Finance teams are conservative – “never touch a running system” is an adage that still holds credence in many companies. Add to this native conservatism the fact that finance teams also have to deal with the software update windows provided by their IT departments as well as the systems limitations that come with quarterly and annual reporting cycles, and you come to see that they only have small windows of time where they can actually adopt innovations.
One way that SAP is addressing this constraint is by delivering hybrid scenarios – with innovations with quick deployment times being delivered via SAP Cloud Platform that plug into existing business systems. However, many companies think that these scenarios remain out of reach because many apps require the core ERP system to be upgraded to SAP S/4HANA. There are several apps delivered in SAP Cloud Platform by SAP, as well as others delivered by partners, that allow companies using older ERP releases (pre-SAP S/4HANA) to take advantage of the innovations. Therefore, these apps can be a first step into cloud software, even for conservative large enterprise finance teams.
(Note: For simplicity, this article refers to SAP ECC systems – this could be any SAP ERP Central Component (SAP ECC) 6.0 enhancement package 6 or higher [including SAP S/4HANA] system.)
IT and finance business process analysts need to understand the steps required in the on-premise systems as well as the configuration options in SAP Cloud Platform. I go through the six areas of effort to help companies better understand the efforts and have more successful projects.
The business process supported by this scenario is electronic bill presentment and payment. A customer-facing portal is deployed, where a company’s customers can log in, view, and download invoices, create payment advices, and make a payment. It reduces calls into the accounting back office, lowering the total cost of servicing customers. It is important to note that the invoices are not copied into the cloud–they are not saved or persisted in the cloud. Rather, they are displayed in real time from the back-end SAP ECC system, easing many company’s security concerns.
Also, this is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) scenario that offers limited customizing options– but the standard process can be deployed very quickly.
Could My Company Benefit from This App?
From a business perspective, companies will be interested in this app if they find that their accounts receivables team has to deal with repetitive customer inquiries, such as requests for invoice copies, providing explanations on why they are underpaying, or requesting support for their period-end balance confirmation process. Also, if your customers pay their invoices via direct debit scenarios, but want to pay bills before their due date to capture cash discounts, they can trigger the process from this app. Credit card payments will be possible in May 2017. Further, if companies have difficulty receiving remittance information for a certain segment of their customer base, this app could provide relief.
From a technical perspective, your company’s SAP ECC system needs to be running at least at the SAP ECC 6.0 enhancement package 6 level. Further, the app currently only supports Accounts Receivable (FI-AR) processing and is not suitable for high-volume industries, such as telecommunications or utilities, which usually use FI-CA (contract accounting) as the receivables subledger. The app can also support connections to multiple FI-AR systems.
Step 1. Preparing Your SAP ECC System: Installing SAP Cloud Connector and Applying Notes
In this step, you need to ensure that there is a secure data connection between your SAP ECC environment and SAP Cloud Platform. In your landscape, you need to install the SAP HANA cloud connector application at the level of the operating system on a machine close to the SAP ECC system. There are clear recommendations regarding the installation, secure setup, and initial configuration available in the documentation of the SAP HANA cloud connector.
Key for this app is that you control the access to your SAP ECC data using the recommended steps for configuring access control using Remote Function Calls (RFCs). For more information, click here. This is because the app uses RFCs to move data from the cloud to your on- premise system. Depending on how many SAP ECC systems you want to connect to the app, you need to configure one or several systems using the Add Resource dialog box in the Limiting the Accessible Resources for RFC section. Enter EBPP_BD as the function name and choose Prefix as the naming policy.
Figure 1 shows the high-level architecture of the following scenario described in this article: the on premise SAP ECC FI-AR system, the SAP HANA cloud connector, the SAP Cloud Platform with the consumer account accessed by the customer, and the provider account accessed by the SAP system.
A hybrid landscape with an on-premise ECC system and SAP Cloud Platform extension
Next, you have to apply four SAP Notes in your SAP ECC system. The first two create a package and related Data Dictionary objects, and the other two implement slight code changes that address product errors. The note numbers cannot be included here because they vary by systems level, so you should always check the Administration Guide for details.
