SAP implementation is the process of taking the raw materials of an SAP landscape – software, requirements, business objectives, infrastructure and more – and forging them into a working solution that serves the needs of the business. Broadly speaking, there are three kinds of SAP Implementation. These include basic installations, upgrades and migrations (e.g. from on-premises to the cloud).
An SAP implementation is more involved than a personal software installation or even the deployment of a purpose-built enterprise software package like an email server. It comprises a complex business process analysis and depends on interconnected applications. Each implementation project is custom-scoped to support a particular business, with its own unique process, data, application stack and performance requirements.
- Installations, e.g. the installation of a new product like SAP S/4 HANA. An installation is not just for new SAP customers. Existing customers may need to undertake the installation of a whole new SAP landscape in certain situation. This usually occurs when the customer has an extensively customised or multi-platform architecture. It’s easier to build a new system from scratch. A new SAP installation offers freedom. It can be a boon to companies that want to leverage SAP HANA to create nimble, highly-scalable systems.
- Migrations, e.g. moving an SAP product from one hosting environment to another, or from one database or operating system to another. These tend to be multi-phased projects with a fair amount of complexity. The challenge is to balance testing and tuning with controlling costs and minimising risk and disruption.
- Upgrades, e.g. an implementation project that advances an SAP instance to a new version. It could be the addition of an enhancement pack or new function. These projects can also be complicated, with many moving parts. They require careful planning and testing and tweaking.
The stakes are high. It’s essential to get things right the first time, or at least early in the implementation cycle. Your business depends on a sound SAP implementation. If the project fails, it be an extremely costly problem to solve. Consequences of sub-standard SAP implementation include performance lags, systems outages and remediation projects.
SAP Implementation Methodology
The standard SAP implementation method, known as Accelerated SAP (ASAP methodology) applies to full landscape implementations as well as to upgrades and migrations. Though it is now beginning to be replaced by SAP Activate (See below), it is still worth understanding how ASAP works. ASAP consists of five basic steps: project preparation, business blueprint, realisation, final preparation and Go Live support.
- Project Preparation – identifying objectives, priorities and scope. Prep also means gaining stakeholder support and retrieving resources.
- Business Blueprinting – defining the business processes that your SAP landscape must address. The team needs to under your organisation’s business logic, to be realised through the SAP solution.
- Realisation – using the business blueprint to build, test and refine the SAP landscape. The technical teams and technical partners such as Symmetry take on the major share of work at this stage
- Final Preparation –getting ready for the migration and go-live, including migrating data and stress testing the system.
- Go Live Support – following the plan, and switch the business to its new SAP landscape.
SAP Implementation Project Plan and Phases
SAP technical implementation is an iterative process. The functional team, which includes business stakeholders, defines the scope of the project. Then, the technical team assumes the dominant role. The process of getting to a fully-functional SAP landscape occurs in 7 phases. These overlap with the “Realisation” and “Final Preparation” steps of the implementation methodology:
- Onsite Initiation, where the technical team reviews the project with key stakeholders, checking to make sure that important partners and integrations (e.g. with banking systems) are accounted for.
- Data Centre and Network Setup, which involves provisioning and configuring the on-site infrastructure, including disaster recovery (DR) if that is required.
- SAP General Activities, or handling more preliminaries to get ready for implementation (e.g. obtaining SAP downloading software and so forth).
- Sandbox Migration, which involves migrating the SAP landscape incrementally in preparation for the final production migration.
- Development Migration, ironing out problems that were found in the previous phase.
- Quality Assurance Migration, or having a practice run prior to production.
- Production Migration: migrating the SAP landscape and going live.
For larger implementations, we recommend that our clients write a high-level project guide. This document, which doesn’t have to be very long, provides all stakeholders with an overview of the project’s goals and timeline. It sets out what the new SAP landscape will achieve and how the implementation will take place. It’s wise to inform stakeholders of any expected deliverables from them. For example, the guide is a good place to put future project reviews on the calendar so everyone involved can take note and set aside the time.
SAP Life Cycle
Today’s freshly implemented SAP landscape will become the topic of tomorrow’s “End of Life” (EOL) discussion. There is an inevitable SAP life cycle, starting with the creation of new landscapes, continuing through management and maintenance, updates and, then, retirement. This is normal. The best practice is to anticipate the life cycle. There will be inevitable changes in the business and its process and logic. The SAP stack will evolve over time. It’s wise to work with a partner who can identify where current implementation decisions may have an effect on future life cycle issues. For example, the design of the data schema in SAP HANA should map with known future changes in data management requirements.
How Long It Takes
How long does an SAP implementation take? There is no set answer. More complex projects tend to last longer, of course, though even those can be expedited within reason. The right partner can help map out a workable schedule. SAP is not a push-button technology, however. It will take some time. One helpful exercise is to compare the proposed schedule with any known (or confidential, but important) events like a merger or acquisition. That way, if requirements are going to change mid-course, or if there will be a delay, you can work through that in advance rather than be surprised by it.
What Is SAP Activate and Why Is It Important?
SAP Activate is a new implementation methodology used for S/4 HANA. It combines SAP Best Practices, Methodology and SAP Guided Configuration together with a reference solution. The goal of Activate is to enable you to build quickly and build smart, but then run S/4 HANA on a simple basis. It is a successor of the ASAP and SAP Launch. It comprises three main elements:
- SAP Best Practices – the baseline for SAP S/4HANA contains complete settings for configuration.
- Guided Configuration – a set of tools, assets and accelerators for S/4 HANA implementation.
- One Methodology – for any S/4 HANA implementation.
Working with an SAP Partner
Find someone you can trust with your SAP landscape. Your managed services provider can emerge as an important factor in you SAP implementation. The provider’s role goes beyond technical assistance. Ideally, they are a partner through the entire project process, starting with planning. They bring all stakeholders together, devising an implementation approach that aligns business and technical constraints with budget.