How to get paid more for your SAP PI/PO/Cloud Integration Projects

I started my IT profession in one of the big five accounting companies in 2001. One of the things I got really impressed by was how they were able to create nice looking models of how to approach all kinds of challenges.  It is a lot easier to sell something to a customer if you had a model then you had a superior product. If you have the matching powerpoint that you can show it becomes even easier. The model did have some good ways of approaching the situation from a business perspective, but it relied heavily on the experience of the consultants.

Example of a model, probably not the best. It does have nice colors

I was writing my master thises around one of the models for security testing. My focus was on how we could improve the testing with an automated tool. This way we would be able to test more with the same resources. The tool we build worked ok thought it was not the easiest to use. I did manage to get the project approved and got my masters degree.

I did learn that you need a good framework to show you are different and can command higher rates.

I wrote a blog on the importance of having a great quality and how difficult it is for customers to judge. Customer score price and quality as separate parameters, and score them in some way. If you are able to prove your score in quality you may be able to command a higher price. The way you can document your quality is with:

  • ISO, ITIL or other certifications
  • Have customer references
  • Having a model that shows what you will do
  • Have a tool that automates the processor model

How are using Models or Frameworks

SAP Activate (credit: SAP)

SAP has SAP Activate which assists companies to implement S/4 HANA faster. It is using a methodology, a set of templates for best practices and the solution manager tool. It should all be making it a lot faster to implement S/4 for customers and enable them to faster take the leap of faith and start the implementation. Earlier they also had the ASAP (Accelerated SAP) implementation method. They have updated the model to be more agile focused suitable to newer approaches. 

In some cases, you may have your own methodology for delivery. Either a project management or from a service delivery point of view. You can present in a slide deck of about 105 slides. That covers all the situations and explain how the business will get all the benefits and no risk for the implementation project.

For SAP PI/PO projects you can follow any form of a waterfall or agile methods. From what I have seen there is a lot of exploration in the process to get users to understand what is going on. There has not been that many tools allow you to increase your performance and reduce the risk.

At Figaf we are working to improve the development process making it a lot faster to do developments. This will support your projects making it a lot faster for you to do the implementation and will lower the risk for you. The same thing is true for SAP PI/PO project the better framework you have for prove that you will deliver quality the better.

And if you can show this is not just paperwork but something that has an IT system behind will improve the quality even more. Enabling you to get bigger projects. 

What tools will help SAP PI/PO or Cloud Integration

We have the following offer things that could be in your next bid, to ensure that you can prove your work and what you are doing.

  • SAP PI/PO/Cloud Integration lifecycle tool. This will allow tracking of what objects are changed, show you the difference between each version and show and test the objects in question for any project.
  • SAP PI Support tool that will allow you to handle errors faster and ensure you document how to solve the issues.
  • SAP PI Test tool that allows you to set up test cases for all scenarios fast and runs them. You can use it for
    • Migration project to ensure there is no impact on the output messages
    • Upgrade project where you just want to upgrade the SAP PI/PO system to latest support pack and do not want to test too much
    • Everyday development of interface where you want to be able to do regression testing.
  • Seebuger to B2B Add-on Migration tool that allows you to speed up the conversion of the old mappings to use the new formats for X12 and EDIFACT. In this we would also recommend the test tool, so you can ensure that everything is covered and there are no surprises. 

(The first 3 tools is grouped into just one application that you can run standalone making it easy to deploy and use on projects)

You can try out the products for free on the website or simply just register below.

Why will a tool help your projects

As a consultancy, you are often billing for a number of hours so the more hours you work the better. If you can lower the number of hours you work and get a higher rate for your works it will give you bigger revenue. Some of the reasons are: 

  • A lower number of hours worked, so you can command higher rates for the hours or have fixed price projects
  • Reduce the risk of your project
  • Improve the quality of your documentation
  • Better employee satisfaction because they are not going to spend as much time on the creation of boooring documents
  • Better business satisfaction with your services, so you will be able to work long-term with the customer

At the moment I don’t have any SAP service partners at the moment, but some are looking at it.

We can also get a price for your project that accounts for project duration and number of developers, so it can match your project scope.

How to make a moderen EDI landscape with SAP S/4 HANA

I had a great talk with an old colleague this Friday. The topic was how to build a new EDI platform.  They did not have any EDI yet on the SAP platform since they used an old platform for it. So they had to start over with SAP as the backend.

I have been doing EDIFACT and X12 implement since I started with SAP XI using the Seeburger tool and lately seen on how to use the B2B Add-on from SAP to handle the EDI part on SAP PO. The tool has a difference in structure and how they work, but they work the same way. The can take some XML and convert it to the EDIFACT/X12 files and the other way. SAPs platform has been focused on how to make it native in SAP PI/PO, where SeeBurger was a new way of the building the platform.

I have created a video that shows some of my questions concerns on the topic of creating EDI with S/4 Hana.

