Supply Chain Transition to SAP Fiori in SAP S/4HANA

by Anurag Barua, Principal, TruQua Enterprises

September 27, 2017

Learn how to plan the transition of your SAP S/4HANA supply chain business function execution from your current ERP-based conventional approach to SAP Fiori.

SAP Fiori, SAP’s new user experience, features an intuitive redesigned interface that provides easy navigation and extensive personalization. All these attributes help increase your productivity and provide you with an engaging user experience.

First off, a brief technical overview of SAP Fiori: SAP provides an ever-expanding set of business functions with SAP Fiori that you as a business user can run in a device-agnostic manner. The SAP Fiori user interface has been designed using SAPUI5 technology and this enables SAP Fiori screens to render in a consistent manner regardless of the device. The SAP NetWeaver Gateway is the most important back-end component and its installation is mandatory. The gateway enables connections between the underlying SAP system/source and the targets. The development, maintenance, and enhancement of SAP Fiori involves an array of technologies including ABAP, Javascript, HTML5, OData, SAP UI5, and SAP HANA. Since SAP Fiori is role based, as a business user the apps that you are able to view are directly controlled by the roles assigned to you in the underlying (source) SAP system.

In the latest release of SAP S/4HANA (1610 as of the time of this writing), SAP has significantly expanded the number of business processes that are enabled through SAP Fiori apps. These apps augment the offerings in the prior release (1511) and the first SAP S/4HANA release (1503). SAP S/4HANA 1610 also delivers a vastly improved user experience (UX) as encapsulated in SAP Fiori 2.0. This combination of business processing capabilities and an engaging UX makes for a compelling business case for planning your transition from the conventional SAP NetWeaver-based interaction with your SAP systems to SAP Fiori.

In this article, I propose a phased rollout approach to SAP Fiori for your SCM business processes. (I discuss SAP Fiori for SCM business processes, but my approach can also be used for other business processes.) In particular, I take a deep look at phase one and a few of the key SAP Fiori apps I recommend that you deploy. Note that since SCM is such a big area, I limit the scope of the article to the two most fundamental areas of SCM: purchasing and sales.

Rolling Out SCM Fiori Apps in Your Organization

My approach to rolling out SAP Fiori apps is a phased one. This approach gradually reduces the change management effort that accompanies a paradigm change. Imagine you are replacing a spreadsheet-driven analysis culture with a sophisticated BI/Analytics application with analytics and visualization capabilities that make spreadsheets seem like an anachronism. Despite the numerous advantages of the new application, there will be significant resistance from users if change management is not done continuously and effectively. This is a fairly common scenario that all of us have encountered in some form. A phased approach to an SAP Fiori rollout, such as the one I’m proposing, will soften the resistance to change and accelerate user adoption. It also creates its own momentum as users become the most reliable champions of this new paradigm. A big bang approach, on the contrary, might run into issues of adoption and is far less likely to succeed than a phased approach.

Figure 1 displays in a nutshell my proposed phased approach.

Figure 1
A three-phase approach to rolling out SAP Fiori apps in the SCM realm

(Note: SAP Fiori apps come in three categories: transactional, analytics, and fact sheets. Some apps straddle categories. The categorization is far less important than the functionality that these apps deliver. So, do not get caught up in the technical intricacies and categorization of SAP Fiori apps.)

Here is an outline of my three-phased approach:

  • Phase 1: Quick Wins

This phase is about creating visibility, excitement, use, and initial adoption of SAP Fiori within your organization. I recommend the enablement and rollout of the simplest and most intuitive, yet compelling, apps in this phase. I would target phase 1 at key business users. Here are some of the suggested ones: create and approve purchase orders, create or manage service entry sheets, create or manage purchase requisitions, post goods movements, create or manage sales orders, resolve issues, display material and sales documents, basic analysis using Spend Analytics, and display scorecards apps. If you want to take an even more streamlined approach, I recommend that you consider doing a proof of concept (POC) using one or two of these apps that most completely address your organizational needs. A successful POC is always a precursor to a bigger deployment.

  • Phase 2: Consolidation

In this phase, you build on the success of phase 1. Therefore, you shift from using SAP Fiori for key business processes in your organization to more challenging ones. This approach helps you consolidate the gains you made in phase 1 in making deeper inroads with SAP Fiori in your organization. Phase two should be targeted at decision makers, such as mid to upper management, subject matter experts (SMEs), and power users. The apps that I recommend that you use in this phase should deliver both transactional (for the power users and SMEs) and analytical (for management) capabilities. Here is my set of recommended apps: manage stock; transfer stock; manage purchase contracts; supplier evaluation by multiple criteria, including quantity, quality, price, and time; and managing and scheduling of billing documents.

