Thursday, May 27, 2010

What Makes a Rockstar SAP Consultant?

The diversity of talent within the SAP community is remarkable, from technical specialists and industry experts to problem solvers and instructors. We were recently speaking with a customer about his experience with SAP consultants, and I started thinking about what distinguishes the truly great ones. Obviously this depends to some extent on what you value in a consultant (again, there's so much diversity) but four attributes of SAP Rockstars stand out.

  1. Rockstars are technically and functionally competent. They know all of the relevant coding languages used to solve SAP challenges. ABAP, BAPI, Java, WSDL, and Object Oriented Programming fly from their fingers. They understand SAP functionality and know how to configure many modules, too. Because they can pick the right tool for the job at hand, their solutions not only work well, but also are often more elegant.

  2. Rockstars aren't fazed by vague requirements. In fact, they may even relish the challenge of developing a detailed spec or proof of concept based on an unwritten request mentioned in passing by the water cooler. This skill comes from a learned and/or intuitive awareness of what end users really want to achieve, and how to accomplish that in SAP.

  3. Rockstars communicate effectively with everyone. When they're across the conference table from a Director, they talk ROI; an hour later over lunch with a developer, they get into coding and assurance tests. Both audiences feel understood.

  4. Rockstars increase productivity and efficiency. As a result of their knowledge, flexibility, and communication skills, Rockstars make a hugely positive impact on a project's outcome. They may cost (a lot) more than less experienced counterparts, but their strengths translate into far more efficient decision-making and productive development. And that often pays for itself many times over.

The next time you're evaluating a team of SAP consultants, keep an eye out for the Rockstar among them; he or she could be just the candidate your project needs to succeed.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

IS-U/FERC -- Without a trace!

If you're like many utilities running the SAP IS-U/FERC solution, you may be able to turn it off. Say what? That's right, turn it off and get even better data than you're getting now.

When you change the FERC setting in FERC_C8, you'll see options to treat secondary costs as primary. Changing CO activity types (normally secondary cost elements) to primary for FERC reporting allows you to support FERC account balances with labor documents from CO — where often the employee name, hours worked, and PM order number are found. Imagine that; for the first time, a financial analyst will see each utility employee charge to an actual FERC account.

HPC uses this design for customers very successfully. In concert with our SAP-certified solution HPC Utility Financials Accelerator, we update V_FERC_C8 in transaction SM31. Make all the secondary cost transactions primary (ECC 6.0 has radio buttons for this) except for settlement, which stays as a secondary cost. Then assign each cost center to a regulatory indicator. Finally, update the trace translation (FERC_C3) to include secondary cost elements converted to FERC accounts.

Depending on how you have configured FI, CO, and FERC, the FERC trace will run faster, provide more accurate labor costs and assessment detail, and provide enhanced drill-down using FERD or FEOD transactions. If you have SAP HR/Payroll and PM installed, you may see the work center of the employee, the time confirmation, and the notification in PM. You can't do that by using the FERC module with the traditional trace of FI documents only.

So why didn't we think of this 20 years ago? Well, for one thing, CO is not the general ledger. It was thought that FERC balances have to be supported by FI documents only. In reality, provided the FERC balances equal the natural accounts, it really doesn't matter whether FI or CO documents are used to support FERC. So, free yourself from the limitation of FI only, and unleash a new era of improved FERC reporting in SAP.

It's time to turn off the trace! If you do, users can enjoy one version of the truth whether running order reports in CO or looking at the final objects in FERC_D1 (the FERC module drill-down tool.)

SAP for Utilities: Best practices, real-world results, and industry insights

On any given day in the office, we're talking with customers, business partners, and our internal team about how to best address the SAP-related issues that utilities face — from accounting and billing complexities, to the challenges of reporting to external auditors and government regulators. As you can imagine, after more than 15 years of developing and managing SAP solutions for utility companies across the country, including the original IS-U/FERC module in 1994, we've got a lot of substantive stuff to discuss.

Unfortunately, many of these great ideas aren't as well documented as they could be; once the conference call or hallway conversation is over, they're gone, back in our collective heads.

No more. We're going to blog about our work, experience, and insights. We'll strive to make this space on the Web informative and useful for specific individuals at utilities running (or considering) SAP: executive management, plus accounting, finance, and IT professionals. Most posts will be written by HPC America's CEO, Jerry Cavalieri, with periodic contributions from our team of SAP senior solutions architects. And maybe even a guest or two from one of our utility customers.

So, thank you for reading and checking back every week or so. Please don't hesitate to contact us if you have any suggestions or questions.