You need to set up a technical user with a user name and password to link to the SAP ECC system. When you implement the latest Support Package, the role SAP_FI_FSCM_CUSTOMER_PAYMENT will already exist in your SAP ECC system and can be copied, adapted, and assigned to the user that is designated in the configuration for destinations to access SAP ERP systems.
Step 2. Back-End Customizing Settings in Your SAP ECC System
Depending on the capabilities you want to offer to your customers, certain settings need to be done in your SAP ECC system. The most important settings are described in detail, while the less important settings are covered in a table.
Enabling the Sales and Distribution (SD Module) Bill Download Feature
The customer payment app allows companies to display FI-AR invoices as well as SD billing documents to their customers. The PDF download functionality is only relevant for SD bills and must be enabled via the customizing of the output types in the SD module. The five steps you need to take in customizing are well described in the Administration Guide and take only a couple of minutes.
Enabling Payment Advice Type 09
If you would like your customers to be able to generate payment advice instructions that your accountants can use to match existing payments with open invoices, then you need to ensure payment advice type 09 exists in your SAP ECC system. If it is not yet available, it can be copied from the generic client 000.
Enabling Partial Payments
Many companies want their customers to be able to partially pay a bill, which might require a change to your SAP ECC system setup. When a customer partially pays, the bill is split–the payment method and bank details are entered in the items related to the bill, and the remaining outstanding amount is posted to a new residual item. The paid amount could be collected in a payment run, clearing the items up to the residual. The decision to allow partial settlement and partial payments is made at the company code level. There is optional customizing where you can set a minimum amount or percentage to avoid a customer paying insignificant amounts (where the amount might be less than the cost of the payment processing, for example).
In your SAP ECC system, you determine display and payment currency used in the app. Even if the bills for a single account have different currencies, you should specify a single currency since the user screens can only display one currency. If this setting is not made, the currency of the most recent bill is used for display and payment. End-user testing showed that customers had difficulties handing multiple currencies on the screen–that is why we translate the currencies into a single display currency. The PDF download would show the original amounts.
Creating and Assigning Payment Methods
Many companies want their customers to agree to automatic or direct debit scenarios, where they have the authorization to collect on payments using bank collection. The advantage to AR teams is that they have fewer issues with remittance; the downside for customers is that they cannot benefit from early payment discounts. This app mitigates this issue by letting the customer “pay early” to capture a discount by specifying the payment method in the bill items. This is why you need a separate payment method for the app: the identification of an item with this payment method has an effect on further processing. It will be pulled in by the very next bank collection payment run, not at the due date. For the relevant company codes, you need to enter this newly created payment method for the classification of Bank Collection.
Configuring the ‘Send to’ AR Clerk
Companies want their customers to know who will respond to their new payment advice or payment. The customer portal includes header information that shows the customers which AR clerk is responsible for managing their accounts, along with contact information such as email address and cellphone. This email address is also used for automatically sending a notification email to AR.
Other settings, such as the ones listed in Table 1, need to be checked.
Why should we do this?
Configure posting key 04
Assign text ID 0004 for collaboration feature
We need the text IDs to store and respond to notes from the customer using the collaboration feature
Making the note to payee visible if you are not using a bank statement
The note to payee is automatically added from the bank statement and is visible to the customer in the create payment advice process – providing useful background information
Significant: larger process change
Settings to check
Step 3. SAP Cloud Platform Steps and Technical User Creation
To connect your SAP ECC system to SAP S/4HANA Finance Cloud for customer payments, you need to make settings in your company’s consumer account in SAP Cloud Platform. This consumer account is set up by SAP when you license the app and has some settings already maintained to integrate with your back-end SAP ERP system. A technical user with administrator-level, unrestricted access is available to you at the time of system setup, but you should be careful of changing predefined settings.
