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How do I find the right SAP planning tool? And why should I care?

Thomas Bauer 100 x 100Okay, so the question is rhetorical.  Of course – all controllers care about planning and selecting the right tool for the job! When I speak with clients, I often find that they don’t understand the entire range of SAP products available and there is often uncertainty when it comes to what tool should be used for different types of work.

Most controllers using SAP are at least familiar with the planning functionality in SAP ERP. For example, transactions KP06, KP26, KP46 and the like for orders, WBS-elements, profit centers, and CO-PO.

But these planning tools accompanied by numerous Excel workbooks with extensive macro-VBA-Pivot-functionality, are sometimes hard to handle, very specific, complicated, and often too cumbersome to use. Distribution of data across hierarchies of product group or cost center, for instance, is also very difficult to do. 

Many companies have an array of planning tools at their disposal, optimized for their specific work. Often they are suited to particular specific user, but they do not follow harmonization, standardization or data integration principles. What if the user changes, or the company structure, or the planning logic? Changes are difficult to adapt to and combining all of the planning sheets together into a corporate plan is a lot of manual work. Sometimes planners are even tweaking the planning sheets without telling the process administrator, who wonders why the Excel sheets do not fit with the overall template.  Also, the administration and organization of the planning process is not easy to handle and often not centrally organized. 

So what criteria could help you evaluate which tool is the fit for your organization? Let’s take a look and what supports planning processes:

  • Model - standardized data model reflecting the organization with the opportunity to maintain flexibility
  • Functions - planning functionality that supports users and can be understood by everyone
  • User acceptance - an intuitive tool, or at lease easy to use 
  • Process control - helps to keep status control 
  • Process-external criteria – including knowledge, license costs, strategy, system landscape, etc.

Of course, it is often a tradeoff between standardization and flexibility and the effort of implementation and maintenance. In many cases, the newest tools on the market may not necessarily be the best choice, although marketing slides may tell a different story. If you use standard functionality, why rebuild it just to use a new tool? On the other hand, why would you stick to a complex and inflexible process just to avoid implementing a new tool. 

I look forward to discussing planning tools in further detail at Controlling 2014. I will present a session with Martin Munzel on Sunday, September 21 called Interactive Forum: Which SAP planning tool is the best one for my organization?  We look forward to discussing your requirements, expectations and experiences and know that you will take some new ideas back in your company!



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