Clean Core Roundtable at the SAP BTP Executive Summit
Meet the Experts
⇨ Clean core is a concept that applies to each element of the core not just extensibility
⇨ Data should be a central part of any clean core strategy
⇨ Learn about how the clean core concept can be applied to operations, processes, and integration
SAP has extensively used the “clean core” concept over the last few years. However, because SAP has not always explain it clearly, the concept remains somewhat misunderstood by its customers. To understand and learn more about what “clean core” really means, SAPinsider attended a customer roundtable on achieving a clean core in relation to SAP S/4HANA data management, during the SAP BTP Executive Summit in Philadelphia. This was one of several roundtable discussions available at the summit, and other topics included integration, extended planning and analysis, application development, data and analytics, and generative AI.
“Clean core” is often understood as reducing or eliminating customizations within a system like SAP S/4HANA and using extensions using, for example, SAP Business Technology Platform (BTP), ABAP environment, or SAP Build’s low-code/no-code development capabilities. But the “clean core” concept applies to more than just customizations or extensibility. For example, the concept can be applied to data, integrations, processes, operations, and even the version of software being used. While its meaning and applicability will vary in each of these elements, the idea is to have a system that adheres to standardized guidelines for each element of the core. In the case of the software version, this might mean running a version close to the latest release or using partner solutions that are clean core compliant.
Following clean core guidelines for data is always relevant, but the move to SAP S/4HANA is the perfect opportunity to evaluate the data stored in the system. Is it necessary to keep all data from the existing ERP system? How will data consolidated from multiple ERP instances be managed? What will be the cost of storage? During this evaluation period, organizations should evaluate data retention policies and determine what really needs to be stored, and when data can be destroyed or removed from the system.
SAP highlights three steps that organizations should follow when implementing SAP S/4HANA – preparation, move, and run, with each having a number of specific or general tasks. From a data perspective, preparation involves assessing data quality, optimizing the data footprint, and potentially revising the data and analytics strategy. The preparation step is where most of the data-related work ] occurs, but it is also a part of the move and run steps as it is of data and analytics.
During the roundtable discussion, it was asked whether a customer with thousands of objects could have a completely clean core. While this depends on the customer’s decisions around moving to SAP S/4HANA, evaluating the available options is the most crucial part. For example, while some organizations would use a lift-and-shift approach and then start their cleanup, others might opt for a greenfield approach that provides a clean starting point.
The supporting slides presented during the roundtable showed that “clean core” should be a mindset that is supported by governance and guidelines. It describes a modern approach to extending functionality using a stable and upgrade-safe environment. A “clean core” approach is intended to provide agility, the ability to leverage the latest innovations, efficient security and operations, and consistent data that allows reliable forecasts.
One of the customer approaches discussed during the session pertained to putting a process in place for bringing existing reports and workflows into the new SAP S/4HANA environment. Because neither IT nor business teams wanted to expend the effort necessary to rebuild old reports in SAP S/4HANA, this process ensured that there had to be a specific request for each report that was needed in the new solution. This included details about why that report was needed, and helped minimize unnecessary customization
SAP BTP also plays a major role in helping organizations achieve a “clean core”. During the panel, SAP indicated that many SAP ECC customers felt relieved when they moved to SAP S/4HANA because they started working with SAP BTP early in the process. For organizations looking at SAP BTP, one benefit is the business content supported within the technology platform and the speed and agility it provides. Even organizations that have not moved to SAP S/4HANA and have never used SAP can see immediate benefits.
What Does This Mean for SAPinsiders?
SAP has been talking about a “clean core” strategy for at least five years, but customers have not always clearly understood it. Given that it is more of a concept that can and should be applied to different elements within the core, this lack of clear communication makes sense. Considering that achieving a “clean core” is a goal for many organizations moving to SAP S/4HANA, what are some of the steps that SAPinsiders should take?
- Dedicate time to evaluating and defining an objective. Just as each organization is different, the path organizations take to prepare for the future also varies. While evaluating and eliminating existing customizations up-front may be the best path for some, for others, it is about a lift and shift where the cleanup starts after the initial move to SAP S/4HANA is complete. Taking the time to define an objective and understanding what needs to be achieved needs to be a priority when moving to SAP S/4HANA. Ensuring that time is spent on this goal will ensure a successful journey.
- Understand what “clean core” means in different elements of the core. Most people think about “clean core” as it applies to customizations and extensibility, but it is equally applicable to integrations, data, processes, operations, and even the version of software being run. Talk to experts at SAP about what achieving a “clean core” actually means and put plans in place to achieve those goals in the move to SAP S/4HANA and other SAP solutions.
- Remember that data is central to “clean core”. Data preparation is one of the biggest steps in an SAP S/4HANA deployment that frequently brings multiple existing ERP instances together. Data must be harmonized, complete, corrected, used, and relevant. If data is moved into a new ERP system but never used or accessed, there is no purpose to move that data. Only consistent data can be readily leveraged by AI and machine learning capabilities.