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(The objective of this blog is not to discuss what are the CVI activities and how it should be carried on, rather it is to highlight, what are the mandatory areas which must be looked upon before actually starting the CVI.)

SAP ECC to S/4HANA conversion is an option of adoption to S/4HANA, and it has one of the most important and mandatory activity of Customer-Vendor Integration; popularly known as CVI. Looking at high level, the CVI is nothing but to convert your existing customers, vendors and their contact persons into Business Partners with SAP provided methodology and tools. Business Partners and Customer-Vendors have been co-existing since earlier versions of SAP ECC. SAP new dimension products were using concept of business partner, over the period it was realized that customer and vendor cannot only be the business partner. In ECC other partners used to be defined as either customer or vendor. Following the principle of one, SAP decided to have only Business Partner concept in S/4HANA for defining all the partners including customers and vendors. It came out as a major simplification and makes it mandatory activity to convert customer and vendor into business partners before proceeding for the conversion.

Coming back to CVI in a conversion project, after experience in conversion projects it was realized that CVI is not a step rather a small project in itself which requires considerable efforts, and recommendations started flowing in to have it as a pre-project to optimize the cost, as technical conversion will not progress till the CVI is completed and the other resources engaged in conversion will remain idle till this time and also it will have cascading effects delaying the main projects. It was also observed that CVI took more than expected time despite the fact that activities were clearly defined, outcome was visible, and enough tool-set were available.

Technically, CVI starts when defining BP roles and mapping of CV account group, but, should a thought given to, what all BP roles need to be defined, how the mapping of CV account group should be done to BP roles, etc. This is the area which often, is ignored while planning for CVI, I would not hesitate to call it a “phase” in itself before CVI steps. This phase requires a deep and comprehensive study of the current set up of account groups for CV and what business would require in S/4HANA. The task becomes even complex, if current set up involves multiple SAP ECC system and one system is converted and functionality of others are implemented in converted S/4HANA system. Another possibility can be of having non-SAP systems, whose partners, if not in current SAP ECC, those also needs to be defined in the target system, making job even more complex. It requires to be approached in organized manner and recommend to follow here, the traditional approach of As-is, To-be and Realize.

As-Is study will have scope to understand existing environment with current account groups for customer and vendors, partner functions, partner determination and number ranges. In ECC specially for customers, multiple account groups will be found in the system. It is important to understand here from the client, the reasons behind defining multiple account groups, please note, primarily account groups have role in controlling Number Range, Field Status and Partners. Often clients had asked to have different account groups to keep number range different, whereas Sold to, Ship to will be different account groups having different field status and partner functions. Also one has to study where all these account groups are being used, like – Interfaces, Custom Enhancements, Reports, outputs etc., having BP will impact all these objects and business process.

To-be design will involve business/IT decisions on what new BP roles to be defined. Impact of new BP roles has to be clearly understood in accordance with As-Is. Consultants have to conduct workshops and make recommendations with multiple options with corresponding impact and results. Example - Multiple Sold to Ship to, can be considered to combine these in to one sold to, ship to in target system. In BP there is flexibility to assign number range to same BP role, as can be selected manually. Number range conflict, having overlapping numbers for customer and vendor to be discussed with IT team and get into agreement for one, in this situation, both cannot be kept same after CVI as earlier there were 2 different number range object for customer and vendor, but in BP approach it is one. Customer and Vendor master still use the same tables KNXX and LFXX, so process specific attributes are not required to be re-defined. However, in business partner approach, it will require to define attributes for contact person in alignment with what are defined in SAP ECC. Also there is no control on number range of contact person as mapping from is available for customer and vendors only and in CVI contact persons will have number range what are defined in BP roles for contact person during CVI.

In order to achieve ‘To-be” there will involve, multiple workshops, business & IT decisions, which takes considerable time. Impact of new set up should be clearly identified to avoid issues at the later stages. Also, it is recommended to use additional features with BP which were not available with account group approach, this will add value to client.

The tasks become easier in Realization phase when a comprehensive blueprint is available. Once the realization is complete as per the finalized ‘To-be” the system is ready and CVI activities can start.

Training of consultants and stakeholders is another critical, factor in accelerating the above activities. A training & enabling session should be organized at the beginning of the project for all the stakeholders who are going to influence the decisions and make changes in the system.
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