  • Phase 3: Expand and innovate

When you are ready to embark on this phase, you have strong evidence that SAP Fiori has a firm foothold in your organization. You have a captive base of SAP Fiori users cutting across departmental, divisional, and geographical boundaries. So now is the time to expand into areas that have not been core requirements or areas that you want to improve and innovate. The apps that I recommend that you use in this phase are manage material master, manage product master, print labels, receive products, manage sources of supply, contract leakage, sales volumes, and customer 360-degree view. I also recommend that you consider enhancing existing SAP Fiori apps and creating new ones, start putting together requirements, and start building or procuring the necessary technical expertise required to create or modify SAP Fiori apps. In theory, this phase could last for the duration of your SAP environment since by this time you have transitioned SAP Fiori activities from implementation to operations and maintenance (O&M).

Selected Phase 1 Apps: An Overview

Sales Order Fulfillment (Issues): This app allows you (in the role of a sales representative or associate) to monitor which sales orders have not been fulfilled and why. The reasons for non-fulfillment could be because of various blocks put in the SAP system or other issues. Based on the real-time information available for each of these sales orders, you can either take immediate corrective information or facilitate the next steps for resolution and subsequent fulfillment. When you use this app in conjunction with a related app Sales Order Fulfillment Analyze Issues, you are able to analyze fulfillment data in real time─you would have to rely on extracting and loading data from your SAP transaction system to SAP BW, thereby introducing significant latency. So now you are not only able to detect fulfillment issues in real time but also analyze trends such as the top five customers with fulfillment issues.   

To find any app, you need to type in keywords in the search bar in the SAP Fiori launchpad. Once the app is identified, click it. This action displays a screen similar to the one shown in Figure 2. (Figure 2 is a partial image of this screen.)

Figure 2
Sales order fulfillment issues

The aggregated information in the top section shows the total number of issues that currently exist per category. The line-item information displays the individual sales orders that have issues. In this screen, you can search, filter on issue type or other master data such as sales organization, sales group, and sales office, and format your display by controlling which columns you want to be visible.

When you click a number hyperlink under the Sales Order column, the system displays the Issue Details screen. For my example, click the 1 number link to see what’s going on and what needs to be done for this sales order. Figure 3 displays the outcome.

Figure 3
Detailed information about a shipping issue

You can see that the item has not yet shipped. This information helps you to get in touch with the supplier immediately.

Manage Purchase Orders: If you are a purchasing officer or have the authority to create, change, and complete purchase orders, this app provides you with a list of purchase orders that require your attention because they have one or more overdue line items. This highly integrated app allows you to search purchase orders using multiple criteria, customize the columns you want displayed, download results to a spreadsheet, and forward-navigate to follow-on documents for taking remedial action.

After you search for this app and launch it, the system displays a screen similar to the one shown in Figure 4. (Figure 4 is a partial image of this screen.)

Figure 4
A list of purchase orders that need to be managed

Note that Figure 4 shows one purchase order with the status of Not Sent Yet. This purchase order can be taken care of immediately because it has not been sent to the approver for his or her approval. Click the radio button next to this purchase order to view the actual purchase order (Figure 5).

Figure 5
The purchase order management screen

To route this purchase order to the approver in your workflow for necessary action, in Figure 5 follow menu path Services for Object > Send > Send Object with node.

Spend Analysis: Spend Analysis involves analyzing all your payables data to realize efficiencies, monitor compliance, and explore ways for keeping procurement costs low. SAP Fiori, in conjunction with SAP S/4 HANA, provides many apps for doing spend analysis. A lot of this functionality has been enabled for SAP Fiori. Therefore, you have an option of doing spend analysis (both on the procurement and supply sides) in multiple dimensions.

(Note: In the ERP era, spend analytics invariably involved extract, transfer, and load [ETL] of your spend data into either a data warehouse [such as SAP BW] or to spreadsheets and using various tools to analyze and present this data. In fact, many years ago, I architected a multimillion-dollar solution for one of my clients that involved extracting spend data from the source SAP ERP system using or modifying standard SAP extractors to SAP BW, transforming the data based on business rules, and loading to a DataStore object [DSO], previously called Operational DataStore [ODS], and InfoCubes for analysis. Today, none of this is necessary.)

This means that with these spend analysis apps, you can do spend analytics in real time in your supply chain system of record. Your analysis is as current as it could possibly be and you don’t need any additional systems or software for transformation and analysis. The SAP Fiori apps provide all the information you need in both tabular and visual formats.

Let’s look at the Non-Managed Spend app. You can find it by typing spend in the search box. One of the things a purchase officer or buyer in your organization tracks is the amount of spend occurring without corresponding purchase orders (which is why it is called non-managed spend). After you click the app, the system displays a screen similar to the one shown in Figure 6. The view you see is the graphic view, and the spend is displayed by supplier. You have an option of analyzing or viewing by material group, general ledger (G/L) account, and document.

