“Bleeding Edge”… Is It Really That Bad?!

Posted on March 2017 By Phil Cooley
Bleeding Edge

Phil Cooley is a senior certified SAP Consultant with over 20 years of experience in the SAP space in the areas of Sales & Distribution, CRM, CO-PA, EDI and Integration. More recently Phil has been involved in SAP Hybris Cloud For Customer projects and SAP FIORI Projects implementing both on premise apps and apps built using SAP’s HANA Cloud Platform. You can touch base with Phil here or connect with him on LinkedIn

For much of my SAP career I have been safely operating within mature SAP environments, as have many of my colleagues. Most of the companies I have worked with have been on stable releases of the SAP platform, have performed multiple upgrades and for the most part have used the system functions to improve their business operations. Initially, though when SAP R/3 was just starting as an ERP system back in the 90’s there were modules that were brand spanking new and turning them on started a wild ride of prototype development, of switching functions or configuring processes, checking them out and seeing if business requirements were met. In some instances it resulted in the raising of OSS incidents to SAP to fix bugs and functionality that was not working as expected. In addition to this, knowledge of these modules and new configuration was limited. SCN was not around, and very few customers were actually using SAP R/3 so you basically had to find your own way. This of course was both frustrating and rewarding at the same time.

I distinctly remember implementing SAP Rebates back in the mid 90’s (I believe one of the first to do so in Australia) and working my way through it with the assistance of SAP Consultants at the time who knew more about the functionality than I. There was very little documentation – no master guides, no help.sap.com, no blogs – very different to the current situation where there is such an abundance of information that it is sometimes hard to find exactly what you are looking for. A second instance where I lived on the bleeding edge was implementing CO-PA (Profitability Analysis) Summarisation Levels to improve the performance of some of the Sales Reports we were running as part of our overall project go live – for this I know I was definitely the first one to do this in Australia. These were both experiences where I was introducing new functionality that had not really been implemented. Bleeding edge alright!

You might ask, why I am talking about this?? What does this have to do with anything? Well…..I am drawing parallels with the situation I (and of course companies) experienced back in the day when SAP R/3 first started out as a major ERP force and with the situation whereby SAP have now released the S/4HANA juggernaut. This is new bleeding edge technology. In the same category are SAP Hybris Cloud for Customer and SAP HANA Cloud Platform – these 2 are mentioned because of the recent projects I have been involved in. Yes I am the first to admit that these technologies have been on the leading edge but overall if I weigh up my experiences in the mid 90’s versus my experiences in the current time I believe the overall quality of the solutions are better. Do I still enter OSS Incidents to fix errors? Yes. This is a given with any new technology, like any project I have ever been involved in you cannot test every single scenario so there is definitely going to be situations that have not been thought of. This is the case whether you are SAP, Apple, Microsoft or anybody else. But overall, the technology is sound, the offerings are great and the time to implement some of these new bleeding technologies is a lot less than past experiences. The user experiences from the new technologies also are much better than past offerings.

It has been interesting listening to discussions on whether or not companies should take this on, whether they should be on the bleeding edge etc and I thought in actual fact, today we all are much better off than back in the mid 90’s. The documentation covering S/4HANA that is available to the market, the RDS materials that cover basically anything and everything of SAP are available, SCN blogs, help.sap.com, LinkedIn testimonials, SAP conferences, SAP roadmaps etc etc. It is pretty incredible that SAP provide this information free of charge. Obviously they are providing this information to assist and support their customers but I still think it is a great outcome compared to the mid 90’s. The other difference is that SAP have automated tools available plus the Activate methodology to support organisations migrating from R/3 platforms to S/4HANA. I don’t recall any tools being available to move companies from R/2 to R/3 (I could be corrected here!) – besides the technology was different so there was basically no choice for companies but to do brand new installations of R/3. So in this instance there are more options available to customers than previously.

So, in summary, weighing up all of the elements I believe companies are much better off trying bleeding edge technologies – even as Proof of concepts – than what they were previously. What does need to happen though is that expectations need to be set at a realistic level – not with an expectation that there are no bugs and no downtime. If that is the case then definitely S/4 HANA and other emerging technologies will disappoint. I have written previously about organisations looking at the value that these technologies provide and the benefits that can be realised rather than the cost, this is definitely the case when you live on the bleeding edge! Companies, I implore you – look at the VALUE proposition, not only on the cost amount.

What has your experience been with bleeding edge technologies? Would your company have a crack on implementing bleeding edge technologies? If so, share your experiences here, I would love to hear from you!