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SAP Rapid Deployment software a mixed bag, according to experts

Quicker deployment and fixed cost are among the many advantages of SAP Rapid Deployment Solutions, according to experts. But some say the news isn't all good.

Companies needing to get on-premises enterprise software up and running quickly can benefit from SAP Rapid Deployment Solutions, or SAP RDS, but any advantages have to be weighed against the downsides of using out-of-the-box software, according to one expert.

SAP Rapid Deployment Solutions are preconfigured applications that allow companies to deploy the software in weeks, for a set price. The applications are designed to be "one slice or a chunk" of SAP AG's larger enterprise applications, and address a specific function or need. The growing portfolio includes applications for a range of industries, as well as such functions as manufacturing, procurement and supply chain management.

The combination of fixed costs and a shortened implementation period is attractive because it gets at customers' "bread and butter" concerns that SAP software is complex and expensive to use. But there is a tradeoff, according to Joshua Greenbaum, an independent analyst and head of Enterprise Applications Consulting, based in in Berkeley, Calif. "By going with Rapid Deployment software, where the whole point is to deploy something that's largely preconfigured and isn't going to be customized significantly, the software no longer delivers strategic value to your company," Greenbaum said. "RDS, because it's a one-size-fits-all, differentiates no one."

Deploying SAP RDS for extended warehouse management

Papyrus Group, a midsize vendor of wholesale commercial paper and cleaning products based in Göteborg, Sweden, is one company willing to make that tradeoff. Papyrus, which employs roughly 3,000 people, is largely an SAP shop, according to Dominick Beck, logistics team lead for the company's IT department. The company runs SAP ERP, as well as other applications including Business Warehouse (BW) and Solution Manager, but uses other vendors, such as JDA Software Group Inc. for demand planning, and European vendor PTV Group for transportation planning.

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Papyrus was using the standard SAP warehouse management features, but decided to migrate to SAP Extended Warehouse Management (EWM) for additional functionality, Beck said. It also wanted to stick with SAP because doing so would allow it to use internal IT skills and resources it already had -- including ABAP programming. The plan would also mean easier integration with the SAP ERP system. Both are sentiments at least one SAP EWM customer has said was a major reason for deciding to deploy the software instead of one of SAP's competitors.

"When you compare SAP EWM to the other top warehouse management systems, there are only slight differences when it comes to functionality," Beck said. "But if you're an SAP customer, then it makes sense to use software that [integrates] with the SAP core system." Going with an SAP solution meant Papyrus could customize the software on its own without calling in consultants, he said.

Beck said that going with an RDS package meant the company could avoid much of the time and labor that goes into setting up a traditional application from scratch.

"You're not starting from zero. You're relying on proven functionality, proven settings, and you're able to work with prototypes you're discussing with logistics," Beck said. "You can immediately set up something that's already quite close to what you're looking for." The RDS version of EWM gave Papyrus about 60% of what it needed out of the box, Beck said.

The step-by-step guide to RDS

SAP Rapid Deployment software applications provide a standardized approach through the use of such things as its Step-by-Step (SBS) tool, which contains all the assets required during implementation, including accelerators and knowledge-transfer materials, writes Puja Amin, a CRM application consultant with SAP.

"The Step-by-Step Guide is built specifically for every solution, in which all of the service execution content and accelerators are arranged in a logical manner to represent the rapid-deployment solution implementation roadmap. Therefore, it sets the way for a successful rapid-deployment solution implementation," Amin writes.

RDS 'not a panacea'

Those accelerators "absolutely" work, according to Enterprise Applications Consulting's Greenbaum. Not only does the preconfigured nature of the SAP Rapid Deployment software help simplify the process, the shortened time to deployment and the fact that RDS implementations are managed by SAP mean businesses can avoid worrying about cost overruns. "The dark underbelly of enterprise software is the deliberate complexity that a lot of systems integration partners add to the mix by overcharging customers for implementations. That's a given," Greenbaum said.

"It's not a panacea for everything the enterprise needs," Greenbaum said. "[But] at a minimum, having a standard methodology that's tried and true … [at a significantly lower cost] … is going to be a benefit."

RDS and the need for speed

Others, like author and industry analyst Michael Doane, are more skeptical of SAP Rapid Deployment packages because they undermine long-term strategic thinking.

"This mania for speedy implementations, often fueled by client sticker shock [and] coupled with account reps who underplay the importance and complexity of an implementation project, has too often led to an 'SAP wedding syndrome,' by which clients race to the altar of go-live while utterly neglecting to prepare themselves for the 20- to 30-year deployment marriage that will follow," Doane writes in As Cool As Possible: SAP Implementation Projects with a Longer Duration, at Less Cost, with Greater Long-Term Benefit. "The result is that clients are poorly positioned to effectively maintain or improve their SAP plant after go-live, as their organizations are very similar to what they had before acquiring SAP. So. SAP is in. Now what?"

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