Companies need a future-proof, service-based platform for enterprise resource planning (ERP) that offers both standard business functions and industry-specific functions and that can be customized quickly to respond to changing business needs. Companies also want to decide for themselves how quickly to shift their IT architectures to support the principles of service-oriented architecture (SOA). SAP meets both needs with its long-term strategy for SAP ERP. SAP regularly delivers new and enhanced functionality as SAP enhancement packages for SAP ERP, a series of optional enhancement packages.
New functions in the package
Enhancement packages consist of industry-specific and cross-industry enhancements along with new functions for SAP ERP. They also describe enterprise services implemented in SAP ERP with Enterprise Services Repository, which is part of the SAP NetWeaver platform. Enterprise services enable more flexible design of end-to-end processes like procure to pay. SAP also regularly continues to provide support packages for SAP ERP to meet changes in legal and tax regulations.
Plans call for issuing a new enhancement package every six months. SAP delivered the first SAP enhancement package for SAP ERP in December 2006. The second should become available in July 2007. The first enhancement package contained numerous functional enhancements for human capital management (HCM) – talent management and recruiting – and for credit management in accounting. It also contained numerous industry-specific enhancements for retail and other industries, along with new enterprise services for sales and service, product development, and production.
The second SAP enhancement package for SAP ERP includes innovations for the wholesale and retail, public services, process, and automobile industries and enterprise services for the order-to-cash process. In accounting, cross-industry functionality is planned with SWIFT code integration and additional business content for the SAP Biller Direct application. An enhanced learning solution in SAP ERP Human Capital Management (SAP ERP HCM) is planned, along with improved integration of vendors in logistics.
SAP enhancement packages for SAP ERP are cumulative; each contains the enhancements of earlier deliveries. This approach contributes greatly to synchronizing release cycles and planning.
Enhancements at predefined points
SAP software users can now determine for themselves which new functions they want to use and which ones they want to ignore. The switch framework, provided with the SAP NetWeaver platform, is used to activate the desired functions. SAP delivers inactive industry functions and supplemental applications for cross-industry process as business functions via the switch framework along with SAP ERP.
Industry business function sets encapsulate complete, independent business functions for specific industries. All the industry business functions contained in a set can be used simultaneously in an SAP system. The functions are activated over the switch framework, which turns on the individual functions within the business function sets.
SAP uses the same approach in enhancement packages. Business functions are used to encapsulate new developments in the enhancement packages. Enterprise business functions are independent of industry extensions, so all customers can use them.
Additional new functionality for industry solutions and core processes in accounting, HR, and operations are activated with the switch framework. Enhancement technologies from the enhancement framework, such as the enhancement builder, extend SAP software and tables at specific points, adding functionality for a specific industry. With the switch framework, SAP users then switch on the enhancements.
Simplification and standardization
SAP groups new enterprise services and their documentation as part of the enhancement packages as enterprise services bundles based on business background. Customers access the documentation using an interactive Wiki format, where they can share their experience. Individual enterprise services and process components are defined in Enterprise Services Repository, and they are immediately available in SAP ERP. This approach ensures that core processes in the company can be optimized as needed and that new, service-based business scenarios can be set up quickly as composite applications for more efficient order processing or innovative sales channels.
For example, the second SAP enhancement package for SAP ERP contains new enterprise services bundles that simplify order-to-cash processes and largely standardize them across industries. For example, certain process steps are identical in the service and consumer goods industries. They include a customer inquiry, a request for proposal, the receipt of orders, order scheduling, shipping goods and products, invoicing, and monitoring incoming payments. SAP offers enterprise services bundles for exactly these types of process steps.
Enterprise services also allow the setup of composite applications with tailor-made user interfaces that improve support for industry-specific scenarios like order to cash with better throughput, quality, and cost-efficiency. Take electronic order fulfillment as an example. It enables logistics services providers to establish new business models that enable their customers to use enterprise services to process and manage their shipments on their own. Enterprise services packages enable customers to enhance their cross-system (SAP and non-SAP software) business scenarios and to set up standard, stable, and well-documented interfaces between SAP ERP and third-party systems.
To simplify work flows on the computer screen, SAP turned to the standardization of enterprise processes like order to cash and procure to pay by defining cross-industry, personalized object work lists. Along with defined work steps, such as “check and confirm sales order” and “check and release invoices,” these work lists are to be performed in order. In the same way, reporting will first be standardized on SAP ERP Financials and then for other areas of SAP ERP. In the future, users will be able to map business process to the system more efficiently and with less training.
No supplemental installation
Enhancement packages provide many benefits. They regularly deliver supplemental functionality and enterprise services. They can be implemented more quickly and economically than ever before because the core ERP software remains stable.
The supplemental installation of a complete industry package or a core component or the customization of all applications and interfaces related to an industry package or core component that a traditional upgrade would require is no longer necessary. If new functionality is activated – talent management or e-recruiting for SAP ERP HCM, for example – only SAP ERP HCM requires customization. The same applies to industry enhancements. All other areas of the ERP application remain untouched.
Following your own route
With SAP ERP and SAP enhancement packages for SAP ERP, SAP customers gain long-term planning security. They continue to develop their business and IT strategies without interruption and to follow their own timetable in implementing enterprise SOA.
This long-term release strategy has become popular among users of SAP software. More and more users are upgrading to the current release of SAP ERP, as shown in a survey undertaken by the German-speaking SAP user group, DSAG. Every upgrade project is different, so SAP has bundled consulting competencies in an upgrade factory (www.sap.de/upgradefactory) , currently available only in German. Fixed-price services for professional project planning and technical implementation provide precise support for upgrading SAP R/3 to SAP ERP. This approach shortens the length of upgrade projects and minimizes downtime.