Month: August 2013

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Marketing – USP Revisited

Well, I’m back into the marketing world with a lot of my time, so bear with me.  I’ll get back to SAP again, but if you’ve been reading my stuff, you know that I wear a lot of hats.  Well, today I want to talk about the USP or Unique Selling Proposition.  Now I’m pretty sure I’ve talked about this before, but for everyone else, the USP is what makes you the go to guy or gal.  It’s what sets you apart from your competition.  It’s what makes you special.

Now you may be asking, “Mike, why do I care about that?”.  I know I would’ve been asking the same questions a year ago.  The answer is simple.  If you want to sell anything, and for you consultants out there this includes selling youself, you need to stand out.  Let’s use me as an example.  When interview for consulting positions, why should anyone want to hire me more than the other 10 people that applied for the position?  It’s simple.  I know Variant Configuration, Service Management and ABAP.  (SD too, but that one doesn’t stand out as much).  I’ve also been doing it for over 15 years.  Now, 15 years sounds great, but if you’ve been in the business long enough you’ve met consultants that supposedly have been doing “X” for 20 years, but what they haven’t explained is that they’ve been entering data into the “X” transaction as a user for 18 of those years, and for 2 years they got to play with configuration.  So to me, length of time isn’t my USP.  I focus on the fact that not only am I functional, but I’m very technical.  Again, you ask, “who cares?”  aren’t they looking for a BA or a functional consultant?  Yes…  but in the companies that I’ve worked for, typically the best people can debug ABAP and show the developer exactly what they want fixed.  It also instills a different mindset into the consultant.  If you know how things work behind the scenes, it makes you more efficient and more creative in your problem solving.  hence, why I use the functional and technical aspects of my personality to be my USP.So, ask yourself, what makes you special?

Now, the whole point behind why I’m talking about this is that I just recently read this in my Ultimate Guidebook to Google Adwords.  A completely independent source of where I originally heard this stuff.  So this tells me that it’s important.  When I start seeing the same “big” ideas coming for multiple places, it means that it’s worth looking into.

So if you haven’t already, start spending some time figuring out what makes you stand out from everyone else.  Then start formulate it into your own USP.  You may never use it to outright, but being able to answer that question in your head  gives you a great place to start when someone asks “Why should I hire you?”.

Thanks for reading.


Variant Configuration – Tables with Multiple Value Characteristics

Here’s a fun fact that I totally forgot about.  Tables can’t use multiple value characteristics.  If you attempt to assign a multiple value characteristics to a variant table, the table will work just fine, until you attempt to assign it to a selection condition, or inside of a an IF statement.  It’s been so long since I ever even thought about doing this that I struggled for over an hour trying to get a simple selection condition to compile.  (see my earlier post on if I’m too old school or not for more details).  So, for that reason, I thought I’d throw these little tidbits out there.

1.  If you need to use a multiple value characteristic inside of a table, be sure to create a single value copy of it to be used as the table key.  This will allow you to set values from a variant table.
2.  You can’t use multiple value characteristics as an assignment into a variant table for a “true or False” type scenario.  When I talk about True or False, I mean you can’t enter a table into an IF statement to see if the combo exists, and you can’t use that table in a selection condition or precondition, which also behave in a true or false fashion.

Now, I’ll only be on my soapbox for a second, but to me, this is just one more clue to keep it simple in the BOMs and routings for your selection conditions.  Let the configuration do all the heavy lifting.  That’s it… I’m done =)

Anyway, thanks for reading.


Variant Configuration – Restricting Characteristic Values

I realize today might be pretty obvious for a lot of you VC experts out there, but I wanted to talk about Restricting characteristic values.  To me, this is one of the coolest features in variant configuration.  If you are not familiar with the concept, restricting characteristic values gives you the ability to dynamically remove values that are no longer valid because of other selections.

In variant configuration, there are two techniques to accomplish restricting characteristic values.  You can use Preconditions or Constraints.  There are couple things to consider…  One, Preconditions are old technology.  They are typically only recommended as a “last resort”.  In my experience, the only use for preconditions is for multiple value characteristics.

Now, constraints are the best way to handle this in my opinion.  There are some prerequisites to use this.  First of all, the characteristics must be set as Restrictable.  If not, your values won’t dynamically appear/disappear, you’ll just get a red X when things are violated.  Now the first big advantage is that constraints can be set to work differently by product line (or class).

Now the next big thing in a constraint is how to restrict the values.  Now there is the “easy” method that you can manually set the values.  For example:

C.CHAR_1 IN (‘A’,’C’,’F’)  IF C.CHAR_A = 1,
C.CHAR_1 IN (‘X’,’Z’) IF C.CHAR_B = 2

Now, this method works fine, and will restrict the values of CHAR_1.  However, in my humble opinion, the better way to do it is to use a Table.

Char_A   CHAR_1
1                A
1               C
1               F
2              X
2              Z

Then, in the constraint, you can simple put in the table, and it can restrict things both ways.  Why is this important?  If you plan to push this configuration to your customers, you should never assume that they will answer the questions sequentially.  If you restrict things both ways (and the table is the easiest way), then regardless of what they answer, everything will be consistent.

Anyway, that’s the deal for today.  Hope you find it useful.


Material Master – View Level Access, how important is it to you?

