What happens when a company makes one of its departments a separate entity, takes over another firm, wants to implement a restructuring program, change its business processes or consolidate its system landscape? One thing is clear: changes such as these must be reflected in the system landscape. In October 2001, SAP therefore set up the SAP System Landscape Optimization (SLO) team as the central point of contact for tasks of this type. The SLO team consists not just of a team of specialist consultants, but also a back office in Walldorf, in which programs, methods, and documentation are developed. “Here, we ensure that the products are to a large extent reusable, so that we can provide cost-efficient services for standard requirements. The SLO development resources enable us to rapidly adjust the solutions to special customer requirements,” states Hans-Joachim Würth, director of SLO consulting.
In addition to services relating to currency conversion – such as the conversion of the company group currency or the introduction of a new local currency – and the technical services that SAP offers to support customers in integrating their own developments in their change processes, the main focus of SAP System Landscape Optimization is on the three major areas of system landscape change consulting, organizational structure change consulting and SAP conversion services / data harmonization consulting. Alongside the “classical” data transfer services, which are based for example on the Legacy System Migration Workbench (LSMW), SLO has developed its own technologies for implementing change requirements.
With the Conversion Workbench (CWB), the necessary data changes such as numbering systems for charts of accounts or material numbers can be made directly at database level. Based on the where-used list of the Data Dictionary, a conversion program is generated for each of the tables that is to be converted. These programs then convert the values in the database. After conversion, only the new values can be found in the system. A conversion of this kind takes account of all the components of the system. The conversion includes master data, movement/transaction data, and customizing data. Tables that belong to the standard system are converted automatically, and as a rule, so are modifications of standard tables, and tables that the company created itself. The Conversion Workbench is the basis for the SAP Conversion Services. However, for conversion services, it is also used in other tasks, such as the merging of company codes of controlling areas.
The Migration Workbench (MWB) is used to transport data – from table content right through to complete business objects – from a sending system to a receiving system. During transport, you explicitly define which data is to be moved and to where. Like the Conversion Workbench, the Migration Workbench works at database level.
When are the SLO software tools used? After the customer’s requirements and the relevant areas of the affected SAP systems have been analyzed, SLO selects the approach that will best meet the customer requirements, and draws up a proposed solution. SLO designs and implements the selected solution – in close consultation with the customer’s project team – and if required, offers the support of a specialist team of developers. Hans-Joachim Würth lists five typical scenarios for software adjustments:
- Sell-off of parts of the company
- Company merger
- Reorganization/restructuring within the company
- Optimization of business processes
- Consolidation of heterogeneous IT landscapes
Sell-off of parts of the company
A company group sells the portfolio of one of its divisions to another company. As a result, the data that relates to the sold company division must be removed from the group’s SAP system, and transferred to the new owner.
With the “client separation” service, SLO offers two possible approaches to the solution. Either the data that the sold part of the company needs is migrated to a new client using one of the data transfer methods (Legacy System Migration Workbench or Migration Workbench), or a client copy is created for the sold part of the company, and the data that the parent company no longer requires is removed from the client copy using the SLO service “delete company code.”
A company buys or takes over another company. The acquired company uses a different material numbering system than the buying company, for example. However, from the point of acquisition on, the same material numbers must be used, and it is therefore necessary to change the material numbers of the bought company.
With the SLO conversion service “material number conversion,” the material numbers of the bought company are changed so that they correspond to the naming conventions used in the parent company. This is done using the Conversion Workbench.
Reorganization/restructuring in the company
A company was previously organized according to regions, and based its SAP system on this structure. However, an analysis of business processes reveals that a central, function-based organization would considerably increase efficiency in controlling. As a result, the controlling areas used to map the structure of the company in the SAP system must be adjusted accordingly.
With the help of the SLO service “controlling area merge” and the Conversion Workbench, the old controlling areas, which were set up on a regional basis, can be merged into central units.
Optimization of business processes
In a government department, different standard charts of accounts are used for external and internal financial reporting. The duplicate work that this entails is becoming increasingly time-consuming and error-prone. The managers responsible decide that the external chart of accounts could also be used internally. As a result, the chart of account in the government department’s SAP system must be adjusted to reflect this change.
The SLO conversion service “chart of account conversion” makes it possible to rename or merge accounts and cost elements in the chart of account so that they meet the new requirements. The assignment table in which the changes are defined is retained in the SAP system after conversion for documentation purposes – for an external audit, for example.
Consolidation of heterogeneous IT landscapes
In a large, international group, several different SAP systems have been set up in different locations over the course of time. In an evaluation of how to reduce the total cost of ownership for the system landscape, the managers find that work is duplicated at a number of points, and some of the systems are not fully utilized. The TCO can be reduced if these systems are merged.
Various solutions are possible here, depending on the concrete requirements of the project. The simplest method is to copy several clients to a common system, but not to standardize anything any further. Alternatively, the data from one client can be migrated to another client using one of the data transport methods such as the Legacy System Migration Workbench or the MWB. However, the highest level of integration can be achieved with a client merge using conversion technology.
If special customer requirements need to be met, for example in the area of application consulting or IT system architecture, SLO also includes specialists from other SAP areas in the project team. “In this way, the customer receives a complete, one-stop service and has a central contact person,” says Würth, summing up the overall concept.