03 August, 2011

More evidence of a less SAP-centric approach

It is not more than two or three years ago that the prevailing view within SAP was that customers should adopt a wall-to-wall SAP strategy. In the mish mash of technologies called NetWeaver there would be an answer for everything. Any application or integration need around the SAP Business Suite could be addressed with “something” from the NetWeaver mixed bag.

This viewpoint has been changing significantly over the last few years and there is now less of a push to solve every problem with an SAP product. This is particularly evident in SAP’s release of the Gateway product, which will make it much easier for developers to build front-ends to SAP using non-SAP technologies.

At the annual summit of the SAP Australian User Group (SAUG) held in Sydney this week, there was even more evidence of customers complimenting their SAP landscape with non-SAP technologies for specific purposes. In R “Ray” Wang’s event report a few points stand out:

  • There is an increase in technology spending despite reductions in IT budgets. In other words, the business is buying.
  • 65% of attendees are considering solutions outside the SAP sphere.
  • For collaboration solutions SharePoint appear to have gained mindshare.
  • CRM remains dominated by Salesforce.com and Microsoft CRM.
  • Analytics discussions include many non-SAP products such as IBM Cognos, Oracle Hyperion and QlikTech.

The ironic aspect is that allowing other platforms to seamlessly integrate with the core SAP system will potentially make companies more SAP-centric from a data perspective. If organisations can deploy their own user interfaces and tools of choice, fully integrated with SAP, then there will be much less demand for buying other industry-specific solutions. I suspect this is what SAP is finally realising too.

02 August, 2011

Top 20 SAP transactions and quick wins using SharePoint

Over the last few years one of my colleagues, Jim O’Farrell, has done some excellent work in terms of working with Winshuttle customers and calculating the ROI of business process acceleration. Part of this work includes looking at customers’ logs in the SAP Workload Monitor (ST03N). These logs keep a tally of all transactions handled in the system and provide valuable insights into usage patterns in SAP. Usage logs from individual customers are highly confidential, but analysing the data in aggregate is quite interesting. For example, the table below lists the top 20 transactions based on actual usage data aggregated from more than 250 SAP customers worldwide.
Rank Tcode Description
1 VA02 Change Sales Order
2 IQ02 Change Material Serial Number
3 CAT2 Time Sheet: Maintain Times
4 VA01 Create Sales Order
5 FBL5N Display Customer Line Items
6 ME23N Display Purchase Order
7 IQ01 Create Material Serial Number
8 VL02N Change Outbound Delivery
9 FBL1N Display Vendor Line Items
10 MD04 Display Stock/Requirements Situation
11 LM13 Put Away Clustered
12 MIGO Goods Movement
13 ME21N Create Purchase Order
14 FBL3N Display G/L Account Line Items
15 VA03 Display Sales Order
16 MIRO Enter Incoming Invoice
17 QE51N Results Recording Work List
18 IW32 Change Order
19 VL03N Display Outbound Delivery
20 FB03 Display Document
A really interesting aspect of this list is that it includes eight display transactions. In other words, some of the most frequent use of the SAP GUI is simply to retrieve information and not perform any updates on the system. We are all familiar with the well-known usability issues of the SAP GUI. Having to navigate and master this generic interface for quick lookups and retrieval of business data, often while performing work in other tools, is an unnecessary burden on productivity.
I am often asked about how to qualify business scenarios for SAP/SharePoint solutions, which is primarily focused on extending the reach of SAP and serving casual users in their tools of choice. Building such solutions involves various degrees of complexity and effort, but the table above helps you identify the quick wins. There is obviously a lot less complexity and effort involved in creating an interface in SharePoint that is merely reading information from SAP. These eight frequently used display transactions is a good place to start when considering how to realise productivity gains by surfacing SAP through SharePoint.