While I’m the VC or the SM person on most of my projects, one of the things I’ve heard rather often is that the business wants to control who can access the material master by screen.  Now, I’ve heard that through security, you can provide field by field authorization restrictions.  Short story, nightmare for your security team.  No project that I’ve worked on has been willing to go down that path.  No, most companies I’ve worked for have “given up”.  They give people access to everything and use the honor system to make sure people only touch “their” data.

First question, does this sound familiar to you?  If so, I’d like to hear how you’ve overcome the issue.

Why am I asking?  we are actually working a little mini-app that creates a single transaction for each set of screens in the material master.  For example, the four MRP screens are 1 transaction,  Work Scheduling another, etc…  We’ve included a configuration screen so that you even hide all of the fields that you don’t care about.

What I’m trying to do is to get a pulse on the need for something like this before I invest too much time in it.  I confess, it’s not our most creative application or our most complex, but it seems like there’s a need for something like this.  So if you happen to have an opinion on whether or not I’m wasting my time, I’d love to hear from you.

Thanks for your input.


Variant Configuration – Bill of Material Design, Am I Too Old School?

On my latest project, I’m not the one setting the design, so I’m going with the flow of what was decided.  One of the point that I’m having a hard time with is the selection conditions being assigned to the bill of material items.  Now my long time friends and colleagues know that I’m hard core of keeping all of the logic out of the bill of material.  I learned a hard lesson of putting too much logic into the BOM selection conditions.  Now, here’s my question to you modeler’s out there.  I managed to crash MRP in 3.0F using a combination of material variants and complex selection conditions.

Now, since that time, I’ve gone to great lengths to avoid anything other than simple assignment logic in my bills of materials.  Now, this does cause me to create a lot of additional characteristics in my configuration.  Granted, all the characteristics are calculated and never seen by the user.  This sets all the logic on the front end.  By the time the back end does anything with it, it’s as simple as pie.  This is the process I’ve lived by for over 15 years of Variant Configuration.

The thing is, that was 3.0F…  15 years ago that this occurred.  I know that SAP has dramatically changed the processes for VC.  The “word” is that as long as you don’t plan to use Characteristic Value Planning or APO.  But being the old VC guy that I am, I have a hard time to believing that.  So my question to all of my readers out there…  where do you stand?  have you put complex BOM logic into your models?  and if so, did you notice any impact on MRP?  I’d love to hear your experiences.

As always, thanks for reading and I look forward to hearing form you.


Service Management – Service Contract Profitability

Today is another pulse question.  By that I mean how do you handle Service Contract profitability.  Service contracts, maintenance contracts, warranties, etc all have a very important fact in common.  They all need to be tracked to figure out if you are making or losing money.  Let’s take the example of an extended warranty contract.  You charge $1000 for a 1 year extended warranty.  But how much does it cost you to live up to the contract?  More importantly, do you actually know exactly what you earned or lost on any particular service contract?  Can you see how many times you performed service on the item?  how much was spent on parts?  labor?  travel time/expenses?

If you don’t the answer, how can you accurately determine what you should charge for your extended warranty?

I’m thinking about adding a new Dashboard report to show the service contract details.  Especially, the cost vs. price, and all of the attached documents, service, serial numbers etc.  But again, I’m always wondering, is this something people want?

So I’m hoping you can help me out.  First, is service contract profitability reporting something you could use?  If so, what would you be looking for?  if not, why not?  do you already have a custom solution?  do you use service contracts?  In either case, I’d love to hear from you.  Any insight you could provide would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for reading and I look forward to your comments.


Marketing – Google Adwords some of my initial experiences

Well, I mentioned in a previous post that I was going to start experimenting with Google Adwords.  So far, I’ve seen some good and some bad parts of it.  Quite frankly, it can be very confusing.  So, here’s some of my early experiences with Adwords, and if you happen to have some pointers, please let me know =)

Adwords is very intuitive (for the most part).  You start by making an account, then you create a campaign, then you create an ad group, and finally an ad.  All and all, it’s very straightforward.  Anyone could do this, and start spending money.  Now the trick begins to occur in finer points of adwords.

First, the keywords.  This is where the first part of confusion comes in for me.  Reading the keyword page feels like a foreign language.  It has cost per click, but I’ve come to find that it isn’t necessarily true.  You can have your ad show up in a lower place, and then you don’t pay as high of a price.  Apparently, as your ads improve, you pay less as well.  I’m far from experiencing that yet 🙂  Next up, your keywords can have quotes around them “keyword” and that means an exact match only.  If you put brackets like [keyword] then it will only return if that exact phrase is encountered (I think) and finally, if you add plus signs +keyword +more, then everything with a plus sign must show up in the search.  While it doesn’t sound like rocket science, putting together the right set of keywords seems to be an art form.

Next up, the Ads.  Now this is driving me absolutely crazy right now.  I have about a dozen ads.  all of them include the term SAP, which is a trademarked term.  I get this status about it being approved (limited).  But for some reason, every new ad I’ve done since then keeps getting rejected because of a trademark term SAP.  I’m very confused.  I keep trying different variations, but so far, no luck.  If you have any suggestions how to overcome this, I’d love to hear it.

Anyway, those are my early experiences…  more to come.  Thanks for reading.