Figure 6
Non-managed spend by supplier

There are some trend analysis capabilities built into this app. When you switch to the trend view, you get a good visual sense of how the spend is trending. The trend view is shown in Figure 7.

Figure 7
Monthly spend trend analysis

With this app, you can also use additional facets for analysis by clicking the add facet icon and selecting the facets that are of relevance to you. Facets are attributes such as profit center, cost center, or plant. Why do you need to add a facet? Think of your default view as the most aggregated level of information as in an InfoCube in BW. Now say you want to drill down into details such as spending by a supplier for one or more plants or a cost center. Click the add facet icon. The system then lists all the facets that you can add to your analysis view. I select cost center. I am then prompted to select one or more cost centers as shown in Figure 8.

Figure 8
Identifying what values of a certain facet to include in the analysis view

I’m curious about cost centers 100000 and 100001 and click the OK button. Notice that the displayed data now only includes spend information for these two cost centers. Also notice that controlling area is automatically included in the selection. That is because controlling area is a compounding characteristic of a cost center and a cost center exists in the context of a controlling area. This is displayed in Figure 9.

Figure 9
Non-managed spend (analysis) with a new facet – cost center

I now want to go a level deeper and investigate the big purchases at the document level. But before that I want to reset the filters since I want to view this information for all spend, not just to spend limited to the two cost centers I selected. All I need to do is to click the filter icon on the top right of the screen (currently not shown). After that I go to the drop-down in Figure 9, currently set to By Supplier and change it to Document. Figure 10 shows you the FI document numbers that correspond to each of the spends/purchases.

Figure 10
Drill down from selected cost centers to the accounting document

At any time, you can also download your results to a spreadsheet by clicking the export to spreadsheets icon  that you see on every screen.

Key Considerations

SAP Fiori is a journey and there are quite a few things you need to consider so that you can make this transition with the least amount of pain and disruption:

  • SAP has no plans to completely replace the standard SAP (NetWeaver) graphical user interface (GUI) with SAP Fiori anytime in the future. A lot of your business processes have been converted to SAP Fiori apps, and SAP will continue doing so in future releases. However, it is far-fetched to imagine a future in which SAP Fiori is the only SAP user experience (UX). Therefore, the smart thing to do is to leverage as many SAP Fiori apps as possible and use the standard SAP GUI for what is not available in SAP Fiori.
  • To review the catalog of SAP Fiori apps, click here. If you search and filter by multiple criteria, you should see all the information you need about any SAP Fiori app.
  • Many people have asked me if SAP S/4HANA is a prerequisite for SAP Fiori. The answer is no. Having said that, realize that you get the greatest benefits from SAP Fiori if it works in tandem with SAP S/4HANA. Certain apps are also only designed to run on an SAP HANA database. Generally speaking, analytical and fact sheets apps only run off an SAP HANA database. Examples of such apps are all the sales and purchasing analytics apps and sales order fulfillment. Examples of transactional apps (that do not require SAP HANA) include approve supplier invoices, confirm production orders, and adjust stock.
  • Engage an experienced Basis administrator at the outset (i.e., phase 1) and also an SAP security specialist (if you can). You need to make certain architectural decisions (even if you are only doing a POC) early on and for that you need the expertise of a seasoned Basis administrator with strong security skills.
  • Develop a good understanding of the roles and responsibilities of your SAP business users. Access to SAP Fiori apps is based on roles and authorizations, so the more well-defined users’ roles and responsibilities in the SAP environment are, the more streamlined your use of SAP Fiori will be.
  • Try not to give any SAP Fiori user an SAP_All type of role (analogous to the one in an SAP ERP system). Aside from the fact that this is not good practice (and akin to giving a regular citizen the keys to the kingdom), it is a total performance buster. Logging in to the SAP Fiori launchpad with this role means every single SAP Fiori app has to be loaded. Logging in this way takes a considerable amount of time and your searches also will be time-consuming. You really need only a small subset of this universe of apps.

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Anurag Barua

Anurag Barua is a principal at TruQua Enterprises. He has 23 years of experience in conceiving, designing, managing, and implementing complex software solutions, including nearly 18 years of experience with SAP applications. He has been associated with several SAP implementations in various capacities. His core SAP competencies include FI and Controlling (FI/CO), logistics, SAP HANA, SAP BW, SAP BusinessObjects, Enterprise Performance Management, SAP Solution Manager, Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC), and project management. He is a frequent speaker at SAPinsider conferences and contributes to several publications. He holds a BS in computer science and an MBA in finance. He is a PMI-certified PMP, a Certified Scrum Master (CSM), and is ITIL V3F certified.

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