This is often asked
Variant Configuration has been a mature product for a long time, and is currently being injected with new life as the transition to S/4 HANA continues.
But whether you are still in the ECC6 environment or in transition to S/4 HANA, basic modelling principles will always apply. We believe at Radiant Think that good approaches lead to good models and in our VC Essentials online training we start with the approach first. This places your models in a good position to absorb future changes and ongoing maintenance that is needed in a normal business environment.
Sometimes we find models are not always developed with good approaches and therefore have not used the appropriate techniques.
So what is the correct approach?
In the VC Essentials online course, we cover various approaches to realistic business requirements that you will encounter in developing a VC model. This includes understanding the various objects in SAP, but more importantly how to think like a VC Modeller. We always start with the requirements and consider how these may blend to other requirements in the model.
Once you think like a VC Modeller, you realise that your main techniques will be Constraints, and these often will also include the use of Variant Tables.
Think - performance, structure, maintenance
This approach ticks so many boxes.
- Performance - constraints only run when the condition is TRUE. Procedures can run....and run....and run
- Structure - Constraints and variant tables organise your model nicely. If you use many preconditions you will know how hard they can be to control.
- Maintenance - Simply a lot easier as constraints and variant tables are like a roadmap of your model.
What if your models do not follow this approach?
It is not unusual that VC Models do not use this approach of constraints and variant tables. Our VC Essentials online course is a good start to understand good approaches. We have customers using the online course for this purpose as they have different approaches and customisations in different parts of the organisation.
This then provides a common understanding to develop new models with good approaches, or to look at how existing models can be modified in the future.
In some companies, as models evolve and become more complex, performance can also become a factor. A future blog will discuss performance in more detail, but often migration of procedures to constraints can improve performance.
If you need a training course that has a focus on good approaches then consider trying our VC Essentials course preview. This will provide you with the detail of the course content and access to some of the lessons. This is training that is unique and effective.
Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have specific requirements or questions. We are flexible and interested in your training goals.
Join our customers in the US, Germany, Australia, Croatia and Romania who are already taking advantage of our training.
Hopefully, you are using Transaction PMEVC - VC Modelling Environment to maintain your VC Models.
SAP provides updates to the functionality that you may not have implemented yet in your system. Some of these changes will make you more productive and faster in maintaining models. That has to be a good thing.
Below is a long list of OSS Notes that can be applied to your system. If you do not know what an OSS Note is - well it is SAPs way to apply fixes and updates to SAP systems.
In the notes that follow these will allow such things as maintaining classes and characteristics, more drag and drop, see your routings and maintain their dependencies, variant table improvements, using the full width of your monitors etc.
You may have these in place now, but there may be some on the list you may want to get your SAP system people to implement. My list may not be complete but has most of them I think.
2233122 - Routings in the model tree of transaction PMEVC
2011952 - Improved screen layout in PMEVC
2054124 - PMEVC: Create configuration profile with template
1688548 - Maintenance and class assignment of characteristics in PMEVC
2082077 - Creating a further configuration profile in PMEVC
2180193 - Display of change states of dependencies in PMEVC
2184188 - Display of change states of constraints in PMEVC
2163281 - PMEVC: Deletion of several characteristics from a group
1848536 - PMEVC: Check for empty cells in variant table maintenance
2390906 - PMEVC: added functionality to create characteristic with template
2410424 - PMEVC: Button for deletion of all characteristics from a group
2530153 - PMEVC: Restrict F4 plant input help to plants valid for material
1658479 - Maintain multiple values in variant tables
1621104 - Paste large amount of data from clipboard – Variant Table
1625629 - Drag and drop for sorting of procedures
2061441 - Filter for multiple selection of characteristics for an interface design group
1610489 - Syntax error highlighting in dependency editor
No training plans? - the risks
Training is something we know we should do, as it makes good sense. It is true for variant configuration but also for most modules in SAP.
So why is it that training that is beneficial is delayed, forgotten or sometimes not even considered?
Especially for Variant Configuration. Why?
Variant Configuration model design depends on the skills of the modeller. VC is a creative module that is shaped by the skill of the VC modeller. It impacts most aspects of SAP logistics and finance. Think about that for a moment.
Now reflect on how modellers learn VC. Often on the job, often not by choice, and often under pressure of time and budget. That is not a good way of learning and may not be with good practices in mind.
The risks are that models are not scaleable, maintainable, effective and efficient.
