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SAP R/3 for Everyone: Step-By-Step Instructions, Practical Advice, and Other Tips and Tricks for Working with SAPby Jim Mazzullo
Welcome to the world of SAP! You are now embarking on a journey into the workings and use of SAP R/3, the leading business enterprise software in the world. (SAP stands for Systems, Applications and Products in Data Processing; R/3 stands for Runtime System 3--in other words, the third release of the software.)
This book is written for the nontechnical end user of SAP R/3; that is, an average person in a company who has perhaps had some experience with desktop applications like MS Word and Excel but little or no experience with more complex enterprise software. This book provides these users with detailed instructions for working with this outstanding and versatile software product.
These instructions do not address any specific purpose, such as working with budget and cost data or managing the inventory of a warehouse. Rather, they describe general or universal procedures for working with any part of the software for any purpose. We firmly believe that a solid grasp of these general procedures and the development of the skills for executing them are the real secret for learning and managing SAP R/3 and using it effectively at your job.
In addition, this book is not intended to be comprehensive. SAP R/3 is very complex in its design and operation, and a comprehensive description of this software would require a much larger- not to mention more expensive- bible of a book that most people could not lift. Rather, this book describes the techniques and procedures that are most frequently employed by nontechnical end users when they work with SAP R/3. We decided on its contents after years of using this software, after consulting with other experienced users (the so-called superusers) like ourselves, and after many hours in the classroom teaching it to people like you.
Finally, this book is not intended to be a technical treatise about SAP R/3. If you were looking for instructions about programming, developing, or implementing the software at your workplace, you bought the wrong book. We do not describe the inner workings or architecture of the SAP software (except very briefly in the following pages), because we have found that such information does not help the typical end user work with the software any more effectively. We also avoid the use of technical jargon throughout this book, and instead say our piece in plain, simple English. We do not use a 25-cent word when a 5-cent word will do.
Before we describe the contents of this book, we must devote some words to the origin, design, and operation of SAP R/3.
What Is SAP R/3?
SAP R/3 is a package of integrated applications called modules that record and track the activities and costs of doing business. Its roots extend back to 1972, when five system analysts, all former employees of IBM in Germany, created the software for collecting large volumes of business data in a single computer and then processing this data in real time, when the user needs it. Real-time processing was a particularly novel development at the time because the computers of the 1970s were slow, lumbering machines that required minutes, and sometimes even hours, to process large volumes of data.
Since that time, SAP has grown from a small regional company to the leading provider of business enterprise software in the world. At last count, SAP R/3 is now installed at 84,000 locations in 120 countries around the world, and it is used by more than 10 million people every day. SAP is now the world's third-largest independent software vendor, and it is still growing strong.
The great strength and utility of SAP R/3 are due to a large degree to its architecture or structure, which consists of functional modules, the SAP database, and the graphical user interface or GUI. We use the term system throughout this book to describe this three-part assemblage of software.
The functional modules are discrete software packages that are dedicated to specific tasks, such as accounting, payroll management, and inventory control). They are typically installed in application servers, which are computers that are capable of rapidly processing or crunching large volumes of data and then assembling the output of their work in a format that can be read by the user.
The database is the actual collection of business data. These data are stored inside database servers, which are computers with huge amounts of storage memory and the capacity to rapidly exchange data with the application servers.
The graphical user interface or GUI appears on the desktops of the computers or clients that you use to access the software. The centerpiece of the GUI is the application window (called a session by SAP), where you enter commands and data on scenes or screens by means of your mouse and keyboard. Note: Some users may access the SAP software through Web browsers such as MS Internet Explorer. In these cases, the SAP GUI appears inside the frame of the browser window.
There are many modules in the complete version of SAP R/3, but most business enterprises do not use all of them. Rather, they purchase and install or implement only those modules that they need to do their business. The selected modules are then integrated or linked to one another and to the database servers and clients by programmers, and the screens are customized or configured to fit the enterprise's needs. Once the modules are integrated, the boundaries between them vanish and they work with one another as a single, seamless software package. This aggregation of modules is also very flexible: The enterprise can often add more modules whenever they want so that the software grows as their business needs grow.
The word transaction describes a single business activity that is conducted with SAP R/3. Some examples of end user transactions are
Every transaction progresses through a four-step workflow of actions, commands, and events.
The typical workflow begins when the end user logs on the SAP system (Step 1). This action calls up the SAP Easy Access screen, which is the default "home page" for the software. The end user works with the elements on this screen to call up or navigate to the initial screen of a transaction (Step 2), where they instruct the software on its specific objectives and then execute it (Step 3). A few seconds later, the output of the transaction appears (Step 4) in one of two forms:
A good bit of the communication between the SAP R/3 software and the end user is accomplished during Steps 3 and 4 of this SAP workflow via technical object codes.
A technical object is anything that is monitored and tracked by SAP R/3. This includes tangible objects, such as employees, consumable materials, equipment, and physical plants, and intangible ones, such as work orders, purchase requisitions, and shipping orders.
Every technical object has a unique object code, which is assigned to it when its specifications are entered in the SAP database and which is the primary shorthand means of identifying it. There are literally thousands of such codes in every SAP database, but, fortunately, the software provides a way to search for them, so you do not have to memorize or record them.
Organization and Contents of This Book
The body of this book consists of 17 lessons on the general use of SAP R/3. They are grouped into four parts, which correspond to the SAP workflow.
These lessons are preceded by the Introduction, which describes the design and operation of the SAP application window and its screens, and followed by a Coda, which presents a simple model of the four basic transaction types that are commonly executed by end users.
The instructions in the lessons of this book were written around and illustrated with screens from version 4.7 of the SAP R/3 software. However, they can also be applied to SAP 4.5 and 4.6, which are very similar in their design and operation to SAP 4.7. And with a little effort, they can also be applied to SAP 4.0, which differs slightly in its screen design but not its operation.
Some Words About the Text and Screen Images
This book uses two conventions for highlighting certain texts:
These conventions are intended to help the reader scan through the instructions and easily pick out the critical references within them. The bold text can also be found with page references in the index at the back of this book. In addition, we hereafter refer to the SAP R/3 software simply as SAP, and to people who work behind the scenes to install, configure, operate, and monitor the use of the software as the SAP administrators.
Finally, we should point out that you will often see small differences between the screen images in this book and your versions of the same screens. Some of these differences arise because our screens are customized in a slightly different way from your screens. For example, every business enterprise makes use of a unique group of modules in their system, and so they display their own unique set of folders on their SAP Easy Access screen. We are no exception to that rule. In addition, we have the most current versions of screens at our disposal, and they contain a few more or different elements, more bells and whistles, than your screens.
In addition, we have altered many screen images in this book with Adobe Photoshop and other tools. For instance, we have routinely cropped nearly all images to fit them on the pages and not consume too much space- otherwise, this book would probably be twice its present length, weight, and price! In addition, we have hidden screen elements and data that are either proprietary in nature or distracting and not relevant to the points of the lessons.
However, these are differences of degree, not of kind. For the most part, you will not even notice the differences between our screens and your scresens, and the noticeable differences will neither confuse you nor obscure the lessons in this book.
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