By Michael Pytel, NIMBL
You know the phrase. “We’re performing a technical upgrade only – no new functionality will be enabled.” It’s hard to believe – but SAP’s Enhancement Package (EHP) strategy is over ten years old now. In 2006, SAP unveiled its EHP approach with a simple value proposition – enable IT to install enhancements which are dormant and then selectively enable them when your business is ready. CIOs could keep current on software maintenance, install the latest baseline code from SAP and offer his/her CxO colleagues the promise of no disruption to the business. Looking back – was this a good thing? We could happily plod along with our 10+ year-old ERP code baseline, enable no enhancements, but feel good about installing the latest release of SAP ERP without actually using any of the enhancements. This is often the dark secret of IT – we’re paying Enterprise Maintenance (almost always north of 20%) per annum ) and not enabling any new functionality within the software we own. Would any CFO or CEO think this is a good investment? Paying new car prices every year but still driving that 2006 Honda Accord. Is this why shadow IT departments within Finance and Engineering departments are popping up? We (IT) didn’t take the risk of including new innovations with our Enhancement Package projects – so the business is now buying and implementing their own software. With S/4HANA there is a sea-wave of change. Can we selectively activate like we did in the past? Or will we be forced to adopt new version of software when we perform software maintenance upgrades? Read on.
SAP – Complacent Software Provider?
Taking an additional moment to look back – did SAP enable its customers to underutilize the software they already own? In short, no. We did it to ourselves. If we look at the data and tools SAP made available to us – it’s hard to point the finger to SAP at the lack of adoption of enhancements. SAP provided detailed listings of all the enhancements they made. Standing up dedicated sites like the one below where we can navigate each EHP release and see the detail behind each enhancement. (http://service.sap.com/erp-ehp)
Fast forward to 2009 – SAP releases EHP4 for SAP ERP and a new capability within Solution Manager to understand the impact of those enhancements before actually turning them on. Up until this point – enhancements (aka Business Functions) could be turned on – but not turned off. This created a lot of fear. Was it unnecessary? Yes – by all accounts. There are exceptions – but most SAP customers already had (or could have) a sandbox system which they could safely enable these enhancements without impacting production support. Using Solution Manager’s Business Process Change Analyzer – available in Solution Manager 7.01 SP18 – we could analyze the impact of individual enhancements against the usage data from our production system. Yes – Solution Manager (SAP’s version of kale) could tell you in detail how an enhancement would impact your production system by giving us the SAP transactions and programs that require testing – amazing!
Two important things happened with the release of EHP6 for SAP ERP in 2012. SAP’s new enhancements could be reversed – so we no longer needed to activate in isolation. And we see the first enhancements for SAP ERP on HANA. Yes – in 2012 – customers could run SAP ERP on HANA and have access to ERP specific enhancements for HANA only. This was the first occurrence of HANA specific innovations and the trend would continue with SAP ERP EHP7 and EHP8 released in 2014 and 2016 respectively. With SAP ERP EHP7 – SAP released the Fiori UI for SAP ERP which delivered a handful of ERP-on-any-database Fiori apps included with Enterprise or Standard maintenance agreements. Supporting this new focus on the User Experience – SAP included Screen Personas as part of every customers’ maintenance agreements. With no additional licenses – IT now had the capability to improve the end user experience within SAP ERP (using Fiori or Screen Personas).
Fiori or Personas – does it really matter? Anything looks better than traditional SAP GUI (Hint: The above example is Screen Personas with the Fiori template for look and feel)
We can blame ourselves – let’s move forward
We’ve established a good argument that SAP did its job to document enhancements, provide tools for us to understand the impact of those enhancements, and deliver enhancements across all modules of SAP ERP. So why didn’t we adopt? Because it’s easier not to. Completing a technical upgrade was like winning a medal at the local 5K race – everyone got one when they finished. Some customers were better than others – completing technical upgrades in eight weeks while others took eight months. There’s very little risk, in terms of core SAP functionality, with the technical upgrade approach which meant there was very little reward. When the business users came in on Monday after the upgrade weekend – did their job get easier? Did they have new transactions or functionality which streamlined their job functions? All too often the answer was no. All the effort to document test cases, build test scripts, setup test data, etc. was not wasted – but did we maximize the value of the collective test effort?
