In the world of SAP solutions, “evolution” is more than a buzzword; it’s a cornerstone of progress.

Amid recent updates to SAP Activate, a project implementation methodology used to plan and execute complex SAP solutions, ASUG sat down with Jan Musil, Chief Product Owner for SAP Activate, to discuss the six-phase approach, its recent evolution, and the recently published second edition of SAP Activate: Project Management for SAP S/4HANA and SAP S/4HANA Cloud, an SAP Press publication co-authored by Sven Denecken, SVP & Chief Marketing and Solutions Officer for SAP Industries & CX, SAP SE, and Srivatsan Santhanam, Vice President, Spend Engineering, Head of Concur R&D, SAP Labs India.

Diving into the SAP Activate methodology, our conversation illuminates the collaborative effort between more than 20 authors that made this book’s publication possible, offering insights into the shifting landscapes of ERP deployment, technological advancements, and the intelligent enterprise’s driving ethos.

Musil underlined his gratitude for the team effort that brought this second edition of SAP Activate to fruition, explaining that each of the collaborators contributed their expertise to ensure the publication would serve as a comprehensive guide to the methodology. In the second part of our conversation (read the first part here), Musil discusses the challenges of business alignment, integration, and extensibility that ASUG members must navigate in pursuing digital transformation initiatives.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Q: SAP Fiori 3.0, a design system for creating business apps, is intended to ensure a consistent, integrated user experience for SAP customers. What are the most significant changes between SAP Fiori 2.0 and 3.0? What were the goals of these changes? What do you anticipate for the next iteration of this UX system?

A: While we don't differentiate between various SAP Fiori versions in the book, we do acknowledge its value. It's crucial for our customers to incorporate SAP Fiori into their transition plans. This can begin with implementing SAP Fiori in one business function or line of business, learning from it, and progressing.

We recommend approaching SAP Fiori based on the five golden rules we've established for deploying SAP S/4HANA:

  1. Foster a cloud mindset by adhering to fit-to-standard and Agile deployment.
  2. Build upon ready-to-run business processes in which SAP Fiori is embedded, using pre-configured solutions with predefined processes, and utilizing SAP Fiori UX.
  3. Use modern integration technologies, including SAP Business Technology Platform (BTP).
  4. Use modern extensions technologies, including in-app extensibility.
  5. Document deviations to ensure transparency. If you deviate from any of these rules, document your reasons. Documenting deviations is crucial for potential future reversion to standard practices.

This guidance serves as the cornerstone for SAP S/4HANA adoption and yields significant benefits, especially in terms of governance and the advantages gained through SAP Fiori.

Personally, having spent 27 years in SAP—starting with SAP Graphic User Interface (GUI) and transitioning to cloud ERP—I've witnessed the shift. I used to rely heavily on SAP GUI, but since delving into the cloud ERP sphere, I've used SAP Fiori. Recently, I worked in an older system using the GUI interface, and encountered difficulties due to my adaptation to SAP Fiori's ease-of-use. It's a testament to how quickly one gets accustomed to the new approach. I genuinely appreciate the convenience of accessing business applications seamlessly across my computer, tablet, and phone without relying solely on my computer, as I did with SAP GUI.

Q: It’s almost inexcusable to have that time delay in integration. Today, everything needs to be seamless.

A: This extends far beyond the book but, originally, I was a programmer by trade when I graduated. So, I programmed in my university program; my go-to editor was the VI editor. Although I know other editor enthusiasts might not agree, I loved VI. With a few keystrokes, I could alter paragraphs and make significant changes.

Now, many years later, I use a regular text editor, whether it's Microsoft Word or a basic text editor on my machine, and I'm perfectly comfortable. I don't miss those functionalities, but I'm also not programming regularly. It's a different paradigm, and I've adapted my tools accordingly.

Q: My next question is focused on transition paths and the different ways companies move their ERP systems to SAP S/4HANA. Migrations vary in complexity and impact on existing operations. Matching your business objectives with the desired outcome from migrating to SAP S/4HANA is essential. Understanding characteristics of each path is crucial for successful transition and minimization of operational disruptions. Can you give examples of successful business objective alignment to SAP migration?

A: Every customer starts from a different point. Some come in as fresh SAP S/4HANA Cloud users, while others have been running their SAP systems on SAP ERP Central Component (ECC) for as long as I've been with SAP. These are vastly different starting positions. Transformation managers and business leaders are looking to deploy a solution that offers flexibility to support present and future needs. That's the focal point of alignment. Now, the real challenge lies in navigating the path to reach that target. What steps should be taken?

In SAP Activate, we provide a path outlining the steps to consider all the factors that determine the best transition path for you. For some, it's a straightforward and swift decision—especially for those undertaking their first SAP solution as a new implementation. However, transitioning from SAP ECC involves multiple considerations. It's not merely about the functional footprint; it also depends on the freshness of your business processes. The path will differ greatly if you've recently implemented SAP ECC versus a legacy SAP customer that recently migrated to SAP ECC.