There are many reasons why training is not put in place for learners.
- disruption to business
- complexity to arrange
Having been a user of VC, a modeller, a consultant and a trainer I have a good understanding of VC training. It can be costly, it can be hard to arrange, and the disruption to the business can be a factor. There is also a cost and risk for not having training.
Removing the training barriers
There are various training options out there for learning Variant Configuration, but not many offer what we offer.
Variant Configuration Essentials online
Our course starts with approaching VC models in a business context. Many other courses just teach techniques with little regard to a total solution.
Our course provides guided simulations in the SAP transactions and self-guided exercises that provide a hands on experience. Many other courses show learners by watching an instructor.
Our courses test for understanding. Many other courses have exercises but may not be measured for success.
Our courses can be started at any time, online. A learner can fit their learning into the usual work schedule as it is self-paced. Many other courses require the student to be locked into 3 - 5 days of continuous training.
Our courses are cost effective when you consider the total cost of training for many courses.
Next steps - our preview course
We think we have a good offering and so we have created a preview course for VC Essentials. The preview has the content in the full course. Access is provided to some of the content to try out for yourself.
Visit us at Radiant Think and register on the portal and try out the preview course.
The digital transformation is gathering pace
I will start with a disclaimer. This is my overview of what I know about the transition of SAP Variant Configuration to S/4 HANA. It is provided as information only and should not be relied upon in your business decisions and your future plans should be discussed with SAP. However, this may provide some clarity on the directions in play.
Many of us are using classical SAP Variant Configuration, but we are also hearing more about S/4 HANA. This is a major change underway and is analogous to when SAP moved from R/2 to R/3. S/4 HANA is a huge step forward and will provide the basic platform for years to come.
But what does this mean to all the companies in the world using SAP Variant Configuration?
We all know how complex VC can be with its hard links with Make to Order and Engineer to Order processes. In my view, VC is an additional master data layer that transforms core static structures like BOMs and Routings into dynamic, powerful structures. This is all about Lot Size 1 being managed very efficiently and effectively.
The core building blocks are classification, effective rule engine and an object orientated approach. This has worked well for 20 plus years.
SAP is being very careful to provide a transition path of "classic VC" to the new "advanced VC".
What is the transition approach?
My simple understanding of the plan is that the classic models will migrate to S/4 HANA. In practice, this may be a smooth transition but I would expect that customisations could require some rework. So in an ideal scenario, the models will still work and can be used.
What about the advanced VC option?
S/4 HANA will have a new and improved advanced modelling capability. Some of this could offer new syntax like wild cards in dependencies, other parts will integrate nicely with Fiori for a better user experience, and other integration to provide powerful analysis.
So how do you migrate your models to the new advanced VC? From what I have heard there will be a migration tool or process that will tell you what is compatible to migrate to the advanced VC model, and provide details on aspects of the model that will need attention.
Do all models need to transition to Advanced VC?
It would seem that models can co exist with a mix of classic and advanced. This means there will be time and flexibility to either upgrade models to advanced VC, perhaps retire classic models and start afresh with new models, or retain classic models. Every company will be different and it will depend a lot on complexity, volumes, and previous modelling practices.
What do I think?
I think that SAP is being careful to not break VC. At its core, it is retaining many of the existing building blocks and concepts so that there is a clear transition path. It is not to say this is easy but they have been engaging with customers on this. If you are a member of the Configuration Workgroup then check out some of the presentations at the recent Hamburg conference that provide more detail than this blog.
I believe that if you have sound modelling approaches then the transition will be easier. Our VC Essential Course tries to emphasise good approaches.
This article is for anyone or any business that is using or considering using the Variant Configuration module in SAP. This module allows you sell products that can be customised to the requirements of the customer while allowing the business to effectively and efficiently manage the production, supply and pricing in a dynamic way.
Over the years I have seen variant configuration implemented in various ways and have also implemented it myself. The common problem is that sometimes consultants are not as familiar with the functionality as they need to be, and as a VC modeller in the business, you may not always have the essential skills you need to build and maintain effective models.
This can make a huge difference in the type of models that are built and how well they can be updated, changed and used as products evolve.
In simple terms, you need to know how to think like a modeller and how to approach creating new models and improving existing models. This then allows you to apply the better modelling techniques. The payoff is huge, as poor modelling decisions can have costly impacts in the future.
In this video, we explain how we approach training variant configuration and the emphasis we put on the approaches.