Imagine that your business faces one of the following scenarios:
- Your company is in acquisitions mode, and you need to quickly integrate the new company you are acquiring.
- You have switched into rollout mode, and you want to complete it quickly while making sure that all the countries and sites to which you are rolling out will use the company’s core business processes and standards.
- You want to consolidate multiple SAP systems around the world into regional instances or perhaps a single instance.
- You want to evaluate the business processes that your users are executing in your SAP system.
- You want to inventory your own best-practice business processes and enforce their use across the enterprise.
Any one of these scenarios presents a challenge to IT and the business. Having a current, well-documented template available ensures better, more cost-effective solution management.
Whether you’re implementing SAP software from scratch or you’re a long-standing SAP customer, building a template that reflects your business processes and how your SAP solution covers them is definitely of value. With a business-process initiative to build a global template, project managers, IT team members, and business-process owners alike have a new opportunity to discuss their needs from both a business point of view and an IT perspective.
SAP Solution Manager helps to model and document business processes in more detail and in a more process-oriented way than you can imagine. A template helps to identify the untapped potential of your SAP software, whether for SAP ERP or another component, such as SAP Customer Relationship Management (SAP CRM), SAP Supplier Relationship Management (SAP SRM), SAP NetWeaver Business Intelligence (SAP NetWeaver BI), or SAP Advanced Planning and Optimization (SAP APO).
What a Template Is and What It Does
A template is a preformatted pattern on which you can base the format for other files. This template includes a business-process structure with various levels of detail. You document each business process in a flexible way that allows you to manage it and keep a record of its current status and any changes. Then, you capture all the documentation and link it to the applicable business process so that you can easily find the relevant data about a particular process.
The following list shows the types of items that belong in a template. You may need to add more elements to this list, depending on what your organization’s business and IT support needs are:
- Transactions for any SAP component that belongs to a business process
- Test cases that prove the business process is supported appropriately
- User documentation (such as cheat sheets, business-process procedures, and training materials)
- Customer-specific development objects that are particular to the business process (such as forms, interfaces, and user exits)
- Corporate standards for master data, business processes, and so on
- Business requirements that lead to specific customizations
- Customizing settings
- Appropriate localization information, if the template is global
In most projects that establish a global template, a central competence center works well. For this approach, mixed teams of business and IT people work together to build the template. These teams are built along end-to-end “mega-processes,” such as order-to-cash, purchase-to-pay, and hire-to-retire. The advantage of using these mega-processes is that they are typically designed as end-to-end processes with no or only a few integration points to other mega-processes.
After building and documenting the template, business and IT (or the internal SAP Competency Center) can share the ownership and responsibility for change management. However, it’s absolutely essential that neither the business nor IT solely own the template.
You need to maintain a global template through change management. You can base this change management process on IT Infrastructure Library’s (ITIL’s) best practices, but it isn’t essential. Just make sure that you keep both parties involved and responsible for managing change. You will get the most benefit from your global template if you ensure central ownership and control of process definition.
SAP Solution Manager’s Role
SAP Solution Manager has a new way of directing your day-in and day-out solution management and technical tasks. It also has specific functions for establishing global templates and support implementations, and for rolling out template-based projects.
On the whole, you define a template with the special “template project” type in SAP Solution Manager. Once the template — along with all its documentation and business processes — has been established, you can use it as a basis for future projects and initiatives. To understand the basic template concept, see “Templates in SAP Solution Manager” below.
The template contains a predefined set of standards, business processes, and documentation: a documented business model. Each implementation or rollout project uses a copy of the template at the beginning, but the project may adjust its copy based on local requirements (e.g., in another country). For example, projects 1 and 2 (see “Template Modifications by Project” below) have different and fewer business processes than the templates from which they were originally copied. These templates might also be tailored to meet your local needs.
While projects are underway, the template owner receives constant feedback about what changes or improvements to consider. This constant stream of feedback helps to make the template a more valuable resource for future projects. The process always reflects the current version of the business-process model and therefore ensures that the template itself doesn’t become outdated.
SAP Solution Manager provides three basic modeling levels with which you can model your business-process structure:
- The business scenario (e.g., order-to-cash)
- The business processes for each scenario (e.g., domestic sales)
- The business-process step (e.g., entering the sales orders)
It sets up the three-level hierarchy of a business-process model. You can’t modify the model through standard customizing means. Other complementary tools, such as ARIS for SAP NetWeaver, enable an even deeper and wider array of functions for a more detailed model. ARIS for SAP NetWeaver also has the functionality to synchronize your business-process modeling activities with the business-process structure in SAP Solution Manager.
