SAP SE is a multinational software corporation that is currently the market leader in the enterprise resource planning (ERP) field. SAP was started in 1972 by five former IBM employees in Mannheim, Germany. The original name for SAP, Systeme, Anwendungen und Produkte in der Dataverarbeitung, translates from German to "Systems, Applications and Products in Data Processing."
The company currently serves more than 180 countries. An estimated 77% of the money exchanged through global business transactions touches an SAP system. A majority of the customers are small- and-medium sized businesses (SMB). The company offers on-premises, cloud and hybrid deployment models, with cloud computing options being the focus for the company's future.
In 2011, the company launched SAP HANA, an in-memory database platform that is at the forefront of the company's future strategy. HANA was a major development project for SAP, which has said it intends HANA to take the place of the traditional databases SAP has used for its business applications.
A brief description of the SAP SE software company.
What is enterprise resource planning (ERP)?
SAP SE is one of the largest vendors of enterprise resource planning (ERP) software and related enterprise applications. The company's ERP system enables its customers to run their business processes, including accounting, sales, production, human resources and finance, in an integrated environment. The integration ensures that information flows from one SAP component to another without the need for redundant data entry and helps enforce financial, process and legal controls. It also facilitates the effective use of resources, including manpower, machines and production capacities.
The SAP ERP software system, called SAP ERP Central Component (SAP ECC), is the collective term for SAP's functional and technical modules that enable enterprises to manage business processes through a unified system. ECC is the on-premises version of SAP, and it is usually implemented in medium and large-sized companies. For smaller companies, SAP offers its Business One ERP platform.
SAP ERP software has different main modules, which are separated into functional modules and technical modules, each of which has submodules.
SAP's functional modules include:
- Human Capital Management (SAP HCM)
- Production Planning (SAP PP)
- Materials Management (SAP MM)
- Project System (SAP PS)
- Sales and Distribution (SAP SD)
- Plant Maintenance (SAP PM)
- Finance and controlling (SAP FICO)
- Quality Management (SAP QM)
What is SAP software used for?
SAP software is used to assist companies with the management of business areas, such as finances, logistics and human resources. The SAP ERP system is the foundation of SAP software, but other application software is also available that supports specific, complex business functionality; this is called the SAP Business Suite.
The SAP Business Suite is a bundle of business applications that provides integration of business and processes, as well as industry-focused functionality. This bundle is based on SAP ERP, but also includes modules for customer relationship management (CRM), PLM, supply chain management (SCM) and supplier relationship management (SRM). SAP customers can choose to run Business Suite on SAP HANA.
S/4HANA is the vendor's in-memory version of the Business Suite ERP platform that was released in 2015. It is an ambitious rewrite of the Business Suite optimized for the HANA platform. S/4HANA is meant to reduce complexity, according to SAP, and to replace SAP ECC, eventually.
SAP S/4HANA Cloud is a SaaS version of S/4HANA, presenting the advantages of HANA's in-memory processing and real time data accessibility within a SaaS model, meaning users can access all of the software's functionality.
SAP also has industry-specific applications that support business processes unique to a particular industry. Some of these applications are:
- SAP for Utilities
- SAP for Insurance
- SAP for Oil and Gas
- SAP Healthcare
How does the SAP ERP system work?
The SAP ERP system is often arranged in a three-tier, client-server architecture. This set up is recommended because it enables flexibility and increased scalability. The three tiers used by the SAP ERP software include: the presentation tier, the application tier and the database tier.
The presentation tier provides the user with the SAP graphical user interface (SAP GUI). The SAP GUI can be installed on any computer that uses the Microsoft Windows operating system (OS) or Mac OS. The SAP GUI is the point of communication between the user and the SAP ERP system.
The application tier is the core of the SAP ERP system. This tier is responsible for processing client transactions, executing business logic, running reports, monitoring access to the database, printing jobs and communicating with other applications.
The database tier is where both the business generated data -- or data objects created by users through different business processes -- and SAP application programs are stored. The performance of this tier ultimately decides the scalability of the entire SAP ERP system since each system is usually deployed using one database instance.
When working together, the application tier will receive the input and then send the information to the presentation tier. The presentation will display the output in the SAP GUI. This data is then stored in the database tier.
All processes that are started or stopped within the SAP ERP system are called SAP instances. Each instance possesses a dispatcher and various work processes. The dispatcher allocates tasks to one of the work processes. The SAP ERP system has different work processes to match with different tasks. These work processes include:
- dialogue work processes for managing online transaction requests from users;
- update work processes that perform updates in the database;
- spool work processes which enable printing in the SAP system;
- batch work processes that process any background jobs scheduled in the system and
- gateway work processes which enable communication between applications, such as between SAP R/3 and SAP R/2.
While the SAP ERP system can contain several application instances, there must always be one special, central instance (CI) that has two additional components: the message process and the enqueue server. The message process is used to establish communication between the various application instances in the SAP system. The enqueue server manages locks on the database tables, ensuring the updates are performed in the proper sequence and guaranteeing the consistency of business data.
Beyond this breakdown, there are several application modules that make up the SAP ERP system. Each module is designed to accommodate the SAP application programs and specific business data related to a particular area of business, such as MM or FI.
Within an SAP system, users will also find:
- SAP C/4HANA, a cloud-based customer experience and e-commerce platform that consists of the SAP Marketing Cloud, SAP Customer Cloud, SAP Sales Cloud, SAP Service Cloud and SAP Customer Data Cloud.
- SAP Leonardo, an integrated system of software and services that encompasses next-generation technologies such as the internet of things (IoT), machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI), big data and blockchain under the SAP Cloud Platform.
- SAP Fiori, a collection of SAP software that the company intends to use as its predominant user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) model going forward. A number of Fiori apps run exclusively on S/4HANA, and the two are intended to more closely intertwine as they evolve.
SAP User Groups
An important part of SAP's information dissemination and engagement has been its user groups. These are independent, not-for-profit groups designed to help educate members, create customer involvement, give voices to users in influencing SAP strategy and provide networking opportunities. Here, SAP employees and users can meet and share information, experiences and lessons learned.
Arguably more important, SAP hears user feedback in both the technical areas and the functional areas. User groups are organized by region across the globe, with Americas' SAP Users' Group (ASUG), being the largest.
Advantages and disadvantages of the SAP ERP system
Advantages of SAP ERP include:
- The standardization of an organization's business processes.
- The ability to integrate with other third party systems and perform enterprise-wide services.
- The flexibility to create custom rules with the SAP structure that set the parameters for transactions.
- Various analytical features -- such as reporting and decision making -- that enable SAP to meet the needs of various complex businesses and government organizations.
Disadvantages of SAP ERP include:
- The high cost of purchasing and implementing the program, including buying the software and hardware, labor costs of internal IT employees and external consultants, the costs of training employees and the residual costs for software maintenance and periodic upgrades.
- The complexity of the system means most companies will only implement one feature of the SAP ERP software at a time, causing the complete implementation of the software to take up to several years.
History of SAP
SAP was started in 1972 by five former IBM employees in Mannheim, Germany. The original idea for SAP was to provide customers with the ability to interact with a common corporate database for a comprehensive range of applications in real time.