I was starting to talk about the different IDOCs and which EDIFACT documents they referred to. Then we got a talk about they were doing a new S/4 HANA on-premise implementation. S/4 HANA cloud,  which is the premier SAP product, is where all development is going on. There is only a few whitelisted IDOC’s for some scearnios like syncronize data with your existing SAP ERP system and some warehouse. The EDI IDOCs is supposedly not available, so you cannot use them.

Since all development in on S/4 Cloud and the on-premise version will get the updates after a few months/years, there is not going to be any development going on the EDI Idocs. There has probably not been developed much on them over the last 10-15 years. SAP would like to move their customers to the cloud version to make it faster for them, and customers cannot live with out their flexibility. So we will have to see where it will end.

An option was to use the Enterprise Services (E-SOA) that also worked on the process. I have hear about a few organization using it, but it requires a strong leadership and some skills to go use them. Since Enterprise Services is a dead topic now, i guess it does not make sense to focus on it. It seems as it has been inpsiring the new SOAP APIs from SAP so it is not in vain, and you probalby have an easier option to migrate them.

API is a big focus area for SAP for some reasons.

  • In S/4 Cloud you cannot develop so you have to use APIs to extract and use data
  • It is easier to explain APIs to non SAP developers, because they have a common form of documenting
  • You can expose them online and secure them

All the APIs SAP has created is on api.sap.com, which is SAPs API portal.  On the portal, you can find all SAP apis on the different systems and you can easy try them out there. I did find an SOAP service for sending Purchase Orders from S4, but is currently not able to find it. One of the document you can find is the Scope Item 2EJ, which is covering the purchasing process on how to configure it and steps involved in configuration. So it is fairly easy to get started with.

So it is possible to use the APIs to expose the purchase process for EDI.

EDI from the new APIs

So it is possible to create an EDI solution based on the new APIs. Then what does it require.

A good place to start would be to use the Integration Content Advisor, which is SAP way to make the B2B Mapping faster based on Machine Learning. I have not seen or use the tool yet, but it the idea is pretty cool. It could speed up the mapping of data with the EDI formats. It requires you have the Enterprise Edition of SAP Cloud Platform Integration. You can though run the flow on your local PI. The alternative approve is to use the normal EDI Mapping on SAP PI/PO and use the B2B Add-on in connection with the Trading Partner Management (TPM).  If the Content Advisor works it is probably the fasts way to deal with things.

It still brings up the question about is the new APIs strong enough to be able to handle the processing. And how will the errors be resolved since they cannot be handled in BD87.  S/4 will come with AIF (SAP Application Interface Framework) for some scenarios, which is a tool that enable different kinds of error handling and mapping. It may be suited to some of the normal EDI error that you will see like customer try to send an invalid material number or delivery data. It will require some training to enable users to use it. AIF is more powerful soluction then BD87 since it allow you to add rules and validations.

My recommendation would be to give the new interfaces an attempt to get the process working on it. It would give freedom to upgrade to S4 Cloud and just have one interface for the integration process. I would also imagine that the new interfaces is easier to extent or you can make lookups to get information that is missing.

Have you tried the new S4 way of integration and does it work?

Why have a full SAP PI/PO regression test case is needed

Do you have a full set of regression test cases of your SAP PI/PO system and can run them when needed to ensure that nothing is broken.

This week I was talking with a potential customer about our testing tool and the newest feature where they did not need to install anything on the PI system. They did, unfortunately, have a too old version of one of the components to allow us to read the log messages. It was added with OSS 2437778.

It is the standard way out to add new features to patches or service packs to give customers there the features which are required. Most of all the time you want to be able to leverage the new functions in some scenarios to solve a business need.

With the way SAP is delivering the Java code is it cumulative patches. This mean that patch 3 contains updates from patch 2 plus some more changes. So you cannot just get the fix you want as you can with ABAP.

They are also linked with dependencies so if you upgrade one, some part will stop function because it is missing a dependent library. So most of the time you have to update quite a bit of component and you have no idea about how this will affect everything else. You can read the release notes, but it is difficult or close to impossible to predict how this will impact your system.

And to make matters even worse, you probably need to upgrade all components to the latest to ensure all dependencies are met.  

In a normal company it will take a long time to validate these things, so if you’re just adding a simple feature it is really a no go to do this. The business case is difficult to explain, we want this feature to do X, but it will cost a lot of testing. So you have to wait for the business to ask for a new feature and then that project would have to pay for the upgrade/patch.

That’s the reason why I want to have a full set of regression test cases that you can just run whenever there is any patch or an upgrade that you have to ensure that everything works as expected without involving people in the testing of the new features.

The price for an upgrade is a partial basis to get them to upgrade the system and then a part to test the component. The biggest cost is the tests that you need to perform to ensure that everything works as expected. It makes, therefore, sense that to be able to automate that part if it is possible.

With most test tools that take a long time to set up these the test cases and that’s why we’ve created a tool to enable you to set up these test cases fast.  We had a customer Anadarko Petroleum Corporation that could set up 300 test cases in just 3 weeks.

Since then we have optimized the process a lot making it a lot faster to set up test cases. So I would assume you will be able to set up test cases a lot faster than now.