This is all covered in the “Discover” phase of SAP Activate. We cover strategic planning and transition path planning, including considerations about data volumes, evolving business roles, and responsibilities. This determines which variant of SAP Activate you will use. It’s also a decision on the solution you'll deploy. It's a complex process with moving parts. There's not a one-size-fits-all answer to provide to everyone on how to do it, other than following a structured process outlined in SAP Activate.

Q: How can utilizing a sandbox system as an environment benefit business users?

A: Firstly, establishing a sandbox environment helps your new or existing business users to swiftly engage with new functionalities. This differs from how we implemented SAP ECC or SAP R/3 in the past. Previously, we acquired the first system around the start of the “realization” phase after blueprinting. Some companies used sandboxes during the blueprinting phase. We build sandboxes with ready-to-run business processes informed by best practices at an enterprise management layer and functionality to enable business users before entering fit-to-standard workshops.

Skipping this step can negatively impact fit-to-standard workshops, transforming them into training sessions with minimal fit-to-standard and a focus on requirement gathering. If you overlook this stage, your Explore phase will extend far longer than necessary to properly prepare your users for the fit-to-standard workshops. Please don't skip it. It's in your best interest not to, as it saves time in the Explore phase.

Q. Can you share examples of how utilizing a value map can aid in decision making regarding which functionalities to prioritize for implementation?

A: This is a great one, and it highlights the evolving nature of SAP Activate and SAP's offerings. When we authored the book, a “card game” was embedded [to serve as a value map,] but now it has transitioned into the digital experience of SAP Digital Value Discovery, an offering embedded within SAP Activate. Customers are encouraged to use this platform to discover value. It's useful for customers already using SAP S/4HANA who seek incremental steps to adopt new capabilities. 

I've listened to testimonials from customers who have undergone this process. What they emphasize in those testimonials is its structured approach. It operates like a checklist, ensuring we don't overlook anything while assessing the potential value of these functions. It helps in quantifying the business benefits we'll gain from these functions and allows us to discover new functionalities we might not have been aware of. Instead of watching a presentation with 75 slides highlighting new functionalities, this approach delves into discussing what these functionalities can do for your business. It effectively surfaces potential new functionalities that customers can leverage in their environment. SAP Digital Value Discovery delivers all these benefits.

Q: Given SAP Activate’s focus on utilizing pre-delivered integration scenarios, open APIs, and extensible apps, the book also emphasizes the importance of comprehensive testing, proper cutover preparations, and continual end-user learning to ensure a successful implementation and sustained success. What are some of the common pitfalls associated with this area, and how can you caution readers to be mindful of them?

A: The most challenging aspect is that some people involved in extensibility stick to the old methods. They hold onto the traditional approach of modifying SAP code or creating copies to maintain, which worked in the old paradigm. Now, we have more available technologies on the stack or SAP Business Technology Platform. Those should be leveraged. Alongside these golden rules previously mentioned, we've also designed a governance template for a Solution Standardization Board within SAP Activate. You can include this solution standardization board into your design review board or utilize it as a part of the process.

The purpose of this board is to scrutinize every planned extension and integration, ensuring compliance with the golden rules and adherence to SAP's guidance. There's an abundance of guidance available on, linked from SAP Activate, sharing the recommended technologies. This isn't meant to restrict customers in their technology choices but to help them in choosing the right technology aligned with a cloud mindset and a compliant way of extending SAP solutions with a clean-core mindset. SAP S/4HANA Cloud, public edition, is constructed with this mindset. Every customer in the public cloud receives upgrades twice a year, each completed within a three-week period.

Q: Any final insights to share with readers?

A: Your transition doesn't culminate with your initial go-live; your business keeps evolving. SAP Activate is designed to support you through the upgrades and next implementation cycles as you enhance and introduce new functionalities into the system. It also provides guidance when you want to revert to standard functionality after implementing certain features earlier on. SAP Activate spans everything from project management to technology, application design, configuration, and organizational change management. It's all covered within the book. I strongly encourage everyone to explore SAP Activate. It is available on the SAP Activate Roadmap Viewer or in your SAP Cloud ALM. If there are further questions beyond this conversation, consider joining the SAP Activate community. We're there to assist.

For more from Musil, read part one of our interview on SAP Activate. This SAP Press publication was a collaboration between industry leaders from SAP and more than 20 contributors, including Sven Denecken, SVP & Chief Marketing and Solutions Officer for SAP Industries & CX, SAP SE; Jan Musil, SAP Activate Chief Product Owner; and Srivatsan Santhanam, Vice President, Spend Engineering, Head of Concur R&D, SAP Labs India.

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