The COVID-19 pandemic has turned out to be the biggest catalyst for companies to get it crystal clear for themselves that digitization of an enterprise is no longer an option, but an absolute necessity. With the evolution of technologies and markets over the last few years, we have seen a need to have an ERP system that has intelligent processing capabilities, end-to-end integrated business processes, competence to manage new business models, and offers a consumer-grade user experience.
SAP S/4HANA has proven to be just that. It has turned out to be a great simplifier of an organization’s ERP processes. It has prepared customers with the agility, adaptability, and resilience that modern businesses seek these days to overcome external disruptions and stay ahead of their competition. SAP S/4HANA offers capabilities to efficiently manage a company’s finances, procurement, manufacturing, sales, supply chain, and service operations. We have thousands of customers that are already live with a S/4HANA system and several others that are on their way to achieving a productive implementation as I write down this piece.
One of the most common means of transitioning to SAP S/4HANA for existing SAP ERP customers has been via the “system conversion” transition process. This involves converting an existing SAP ERP 6.0 system to SAP S/4HANA using several tools like SAP Readiness Check (RC), Maintenance Planner (MP), Simplification Item Check Framework, the Software Update Manager (SUM), etc.
The role of Add-Ons in making or breaking a system conversion to SAP S/4HANA
During a system conversion project, a customer is most likely to encounter Add-Ons in his system landscape and would therefore need to deal with it in order to move to SAP S/4HANA. Add-Ons are individual self-contained software components that sit together with the core ERP component to serve a customer-specific, industry-specific, or country-specific functionality. One of the main causes for system conversion projects to get thwarted is because the customer has not prepared well for handling the Add-Ons in his system.
The Add-Ons existing on a customer’s ERP system that shall be part of the target SAP S/4HANA release must be supported in order to permit the system conversion process to go through. A lack of early clarification of this situation is a potential cause for a project delay, depending on the Add-On type.
ABAP Add-On Types:
SAP Add-Ons à These are Add-Ons developed by SAP and modeled in “Product and Production Management System” (PPMS) which is a central SAP internal master data repository for technical information on SAP software components and software products. The status is known to the Maintenance Planner.
Partner Add-Ons (also known as vendor branded reseller or VBR Add-Ons) à These are Add-Ons that are developed by select partners. These Add-Ons are also modeled in PPMS and the status is known to the Maintenance Planner.
SAP ICC certified Third-Party Add-Ons à These are Add-Ons that are certified by SAP Integration and Certification Center (SAP ICC). Maintenance Planner points the customer to the SAP Certified Solutions directory if the Add-On has been certified for the target SAP S/4HANA release. If it has not been certified, the customer must directly check with the vendor to clarify the strategy of the Add-On for the target SAP S/4HANA release.
Other Third-Party Add-Ons à These are independent Add-Ons that are not certified by SAP ICC and the status is not known to Maintenance Planner. In this case, as well, the customer must directly check with the vendor to clarify the strategy of the Add-On for the target SAP S/4HANA release.
Maintenance Planner’s job in clarifying the compatibility of Add-Ons during system conversion to SAP S/4HANA
The Maintenance Planner is a solution hosted by SAP that helps you plan and maintain systems in your landscape. The Maintenance Planner also helps the customer get a view on the compatibility status of the Add-Ons on his ERP system before system conversion to SAP S/4HANA. The Maintenance Planner calculates the compatibility status of Add-Ons on the SAP ERP system and generates the ‘stack.xml’ file as an output if all the Add-Ons are supported (either via the same product version, successor product versions, or Add-On uninstallers). If the Maintenance Planner is not aware of the status of the Add-On (E.g. for 3rd party Add-Ons), it marks them as ‘Unknown’ and the customer must reach out to the vendor to clarify this. This ‘stack.xml’ file is subsequently used as an input in running the SUM tool.