When you subscribe to the app, a Java application with the coding and six HTML5-based user interfaces is made available to your consumer account. Note that as functionality grows, there may be more than six HTML5 apps provisioned to your account.
In the SAP Cloud Platform cockpit, your administrator will set up the destination of the back-end SAP ECC system you will be accessing, indicate that you are using an RFC connection, and add the technical user and password with the modified role SAP_FI_FSCM_CUSTOMER_PAYMENT that we set up in step 1. You need to indicate your technical preference for using load balancing, as well as make two settings on idle sessions and estimating peak system loads.
(Note: Any incidents should always be filed using your existing service portal and the component HCP_FIN_FSCM_CCP.)
SAP has delivered in-app configuration via the SAP Fiori tile Configure Customer Payments. Here, there are six settings that can be made. SAP delivers default values, but there are possibilities to choose other options. Some general settings apply to all the business processes available in the app, while others are limited to a single process. The Administrator Guide gives advice on these settings. In general, if your customers are likely to have large data volumes of open items, then allowing the customer to see many quarters’ details in the app is not recommended.
Step 4. Customer Master Data Updates
In your SAP ECC system, customers are identified by customer number and company code. Often the customer contact information from a finance operations perspective can be outdated. For the purposes of the customer payments app, it is useful to have updated email addresses, as well as first and last names of the correct AP clerk in your SAP ECC system to aid the user management process.
Step 5. User Management
SAP delivers two Java roles (Admin and User) along with application permissions for the various HTML5 apps. These have been pre-bundled into groups. Basically, there is an administrator group (for your AR team – note that they can change the business configuration in the in-app configuration tile) and an end user group (for your customers). If you do not want to offer the full functionality to your customers, then you could create your own groups, eliminating application permissions. The process for making this change is described in the Administrator Guide.
Next, you must configure the trust mapping between the SAP HANA Cloud Platform app and SAP Cloud Identity Service. The customers will be identified with email address, first name, and last name.
The license to the customer payments app entitles your company to use the SAP Cloud Platform Identity Provisioning service, which uses SAML2.0 protocols to authenticate users and provide single sign-on. It offers user registration support and helps your team manage the identity management topic. There will be a tenant in SAP Cloud Platform Identity Provisioning set up for your company, where you have to tell SAP Cloud Platform Identity Provisioning the URL of your customer payments app as well as which attributes you will use to identify your customers–their email address, first name, and last name.
The next step is to generate a comma-separated value (CSV) file to create web users and map these to SAP ECC customers. In SAP ECC, the customer is characterized by company code and customer number, but in customer payments, web users have unique email addresses. These email addresses have to be mapped to SAP ECC customer numbers. The effort here depends on the following factors:
- Whether one web user manages several SAP ECC customer accounts
- The number of SAP ECC systems where the customer is located
- The sheer number of customers
Providing more automation and support for this onboarding topic is a current co-innovation research topic.
Step 6. Testing Effort
Each customer will have access to a separate tenant for testing, where they can connect to a quality or development SAP ECC system using the same steps as described above. It is not necessary to have hundreds of customer accounts–just enough to get a good test of the processes. In some cases, the initial testing steps are described in the Administrator Guide–for example, the testing of the output types for SD bill download.
Early customer feedback shows that quality control is required in the creation of the CSV file for the creation of the web users, especially in the more complex situations of multiple SAP ECC systems and multiple customers.
Customers are notified via standard SAP Cloud Platform channels when major updates are done so that they can plan testing phases accordingly.
Companies can take the first steps into the cloud today, even if they are on an older SAP ECC release. The SAP Cloud Platform customer payments app does not save critical invoicing data in the cloud; rather, it provides a secure portal where a customer can view its account information in real time, without any data redundancy. This very standardized approach does not offer as much flexibility as many SAP users are accustomed to in their on-premise systems, but the speed of deployment and lack of any worries regarding hardware, security, and operations lead many IT and finance departments to want to choose standardization over tailored processes.