SAP (pronounced by saying each letter individually, like IBM or ABC) is the pioneer in enterprise systems.
SAP was the ﬁrst company to build a packaged enterprise system, which means that it designed a single piece of software that is used by many companies. Prior to that time, software developers had to create customized software for every company, which was prohibitively expensive. SAP introduced the ﬁrst integrated, end-to-end enterprise system, called SAP® R/3, in 1992.
The “R” in R/3 stands for “real time.” Prior to the development of enterprise systems, companies typically employed a number of different systems, each of which supported a single function or department. Thus, there were sales systems, accounting systems, manufacturing systems, and so on. These systems were not integrated, so sharing data between and among them was problematic. As you might expect, this architecture regularly experienced delays in executing business processes because data had to be transferred from one system to the next as the process was being performed. SAP R/3 was designed to eliminate these inefficiencies by executing an entire process from start to ﬁnish and consolidating all of the process data in a single database. Consequently, regardless of which individuals were completing a step in the process, all of the data were available to them in real time. In addition, everyone else in the company could see the status of the process in real time as well.
In today’s age of Twitter and RSS feeds, this development might seem trivial. At the time, however, it was a crucial innovation. SAP R/3 was quickly adopted by one major corporation after another, and it catapulted SAP software onto the “must do” list for nearly every large company. By 2010, SAP had more than 110,000 customers in over 120 countries, including nearly every Fortune 1000 company. In 2008, SAP’s market share in the ERP category was equivalent to the market share of the next four largest ERP vendors—combined.3, 4 Today, more than 75% of SAP’s customers are small and medium-sized businesses.
Enterprises of every size, in every industry, all over the world use SAP software to manage their business operations. Regardless of where you live, nearly every major corporation, government entity, and nonproﬁt organization you are familiar with runs the same SAP software that you will use in this course. Before you start to think that this book is a marketing brochure for SAP, you should understand why we have explained SAP’s strategic importance in business and have selected SAP ERP as the reference system for this textbook. One of the most lucrative and rewarding careers in the IT industry for nearly 20 years has been that of an SAP consultant.5 Contrary to what you may have heard, most SAP consultants are not programmers.
Rather, they are MIS and business majors who have developed a process perspective on business and have become competent in a speciﬁc capability of the SAP ERP system. However, even technical programmers who wish to work with SAP must have a deep understanding of how business works in order to program applications that enable business processes to operate more efﬁciently.
Integrated Business Processes with ERP Systems will incorporate a number of demonstrations, examples, and hands-on exercises using SAP ERP. Several other companies offer enterprise systems that have similar capabilities, but it would be very difﬁcult to explain how processes are executed in each of them. We have chosen to include the most prevalent and widely used ERP system that you are likely to encounter in your career.
When SAP ﬁrst introduced R/3, almost anybody could claim to be an R/3 expert and thus become a highly paid consultant. Unfortunately, this practice led to quite a few well-publicized project failures. In response, SAP introduced certiﬁcations for the various modules and technical skills required to be a properly trained consultant. This arrangement enabled consultants who participated in SAP training programs and demonstrated a high degree of skill to distinguish themselves for potential employers.
Today, SAP provides more than 100 certiﬁcation types, classiﬁed by solution, focus area, and role. Each certiﬁcation type speciﬁes three levels of skill: associate, professional, and master. It can take many years and tens of thousands of dollars to progress up to master-level certiﬁcation. SAP is very proud of the high level of knowledge and skills that are required to earn certiﬁcation.
As you probably suspect by now, the SAP testing process is extremely rigorous. Because an SAP certiﬁcation is such a highly valued credential, once you have earned one, SAP provides you with a certiﬁcation number that can be listed on your resume or CV and veriﬁed by potential employers—the thousands of consulting companies that implement SAP software and the more than 110,000 (in 2010) companies that run SAP software. As an added beneﬁt to students enrolled at universities or technical schools that are members of the SAP University Alliances Program, SAP offers special certiﬁcation academies on campuses around the world where students can earn the same certiﬁcation as professionals at a reduced cost. This textbook and the additional online materials are based on the content in the SAP course, which results in an ofﬁcial SAP Associate Application Consultant certiﬁcation and can be used as a supplement to the SAP course materials.
Alternatively, students who master the additional online materials can take the SAP certiﬁcation exam at one of over 8,000 global testing centers without participating in a certiﬁcation academy. Students who pass the exam will receive the same ofﬁcial SAP certiﬁcation as working professionals who complete an SAP-sponsored training pro- gram. Earning this certiﬁcation is the ﬁrst step toward a successful and perhaps lucrative career as an SAP application consultant. Speak with your instructor, and consult the certification information on the SAP University Alliances Community for more details.
C. Pang, Y. Dharmasthira, C. Eschinger, and K. Motoyoshi, Market Share: ERP Software, Worldwide, 2008, July 2008, Gartner.
A. Pang, Worldwide ERP Applications 2009–2013 Forecast and 2008 Vendor Shares, October 2008, IDC
J. Sahadi, Hot 6-ﬁ gure jobs now, 2007 [Online], CNN/Money. http://money.cnn.com/galleries/ 2007/pf/0708/gallery.hot_six_ﬁ g_jobs_now/index.html.