Starting a career in SAP is an exciting on. Like any technology or new career, there is a steep learning curve that can feel insurmountable.
As a SAP beginner, one should understand 3 things – business processes, SAP acronyms and project concepts.
- Business Processes: Having an exposure to a functional area is required; else, one should start understanding the business processes that flow through SAP, keeping in mind that most processes are cross-functional and go end-to-end, meaning they pass through many departments in an organization. Even a technical person needs to have a general understanding of the business drivers.
It is always valuable to invest in business/or SAP textbooks to understand the specific processes of the ones functional area. As you dive into SAP, remember to always focus on how technology drives the business. Focusing on streamlining business processes can avoid creating unnecessarily complex technical design and avoid creating waste in the system.
- SAP Acronyms: Secondly, understanding SAP acronyms and how ones role in the overall SAP project is important in quickly providing value. As a beginner, you’re probably finding the world of SAP to be filled with intimidating acronyms. Before you get too overwhelmed, realize that there is probably only a subset of acronyms and terms that will actually be relevant to your role in SAP.
SAP’s community network is an active community of SAP customers and partners and its one of the best resources to learn about functional modules, SAP trends, and news. Keep in mind that it takes experience and your own research to feel comfortable with SAP acronyms.
Here are some common acronyms that every beginner will hear:
Functional & Technical Modules: FI (Finance), CO (Controlling), SD (Sales & Distribution), MM (Materials Management), HR (Human Resources), BI (Business Intelligence), BW (Business Warehousing), PM (Plant Maintenance), QM (Quality Management), LE (Logistics Execution), FSCM (Financial Supply Chain Management), PP (Production Planning), CRM (Customer Relationship Management), SEC (Security), Basis (Business Application Software Integration System)
SAP Technical Acronyms: ABAP (Advances Business Application Programming), ALE (Application Link Enabling), ALV (SAP List Viewer), BAPI (Business Application Programming Interface), BEx (Business Explorer), BAdI (Business Add In), CATT (Computer Aided Test Tool), GUI (Graphical User Interface), HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language), IMG (Implementation Guide), EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) LSMW (Legacy System Migration Workbench), OLE (Object Linking and Embedding), OSS (Online Support System), R/3 (Real Time 3 Tier), RFC (Remote Function Call), SOLMAN (Solution Manager), WD (Web Dynpro), SPRO (SAP Project Reference Object).
- SAP Project Concepts: Finally, every beginner should understand basic SAP project concepts like the phases and roles people involved in a SAP implementation.
Let’s begin with SAP deployment phases. ASAP, Accelerated SAP, is the standard implementation approach that is used on every SAP implementation. The approach consists of 5 phases: Project Prep, Business Blueprint, Realization, Final Prep, and Go Live & Support. Each phase includes important milestones that allow the project to continue to the next phase. A successful project has clear ‘exit’ and ‘entrance’ criteria that must be fulfilled for the project to move to the next phase. These criteria are reviewed by project management and key stakeholders to assess the projects performance.
In the project preparation phase, project goals, scope and timeline are defined by project stakeholders and project management. In the blueprint phase, current business processes are documented and then redesigned to fit in SAP.
Any requirement or process that does not fit using standard SAP functionality is documented as ‘gap’. This is a key part of the blueprint phase called ‘Fit/Gap Analysis’. In the realization phase, all requirements are configured in the system and the system is testing using integrated scenarios. Integration testing is cross-functional testing used to identify ‘defects’ or issues in the system that need to be resolved. In final preparation, testing is completed, training is delivered, and cutover steps are performed. Cutover involves all the steps necessary to go from the old, legacy system to SAP. Finally, Go Live and support occurs when users begin to perform their job in SAP and the project team monitors and supports users.
Next, it’s key to understand who is involved in a SAP implementation to understand where you fit in. At the top level, you have corporate executives that are deemed project stakeholders. It is their job to oversee the project from a high level and ensure it fulfills the defined goals and objectives. Below stakeholders is the project management which is more hands on in overseeing the project and closely monitors each functional and technical area of the project. Project management helps mitigate risks and issues, delivers project messaging, and keeps the project within the timeline and budget. Heading up each functional and technical team is a team lead. Team leads oversee team members and communicate status, risks, and issues to project management. Functional team members configure the system to meet business requirements and write functional specifications for customized needs. Technical team members work in a variety of roles: security, ABAP development, data conversion, Basis, etc.
By focusing in on these 3 concepts, one can quickly come up on the SAP learning curve.
Note: Every project will give a new type of experience and challenges. Documentation is important for every SAP consultant and an underlying factor for success.