The result of the Maintenance Planner mainly depends on the following:
- The Add-On support for SAP S/4HANA à If the ERP Add-On has a compatible version on SAP S/4HANA, or has an uninstallation capability, the Maintenance Planner goes through successfully. If neither of them is possible, the Maintenance Planner stops execution and the blocking Add-Ons must be handled. Note: This is only for Add-Ons where the status can be read from the PPMS system. If the status is not available, the Maintenance Planner will show a warning, but proceed. The SUM may stop the process ahead.
- Add-On type à The Maintenance Planner categorizes the results based on the type of the Add-On (SAP Add-On, Partner Add-On, Third-Party Add-On).
- Existing license à The Maintenance Planner also checks if a customer who has licensed an ERP Add-On does not have the necessary license for the successor S/4HANA Addon (if applicable), and accordingly stops or continues with the progress.
Maintenance Planner FAQ: FAQs
The possible ways in which Add-Ons can be handled during a system conversion process are listed below.
- Usage without any change à The Add-On can be used in SAP S/4HANA without any change. The Add-On needs the attribute to be supported for the SAP S/4HANA target release. The attribute is delivered via “Attribute-Change-Package” (ACP) for SUM.
- Usage after preparation à The Add-On can be used further, but prior to conversion to SAP S/4HANA, specific pre activities are obligatory. Activities will be described in Simplification List (SAP Add-Ons) or in an SAP Note (Partner Add-Ons).
- No longer relevant à Add-On is no longer relevant in the context of SAP-S/4HANA. Add-On needs to be uninstalled as part of the conversion procedure. The unavailability of an uninstaller can prove to be a blocker for the system conversion. The uninstaller must be provided by the vendor of the Add-On.
- Successor version is required à Add-On will be replaced by a new version on SAP S/4HANA. A new Add-On version must be provided to SUM during the conversion procedure.
Key lessons learned in effectively handling Add-Ons during system conversion from various SAP S/4HANA customer care projects
- Execute the Maintenance Planner tool very early in the project in order to confirm that your SAP ERP system can technically be converted to SAP S/4HANA. The tool gives you visibility of the Add-Ons in your system landscape and how they are positioned for compatibility with SAP S/4HANA.
- SAP, Partner, and third-party Add-Ons can only run on SAP S/4HANA if they have been explicitly released for it (releasing the Attribute Change Package (ACP) file, etc).
- Partner Add-Ons (also known as a vendor-branded reseller or VBR Add-Ons like OpenText, Vistex, Clicksoftware, etc) will only be available after the general availability of SAP S/4HANA, and not earlier. SAP Note 2974663 has a list of compatible partner products for SAP S/4HANA 2020.
- Contact the partner or the third-party vendor at an early stage so they will have time to prepare for an SAP S/4HANA version in case it does not exist yet. This can be considered as a step before the actual project or the pre-project phase.
- Clarify the licensing terms for Add-Ons at an early stage as they might differ between ERP and SAP S/4HANA Add-On versions.
- Most Add-Ons must be co-deployed on the SAP S/4HANA system. Some Add-Ons can run side-by-side on a separate server.
- If an add-on is no longer required, please check with the vendor if a package for uninstalling the Add-on is available. See SAP Note 2011192 for the list of all SAP Add-On components that are uninstallable.
There is no need to lose sleep over Add-Ons during the system conversion process to SAP S/4HANA. We have had thousands of customers that have successfully converted their SAP ERP systems to SAP S/4HANA, effectively managing their Add-Ons along the way. With proactive planning and careful consideration, it is possible to manage Add-Ons smoothly during the conversion process. At SAP, we stand with you as trusted partners to help you manage your company’s transition to SAP S/4HANA.
Sean D’Silva (Program Manager at SAP)
SAP Maintenance Planner:
SAP Notes on Add-Ons
SAP Certified Solutions Directory: https://www.sap.com/dmc/exp/2013_09_adpd/enEN/#/solutions