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Article Series "Bringing Together Clean Core, Cloud, the SAP Extension Suite and SAP BTP - A Clean Core and Differentiation / Extensibility Strategy"

This posting is the first part of a series, which proposes a functional-strategic approach to Clean Core to help overcome the challenges, which the prevalent technical approach entails. Visit the overview page for a management summary and links to the other postings.

Challenges of the Technical Approach to Clean Core

Technical Challenges of Clean Core

Many organizations are struggling with the Clean Core principle, because they are following the traditional project approach and are treating Clean Core and the SAP BTP as purely technical tasks. However, development departments do not welcome Clean Core, the SAP Extension Suite and the SAP BTP as much as may have been expected. The opposite is true: Many developers perceive Clean Core and the SAP Extension Suite as a limitation and even an obstacle for completing their work. When comparing the ABAP Workbench with the SAP Extension Suite with regard to the traditional tasks, development becomes significantly more cumbersome and intricate by Clean Core. The tooling and the API-based access reduce the freedom of the developer and add complexity. These aspects together with the lack of maturity, for example with regard to the range of whitelisted APIs and publicly accessible objects, even raise doubts regarding the technical feasibility of the Clean Core Principle. Furthermore, many core processes such as the application lifecycle management need to be adapted, while clear recommendations on how to do this in detail are still scarce. Heads of development and lead architects face a huge demand for new best practices, how-tos and guidelines, such as selection guides for the extensibility options – in addition to the quest of finding a solution to make Clean Core work. Overall, there is a high need for building up new skills and a suitable training plan is required.

Change Management Challenges of Clean Core

This aspect leads over from the technical challenges to change management aspects. As long as Clean Core is only addressed as a technical task, the change management tasks focus mainly on the development, though. One challenge of the prevailing approach is that developers are getting involved in transition projects only at a rather late stage. Understandably, this causes a lot of discomfort and uncertainty. Additionally, developers may get concerned about their capacity to manage the upcoming workload within the often very ambitious timeframes of the project plans. As a result, not even the Clean Core principle but also the functional-specification-driven project approach may get ignored simply due to following good intentions in an adverse context. Considering all the aforementioned aspects, it is no surprise that there is limited acceptance of Clean Core on behalf of the developers. In this context, the core challenge is to find a way to ensure the adherence to the Clean Core principle, which cannot be addressed by change management alone, but also is an organizational task.

Organizational Challenges of Clean Core

As S/4HANA transformation projects are anything but trivial, project managers already face enough organizational challenges without Clean Core. In many cases, the primary goal is to get just the most essential functionality up-and-running. Ambitious project timelines and restricted resources demand a strict focus on the key topics and especially greenfield transitions are and should be primarily driven from a business perspective. Therefore, if Clean Core is dealt with as a technical task, it often fails to receive the necessary attention. This may not even occur on purpose, because when considered as a technical topic, it is often unclear, when and how Clean Core should be addressed as part of the project. However, when following a technical approach, Clean Core is often perceived rather as an inefficiency also from an organizational perspective, because it appears to require a lot of effort for little benefit, especially in the re-implementation of legacy code.


Combined with the resistance of the developers, the organizational challenges may lead to an overall de-prioritization of Clean Core. This is a critical error, though, because the Clean Core Principle needs to get followed from the beginning on. By delaying or discarding Clean Core, organizations deprive themselves of the chance to reap the benefits of the new opportunities delivered by Clean Core, the SAP Extension Suite and the SAP BTP. As the challenges are rooted in the technical approach, a new perspective on Clean Core is required, which will be introduced in the next postings.

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