As ideal as it might sound, SAP® Best Practices might not be able to address 100% of every enterprise’s business needs. Each company is unique, as are its business processes. When it comes to enterprise software, many will suggest that you use standard configuration and avoid customization. This could lower the implementation cost and reduce the complexity of the project. But this might not be the best solution, especially when the plain vanilla package cannot fully accommodate the functions that give you a competitive advantage. Even if this option does work fine at the first implementation, SAP Development and customization are somehow inevitable as your business grows and customers’ requirements change.
The degree to which customization can be achieved varies from simple parameters, such as adding a specific custom field in your sales order, to ones that require complex modification, such as creating a custom transaction by executing several different standard transactions in the background. There is really no limit to the possibilities with SAP customization and development. However, this does not mean that customization is risk-free. If you don’t check your customizations carefully, they might cause an unwanted side effect for other transactions.
Therefore, before deciding to customize your SAP system, you need to have a thorough understanding of what might be affected by the actions you take.
3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Customizing
In the world of enterprise software and applications, change and improvement are the only things that are constant, especially if your business is growing fast. Therefore, customization and development are made possible by SAP. However, before deciding to tweak your standard SAP system, you have to understand the accompanying challenges and costs. You also need to identify the reason why SAP development and customization is necessary. The following questions should, therefore, be addressed before you develop any custom code:
1. Is the process unique and a key to the company’s business?
If you are a retail-based company that sells a variety of products, then you will have the justification to develop your warehouse management module. This is because it’s very important that you have a good and viable warehousing system in order to identify those products that will expire soon or that need to be sent to the customer first.
Or, say, your employees have high mobility and travel a lot. Then it might be a good idea to develop SAP Fiori® since it will allow your employees to perform SAP transactions or display key performances and reports on their mobile devices. Although, if your employees are mostly sitting at the office five days a week and are always working with their desktop computer, developing Fiori might not be the best idea.
If the development is only to follow the newest trend in technology, without any improvement in efficiency, it would really be better not to do it.
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2. Will it add value?
If you are currently using the standard SAP PI Sheet, the operator has to input their employee ID number, work order number, the quantity of the production result, and the production time manually. Now, let’s say the input process takes one minute for each order. You want to decrease this time by 70%, so you decide to customize the standard PI sheet by simplifying the input screen and integrating it with a barcode scanner.
The operator doesn’t need to input all the data manually anymore. All they have to do is scan their employee card, and the system will automatically set for their ID number during the day. The process order for that day will already be on display, so they’ll just have to choose the one that will be executed. Then, the production time will be calculated automatically as they choose the start or end button.
With this customization, the time needed to input production result can be reduced, employees productivity will increase, and any risk of error or input mistakes will be minimized.
If you cannot identify the added value to your business, development or customization of your SAP system might not be worth the effort.
3. Is it aligned with the company’s long-term goals?
If your goal is to maximize your asset utilization, then you might have to consider the development or customization in relation to your Enterprise Asset Management, instead of the development on the Controlling module. However, if you are a creative agency enterprise and your goal is to engage your employees in order for them to produce more ideas, then it might be better to focus on customizing the Human Capital Management module instead of the Finance module.
You have to ensure that the developing solution can support the company’s needs in the long run and help your business grow. Otherwise, it will be a waste of time and resources if the development or customization doesn’t give additional value to your business.
How to Find Out What to Customize
How often do you see a customized solution that is not actually in use? Customization is made to help users do their job so that they can focus more on the task at hand. That being said, it will be a complete waste if the customized report or transaction is rarely used. Therefore, it is important to identify which processes truly need customization.
Here are a couple of things to consider to help you do this.
Fit-Gap Analysis: Requirements vs. SAP Functionality
To see if the development is worth the time and money, you have to ensure that the transaction to be modified can actually give you a competitive advantage to your business. You thus need to analyze the impact of the business transaction in SAP, i.e., discover what transaction or report is often used and essential for business growth. If you don’t have a clear understanding of the business requirements, you cannot expect the developers to deliver the right solution.
So, identify what the business requirement is and what objective to achieve. Only then can you find the right solution.
Prioritizing Development Vs. Customization: Which Is More Important?
Let’s say you have several change requests from the logistics department. The first one requires enhancement in material planning transactions, the second one is related to inventory reports, and the third one is about object type modification in goods movement transactions. Should you execute them all or not? If the customization or development can improve efficiency for your employees, should you go through with it even though it is not used frequently?
Methods: Development Options
After deciding on the change request, it’s time to consider the best possible options you have to execute your customization. Each method should be evaluated to determine the best solution at the lowest cost and risk.
Custom development includes the development of a new report, interface, conversion, and form. Basically, you are utilizing the existing data or functionality in the standard SAP system to create a new one. An example of this customization is a Z-Report or Z-Program.
This method uses the available User Exits, Customer Exits, or BADI to change or add certain functionalities in the standard SAP system. Enhancements do not affect the standard SAP source code and are not impacted when upgrading the SAP package.
This should be the last option that you consider when planning customization because modifications involve changing the SAP standard object key. Because of this, this method poses a great risk in any system upgrade.
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Challenges of Customization
SAP customization entails a few risks if you don’t do it the right way, such as affecting other programs or transactions and causing an error. If this happens, the project could end up focusing on fixing errors instead of moving forward with the new development.
At the end of the day, the risk level of SAP development and customization depends on its complexity. Using a User Exit to add a custom field or change the interface might introduce less risk than, let’s say, modifying the standard code in order to change the behavior of the standard SAP transaction. Although modifying the system can result in more flexibility, future maintenance can become quite arduous.
On the other hand, there’s also the issue of compatibility. You need to review the code in order to ensure that it is stable and meets the standard coding system. This testing process can take a lot of time. Moreover, it cannot be guaranteed that the future upgrade will support the modification that you made.
The Solution for Your SAP Development & Customization
SAP development or customization can give a competitive advantage to your enterprise if you do it the right way. This means careful analysis, planning, and execution. Panaya’s Release Dynamix (RDx) can help you with this by offering automated impact analysis and code quality assurance.
Release Dynamix is designed to help you analyze the impact of each customization in your business process by using SAP Impact Analysis. The result can help you identify what other transactions are affected by the changes. It will then help you decide what development or customization should be executed and point out the risks it might possess.
RDx can be integrated with your SAP system and automatically extract your code baseline and production usage. Then, by applying machine learning algorithms, RDx builds the connections between your SAP objects. In this way, your transport request will be analyzed against the connections to find the impacted objects.
After you have gained visibility into the impacted objects via the Impact Analysis, RDx’s Code Quality Analysis will enable you to eliminate code instability and increase developer efficiency by providing automatic identification of code defects.
By using RDx, you can determine what to test based on the impacted transactions and reduce the time for QA testing by 50%. Panaya’s RDx enables you to gain real-time insights to change risk and quality, allowing you to release changes safely into the production environment, so that whatever customizations you decide upon can be performed with the greatest security and suitability.