Blog entry by Phil Martin
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.