Incremental innovation is the new norm within the SAP community. We see SAP incrementally innovating with its cloud solutions – delivering smaller innovations on a more frequent basis. Can we do this with our on premise SAP ERP landscapes – absolutely. Check out the analysis below we created with a large SAP customer. Using SAP provided materials (documents, SAP Help, SAP Notes, etc.) we were able to identify numerous enhancements and answer the questions; Can I run this enhancement in parallel with core ERP functionality? Is this enhancement a performance improvement or a process improvement? What will be the effort to implement that enhancement?
The above example is an excerpt of a complete analysis that took about three weeks to complete with an experienced SAP ERP Architect. The SAP customer was a large Federal agency (yes, you read that correct – the US Government is adopting ERP EHP7 innovations.) How did this SAP customer understand what to test when enabling these enhancements? Solution Manager Business Process Change Analyzer. We don’t need third party products to understand the impact of enabling enhancements within our landscape. Worried about custom code? Solution Manager will highlight the impact of enhancements on both SAP delivered and customer created programs and transactions. If your custom program utilizes as SAP delivered function module – your program will be flagged by Solution Manager as test case required. It’s simple, you own it, we just need to utilize it.
Bye-Bye EHP – Hello FPS
With the S/4HANA – we now have forced innovation. We no longer have the option of adopting enhancements selectively. SAP will deliver Feature Package Stacks (FPS) with Support Package Stacks throughout the year much like they do today. However – based on information known today – FPS’ will be installed and enhancements activated immediately (read: Forced Innovation.) Having lived through ten years of “technical upgrades” I think IT will welcome this change and even though it sounds painful – the business users will eventually appreciate that we can more frequently deliver innovation to them. S/4HANA 1610 is now the go to release for S/4HANA – and FPS01 is set to be delivered this month (February 2017.) We haven’t lived thru an FPS project yet (no one really has) so we will update the community once we’ve gotten our hands on it.
Moving to S/4HANA requires real effort. And its forced innovation is a good thing. We think this will reinvigorate the business analysts and functional SAP configuration team members who have sat (somewhat) idle for the past 5+ years working on master data changes and minor configuration requests. This new world requires heads down analysis, prototyping and testing -and the payoffs can be big. On a recent project working with S/4HANA and embedded Business Planning & Consolidation (BPC) – the move to S/4HANA was the impetus for major change related to yearly budgeting and the interaction between the FP&A team and the business. With SAP ERP (and no BPC) before – yearly budgeting involved 40+ MS Excel templates that were distributed to business unit leaders, manually updated, and then manually consolidated by the FP&A team. The process took weeks to complete and countless hours of chasing down inputs, manually tracking MS Excel file versions, and consolidation. Queue S/4HANA with embedded BPC. Budgets are built based on last year’s actuals with some variable applied – then distributed and tracked within SAP BPC so each business unit leader is able to edit online with the same version of the document created by the FP&A team. Now exceptions and changes can be explained in document and then consolidated into the larger company wide budget in days – instead of weeks. That’s running simple.
Is it too late? Can we still enable enhancements with SAP ERP? Yes. The effort to enable and investigate some of these enhancements is very low. And it provides your IT staff time to adapt to the new continuous innovation cycle. Small enhancements delivered more frequently. If your roadmap involves moving to Suite on HANA before S/4HANA – then you absolutely have the opportunity to enable enhancements with tangible value. Enhancements exist across the board – Finance, Sales, Logistics, & HCM. As you begin to look forward and plan for S/4HANA – keep in mind that process change is coming. Familiarizing your team with S/4HANA 1610 using SAP Cloud Appliance Library (pay-as-you-go) is a great option to get people access to a working environment with demonstration data just to get a feel for the new environment. We believe this is especially beneficial for those who are still building their business case. And for those customers that are running Industry Solutions and want to validate S4HANA will work for them. It’s a great time to be an SAP customer – loads of innovation available and not enough time to implement it all.