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What It Means to Implement SAP

Let's take a couple of steps back and investigate SAP from a company perspective, a historical perspective, and in terms of roadmaps to implementation.
This chapter is from the book

Implementing SAP continues to be one of the most complex undertakings in the world of business applications and information technology (IT). Based on the sheer number of new implementations in the past several years, the rewards apparently continue to outweigh the effort. SAP enables companies to transform themselves and, in doing so, remain both viable and competitive. To understand and appreciate what this means, though, it is necessary to take a couple of steps back and investigate SAP from a company perspective, a historical perspective, and in terms of roadmaps to implementation.

Welcome to SAP Implementation

The core of the material you are about to read stems from more than a hundred man-years of SAP implementation experience across several hundred midsize and global SAP implementations. Our goal in writing this book is to bridge the gap between selecting an SAP business application or solution and actually going "live" on the application (the act of which makes your investment in SAP finally usable by end users who will spend their work days on the new system). It is our hope that you will use this text as both a reference tool and an informed guide, helping you to steer clear of the hazards and pitfalls common to so many SAP implementations. A good roadmap is multilevel, comprising not only a path outlining how to get from here to there but also a set of markings describing the topology of the terrain. We want this book to be your roadmap.

The Changing Business and IT Landscape

SAP AG (AG is the German equivalent of the term "incorporated") is changing the world around us. The rapid advances in IT hardware and software, and in particular SAP AG's ever-growing umbrella of solutions, have had a profound influence on the way companies today access and manage their data. The role SAP has played in this regard, especially in the past few years, has been pivotal from several perspectives. When faced with competitive threats from arguably its best partners, hot best-of-breed new applications, and innovative methods of extending and hosting ERP (through service-oriented architectures [SOAs] and software as a service [SaaS] offerings, for example), SAP sought to embrace the best of all worlds and evolved to meet its customers and stakeholder needs. SAP AG's growing market share combined with its raw penetration of the Forbes Global 2000 made for a great combination. And recent targeting of the small and medium enterprise (SME) market has opened up new significant and growing revenue streams for SAP. All told, SAP is formidable and here to stay.

One-Stop SAP Shopping

In wishing to share our own experiences regarding implementing SAP, we asked ourselves, "What is the number one reason for putting together this book?" The simple answer: one-stop shopping for "SAP implementation." We have put into this book almost everything a company needs to know or address in terms of planning/organizing for an SAP implementation. Without this book, you would have to hunt through a hodge-podge of SAP installation guides and other papers, SAP web content, miscellaneous documents and articles published by others, and a chapter here and there in the few really good texts that exist today. Instead of starting from ground zero, as so many SAP customers do, you will be able to put together custom project plans, implementation schedules, management justification, and more in just a few days. This is the book we have been waiting for someone to finally write.

In addition, given our breadth of experience, this book comes to you both broad and unbiased. The decision has been made to go with an SAP solution, knowing full well that the risk on the business side is so high that there is little room for risk in the technical implementation. We provide a "soup to nuts" approach relative to how an SAP implementation should be performed beginning to end. We review the different SAP components and modules, how to translate business vision into business processes, and, in turn, how to translate business processes finally into useful SAP functionality. In different chapters of the book, then, we are quick to address challenges relevant to the following:

  • Organizational changes that accompany an SAP implementation will drive sweeping changes across much of the company, from how it conducts business to how the various functional and technology departments are structured to work together.
  • Meeting the project's return on investment (ROI) goals in a timely fashion will impact everything from planning the solution to developing it, testing it, implementing it, and more.
  • The IT group will tend to think of this as an IT project, and initially will be unaware of the integrated business/technology nature of SAP and how it necessitates a tight partnership between "the business" and IT group.
  • At the end of the day, the IT department will be faced with implementing a technology solution before the scope of the business solution has crystallized for everyone, and despite the fact that the SAP solution itself is unfamiliar.

Thus, the IT group will benefit from all the help they can receive from people like us who have already made the journey, know the issues, and have dealt successfully with an SAP project's uncertainties. This book will go a long way toward providing the processes, insights, and wisdom that will enable a firm implementing SAP to do the job right, and on time, the first time.

An Unbiased View

As SAP technology consultants, developers, and project managers, our team established years ago that a solution-agnostic approach to SAP consulting kept all of us working. We let the marketing, technology, and engineering folks do their thing while we focused our own efforts on implementation and taking care of our customers. This meant configuring our customers' new, redeployed, or best-of-breed hardware and software components into solutions, regardless of the different technology vendors and partners involved. Indeed, we considered ourselves actually quite fortunate when we got involved early enough in a project to allow us to have a hand in the project's technical architecture, design, and selection. In light of this, we have worked with all of the major hardware, operating system, and database vendors upon which an SAP solution is installed. And when we were engaged in SAP development projects, the platform and partners meant next to nothing—configuring business processes is done the same way regardless of whether Hewlett-Packard (HP) or Deloitte does the configuration, and regardless of whether the underlying computing platform is based on HP-UX, AIX, Windows, or Linux.

Finally, we understand that the only reason a firm implements SAP in the first place is to achieve business objectives—to increase competitiveness, identify and capitalize on customer purchasing trends, reduce supply chain costs, make information more widely available across the company, enable better service to customers, improve decision-making capabilities, enhance resource planning, and ultimately improve the execution of the firm's various business processes. In summation, then, the technology and development tools required to implement SAP are simply a means to an end, and not the end itself. Because we realize this, you'll find this to be a better balanced book than otherwise possible.

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