The cost of running the test for the full system is close to zero, so you can run them daily to get information about how the system performs or if anything is broken.

So you can apply the latest support packs if you want to have an updated system with the latest features and fixes.

You can download Figaf IRT tool and use the tool for free upto 10 ICO’s to test on your own SAP PI/PO system. You can request a trial license to get more tests done. If you already have the patch mentioned then you don’t need to install anything on your system and in many cases use your own use for the testing.

 

Migrating Seeburger to SAP B2B Add-on the fast way

We have lately seen a large interest in the Seeburger to B2B Migration because SAP PI/PO customers are seeing as a way to bring down cost and optimize. There is a number of factors that allow users to achieve this

  • The new solution from SAP has a lot of advantages making it a lot more flexible and supports the newest schemas. It includes all EDIFACT, X12, Tradacom and EANCOM messages that you want to be using, so you don’t need to pay for each message.
  • It is also simpler to transport since they don’t require the use of the BIC to make the one to one mappings
  • It contains all the same adapters with some new features
  • The price of the solution is also included in your standard SAP PI price so you don’t need extra licenses to make sure you can communicate with EDI for your partners. So you can save money on the maintenance of the Seeburger solution.
  • You have the option to use the Trading Partner Management solution making it a lot easier to maintain many partners and the information from them.

When facing the migration there are some challenges that you must figure out how to solve.

  1. Schemas are different so everything needs to be remapped
  2. Test nothing happens with the output messages.
  3. Budget and planing

1) Schema changes update from Seeburger

One of the issues is the schema structure between the Seeburger and the SAP PI B2B Add-on is different on some different levels. The root element is different but there is also some different naming of groups and fields. In the Swing tool you have the option to remap some fields, but then you need to take manually account of all the fields in all mappings. And if it is not done consistently then you can end up with problems.

I always want to optimize as much manual labor as possible as that is what we are doing with our Seebuger Migration Tool. Simply select the message mapping and the new target XSD and it will convert it for you.

We currently have the free introduction package that contains 10 mappings for free. It is normally 100 USD pr mapping. So it is a really good way of getting started with the migration. That way you can prepare your self for the migration project and understand the complexity and what you otherwise need to move.

In the video below you can see how to get started, requesting licenses that you get to select 10 off for free. Then run the migration. Running the migration for a message mapping takes a few seconds.

 

2) Testing the migration

For any migration, it makes sense to test that nothing vital has changed. It is really crucial for EDI because the importance for the business, you cannot afford to be down for a period of time.

Even if the mappings are validated there is still a lot of components that you need to ensure is not messing up the flow. We recommend using the Figaf IRT SAP PI/PO test tool. You can use it for free for up to 10 Interfaces, so you can use it to validate the migration tool work. The Figaf Testing tool is build to make it really easy to fetch test messages from your production system, and then be able to use them on your development system for testing with. If there is any difference you know there could be something wrong. IRT has support comparing XML, EDIFACT, X12 and other formats.

If you purchase the migration tool for your full conversion we can find a good offer on the test tool.

 

3) Budget and planning

It is pretty difficult to get any budget for a migration project. In most cases, you will halt development for a period of time to perform the migration. It is more fun to spend the money o new development that helps the business. The biggest reasons for a Seeburger to B2B add-on from a financial perspective is that you can avoid the maintenance of the Seeburger application and use the license you already have. The support and maintenance of the new system may also be faster but it will not likely be something that will make it selling criteria.

I have created some blog post that covers more details on how to perform migrations in and make it easiest. They are focused on general migration but it will be the same concepts that are required for the other migration.

 

The Goldilocks Zone of Change management for SAP PI

Setting the correct change management procedure can be challenging. You need to capture the right things and not too much.

For one SAP PI/PO client, I just had to do development in Dev, and then move to production to test. I was really uncomfortable doing this.
Another client requires a lot more effort to do the transportations needed. Here is multiple checks and validations to do transports. Here it takes too long time to do something.

That is the reason I believe there is a Goldilocks zone for change management you need to do not too little and not too much.

In many places, people are just trying to implement the same changes that they have to do ERP changes. Which is probably not ideal for transporting SAP PI/PO objects. I have been spending a lot of time making documentation that was not ideal.

In my example where I had to change a field in the XML formats it would be nice if I could mark the changes and then use it. The more manual work you are going to do the more difficult it will be to make the documentation and ensure it is correct. And how do you find it when it is necessary. So at the client, I worked where we had a lot of documentation we could just capture a few lines text about what we had done on the interface. Finding it again would be difficult because how did you find the message mapping information.

 

For SAP PI/PO we are working to improve our Change Tracking tool that allows you to do better change management on your landscape. We have currently been looking at just directory objects, but in the next, release we will also have documentation of repository objects. This will allo you to assign a ticket and a description of why something was changed. You can then see for a message mapping when something was changed in it and why. You can also do an easy comparing between the versions to find the differences.

Read more at http://figaf.com/ctt