SAP Solution Manager captures all the implementation or upgrade information in a project. You can tailor the project type to the type of information that you want to capture in it. The project type also represents the kind of initiative that you are supporting, whether it’s implementation, upgrade, maintenance, or template. Once a project is created and the scenarios, business processes, and business-process steps are set up in SAP Solution Manager, you can assign a lot of details to each business process or step. You can assign anything from transactions, to documentation, to user roles, to training materials, and even to configuration and development information.
You assign documents by creating a new document directly in SAP Solution Manager, uploading a copy of an existing document from your PC or a network location, or creating a Web link to a document that is stored and managed outside SAP Solution Manager. You classify other information, such as transactions, user roles, configuration, and development objects, and list them by business process or business-process step on a special “tab.” SAP Solution Manager provides various “tabs” on which it creates and stores all these assignments.
Create a Template in SAP Solution Manager
If you want to build a global template and you have been live on SAP ERP — or any other SAP component for a while — your biggest challenge will be to populate SAP Solution Manager with all the data about your active business processes and transactions.
SAP provides a large repository, the Business Process Repository (BPR), as part of SAP Solution Manager. It contains typical business scenarios, processes, and process steps that come with content, such as SAP’s business-process documentation, assigned SAP standard transactions, and configuration objects (by business process or business-process step). The good news is, you don’t have to start with a blank page; the BPR contains content you can put to work right away. The bad news is, you have to select which BPR pieces you want to use.
Since only a few companies know which transactions and SAP-predefined business processes their user community actually uses, selecting the ones you want is a lot of work. If you want to start building a template with your “as-is” situation, you must essentially redocument your solution in SAP Solution Manager before you proceed. You will need the results of the following three key tasks to successfully gather the necessary information:
- Perform a detailed analysis of the transactions to use (SAP standard and custom).
- Make a detailed analysis of any customization, reporting use, interfaces, developments, and so on.
- Locate and validate other documentation, such as business-process procedures, master-data definitions, and standards.
To get a complete picture of your business-process model, these three tasks need to be executed across all the SAP components on which you’ve gone live, all your business processes, and all your divisions and regions that have any SAP components installed. If you have more than one system live, you should repeat this process for each.
One “best practice” for single-production-instance SAP customers is to take an inventory of the entire instance. Large organizations that have many SAP systems of various types have achieved great results by choosing at least one SAP instance from their solution portfolio, making sure it possesses the following characteristics:
- At least 80% of the enterprise’s overall business processes are covered.
- No less than 80% of the most unique business processes are involved.
- A lot of SAP functionality (not just SAP FI/CO) is included, highly integrated, and well accepted by the user community.
Sometimes, a regional approach makes the most sense when the systems for the template are chosen as the best representatives of “as-is” documentation for their geographic region: for example, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA); Asia-Pacific (APAC); North America (NA); and Latin America (LA). Depending on the size of your company, the added benefit of analyzing more than five to 10 systems globally as a foundation for a template is marginal, and the cost of executing a huge “as-is” analysis is too high for template building.
If you try to do this manually, after you select the systems you want to analyze, you’ll face the task of organizing interviews with application owners, super users, technical teams, and others. You’ll look at messaging-system tables, review customization settings, and create many reports that show how the system supports business processes — and which ones it supports. You’ll also have to accept that a lot of guesswork is involved. Weeks, if not months, may go by before you have all the information you need to capture your “as-is” information and enter it into SAP Solution Manager.
Using a manual approach to take inventory of the business processes currently in use will fail for many reasons, and with it goes your approach to building a template. For example, it:
- Consumes a lot of resources, time, and money
- Results in much less than 100% accuracy
- Makes the risk of missing important pieces too high
- Reduces the likelihood of senior management approving the budget and resources needed
Challenging the manual approach, many companies have turned to one of two tools currently available to automate this step: RBE Plus from IBIS and NetProcess from Intellicorp.
Reverse Business Engineering (RBE) was developed in the late 1990s. It enables you to identify the business processes in use and find areas for improvement based on your current system use and your existing customization settings. Both tools analyze the SAP R/3 or ERP transaction-monitor log files to identify transaction use. RBE Plus also checks your customizing settings and reviews existing master data, documents, roles, and authorizations to identify exactly which business processes are in active use. RBE Plus can also analyze other SAP component systems, such as SAP NetWeaver BI, SAP CRM, or SAP SRM.
