By Matt Costello and Travis Stonebraker

The implementation of SAP, supporting software, and other tools can impact system performance. With SAP, as with any software implementation, if the implementation is not run properly or corners are cut, the users will suffer in their day to day activities. In Part 2 of SAP Optimization and Performance Tuning, we’ll focus on how issues caused by poor implementations can be avoided, as well as discuss some best practices to follow.

Following industry standards is an important basis for implementing a system that runs smoothly and quickly. There are many ways to set up a system or to run a process that reach the same end point or functionality. They all may work, but most methods may not be the best choice for your business. For instance, some of these methods could create extra clicks, while others rely on heavy custom code to be created where an out of the box solution may have worked, that takes additional time to return results. Sticking to standard processes can simplify implementation a great deal, as well as support future upgrades, and the ability to include additional tools or add-ons in your deployment. To decide the best course of action for your business, user adoption should be at the forefront of these discussions. How the users respond and adapt to the new software is key. Introducing them to standardized and simplified processes can promote faster acceptance and more streamlined discussions and testing.

Holding workshops that involve power users, as well as individuals that know the end to end processes will help the business decide on the best course of action to achieve a more streamlined and robust rollout. The subject matter experts should be present and participate heavily. All too often, these individuals are left out, and the resulting process or agreed implementation is either too cumbersome or lacks important functionality. These subject matter experts lay out requirements that implementers translate into standard solutions, configurations and customizations. They are able to discuss not only how it’s done today but agree upon opportunities for change in the future. Since they understand the business needs, they add key information to the discussion that helps the team at large decide upon the best options. Workshop topics may lead to custom coding or could use standard SAP functionality. If companies are not aware that their requirements could be handled with basic configuration they could be spending thousands of dollars on unnecessary enhancements. It’s vital to discuss options with the implementations partner and utilize knowledge to arrive at the best mix of standard solutions, configurations, and customizations.

Enhancements to SAP could be beneficial but could also hurt a company when done incorrectly. One topic we always check before doing any custom configuration is asking for a company’s standard coding naming convention and practices. This could mean everything from transports, bAdi enhancements, function groups, programs, variables, etc… This will make trouble shooting and upgrading your SAP environment from ECC to S/4 Hana and future, unknown technologies, seamless. Performing an evaluation on the existing custom configuration to identify if there is standard SAP supported functionality can identify potential areas of improvement. If your company requires custom enhancements, make sure to properly document the changes or additions.

SAP has taken a huge step forward in efficiency by introducing the Engineering Control Center (ECTR). ECTR makes many improvements over previous authoring system integrations into SAP with an intuitive interface and incorporating a wider range of functionality. The interface is completely configurable to enable unique business processes and supporting functionality. The ability to drag and drop objects in the interface drastically speeds up user interaction with SAP and integrated software by eliminating the need to open and close windows or navigate through menus to interact with files. The foreground syncing improvement is a bi-directional metadata and property syncing that brings a huge benefit to companies that utilize characteristic and property data for files. This allows users to enter information only one time, if it is not already automatically detected, pulled, and populated via additional ECTR and SAP processes that exist in the standard installation. This also eliminates the need to utilize the transactions based SAP GUI to interact with SAP in order to further streamline processes.

Depending on your sales approach for product development through processes like sales-to-order or engineer-to-order, at the end of the process you need to manufacture the final product. The final product requires a bill of material, drawing of the product, work instructions, etc. Working collaboratively to get a product designed, sold, manufactured, and shipped is both the heartbeat of the business and challenging. With the use of ECTR and SAP, your business units can collaborate together to get products designed and manufactured with unmatched speed and agility. The other benefit to this model is sending information back to engineering if there are defects in materials or if a new design is required because standard parts are no longer available.

The implementation of a system, or parts of it, can affect the day to day effort that is required by anyone that works in that system. It is key to follow standard procedures and best practices when doing a new implementation to ensure that everything runs smoothly once users are introduced. In the third and final part of SAP Optimization and Performance Tuning we will discuss how streamlining your work process can further alleviate pain caused by cumbersome or unnecessary processes.