With RBE Plus, the results of that analysis are then mapped to the SAP BPR. From there, you can load them into an SAP Solution Manager project using a standard SAP interface. Then, you can see which business processes and which transactions are in use. The standard SAP business-process documentation automatically loads, as do all the customizing objects that you need to document in your template.
Then, to complete your business-process structure, go through all your custom transactions and assign them to the appropriate business processes or business-process steps. SAP has not yet assigned some of the SAP standard transactions to any particular business process in the SAP BPR. RBE Plus helps with that as well by providing complete lists of customized and SAP standard transactions that are in use but not assigned to any business process in the SAP BPR. My own experience is only with the RBE Plus tool; it has been a great help in jump-starting the template-build process for more than 10 global-template-build projects using SAP Solution Manager.
Other Lessons Learned
SAP is continuously improving the SAP BPR content, which is updated via the service packs for SAP Solution Manager. These service packs include content updates to the SAP BPR as well as other SAP Solution Manager content (e.g., implementation and upgrade roadmaps). When building a global template, all projects should be on the latest SAP Solution Manager release and service pack. (At the time of this writing, that’s SAP Solution Manager 4.0 with SP12.) This ensures that you can use the latest SAP BPR version.
The BPR-defined business scenarios and business processes should fit into SAP’s view of how to model, structure, and name the scenarios and processes. The SAP BPR still contains a fair amount of functional orientation versus true business-process orientation. It also still requires you to deal with many different SAP-specific terms as names of business processes and their steps.
Some companies overcame this by building a second version of the template in another project with SAP Solution Manager. They started loading the SAP BPR-mapped analysis results into one project in SAP Solution Manager. Then, they mapped the active processes to their own business-process model, which they created in another project. To reference the SAP BPR, they then combined the two: the SAP way of defining business processes and the business-process naming and structure guidelines of their own company.
All existing documentation, such as training documents, business-process procedures, and development documentation, must find its way into SAP Solution Manager in the location assigned to that business process. If you have these kinds of documents stored in a document-management system, you can assign the URL link to the documents in SAP Solution Manager, as shown on the screen below.
If you decide you want SAP Solution Manager to be the leading system where you’ll store all documentation, you must upload your documents to it. No function or automatic method of mass-uploading documents is available today. You will need to plan some time to complete the business-process structure with existing documentation before the template will be ready to go.
As an overall estimate, you should schedule three-to-nine months to build and complete a global template if you use accelerators, such as RBE Plus. This assumes that you are building the template from an existing SAP ERP, SAP NetWeaver BI, SAP CRM, or another system. The time required is highly dependent on the amount of detail that exists in modeling and documenting the template and for which scenarios it is intended.
You need to decide how to manage your documents. SAP Solution Manager uses a “light” version of SAP Knowledge Warehouse (SAP KW) to support documentation management in all different types of projects, for example, implementation projects, upgrade projects, or template projects. The SAP KW component is installed on the same instance as SAP Solution Manager. All the documents that you store with your business processes are managed with SAP KW functionality. You can create and delete documents, assign a status, and use check-in/check-out functionality. SAP Solution Manager automatically keeps a history of each document so you have a record of who created the document, when it was changed, and so on.
The check-in/check-out function enables you to block a document from being edited by other users when you have checked it out. You can also assign keywords to your documents that can be helpful when searching for those documents later.
Standard SAP Solution Manager doesn’t have an indexed search so your search is limited to keywords, business processes, business-process steps, author or owner of a document, and a few other fields. You can only search for specific words within a document when you have SAP’s TREX search engine and you have made it active and configured it to work with SAP Solution Manager.
When you are building a template, you can create your own document types and make them available to any project that has been copied from your template project. SAP predelivers a large set of document types that fills most documentation needs (e.g., business-process procedure, configuration guide, interface form, and development request).
You can create documents on the “General Documentation” tab of your business-process structure. When you copy a template project into an implementation project, the documents in that project are flagged as “global” and, therefore, are “read only” for the implementation.
Templates, when built correctly, can speed up rollouts and enable you to centralize control over business processes. Templates provide an organized way of deploying critical and core business processes throughout your enterprise, and they can become a repository of your own best practices. Templates also enable quicker integration of acquisitions and can become a training ground for new deployment teams.
|Winni Hesel is a partner at Enowa Consulting. He is a senior SAP consultant and project manager with more than 15 years of experience in SAP solutions. His focus is on SAP Solution Manager, global rollouts, logistics, and supply chain management. Hesel’s experience includes consulting using different SAP tools and methodologies and resolving SAP landscape questions arising from mergers and acquisitions.