Rambling Thoughts about SAP's Configuration Technology


This blog will deal with only 1 subject..

The Variant Configuration technology in the business software known as SAP.

If you are in business and have chosen an ERP system, chances are, you may have chosen SAP. If you did, join the crowd.. At last report, SAP has around 38,000 installed customers. The interesting part of that is only around 1,600 use the variant configuration software that comes along with it..

Join me as we wander through the various nooks and crannies of this wonderful world!! It's interesting and somewhat complicated, but some strange folks (like me) find it intriguing..

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

ASUG Inhales....

We all know that Bill Clinton "didn't inhale" during college...ASUG (the Americas SAP Users Group) recently launched a new SIG (Special Interest Group), so you could say ASUG proudly inhaled..

And what, pray tell, did ASUG inhale??? Well, kinda the CWG..

You see, the new SIG is all about a method to try and increase the visibility and membership of the CWG...While at the same time, hopefully leveraging the existing infrastructure that ASUG has built for influencing SAP.
Right or wrong, you can debate the success or failure of the CWG to influence SAP on our own. As far as I'm concerned, as long as the CWG was willing to do what SAP wanted, we were able to influence them a lot..For example, in getting things working how we wanted in the PMEVC...

Go right ahead, complain to me that the PMEVC doesn't do what you want it to do...Guess why...Cause YOU chose not to get involved and submit your requirements. How do I know? Well, put it this way...I was there and did that...Along with 2 primary others, only 1 of which was a SAP customer. And you wonder why we don't have much influence...

So the CWG Board took the bit in their teeth (and it was a long, hotly debated bit over the years) and went to the folks at ASUG...Personally, I'd darn glad that they did...And that there are plans to take the message to DSAG (the German Speaking SAP USers Group) as well.

You can find us on the ASUG site here;
So far, not a lot of content since the launch on December 14, 2010....But hey, you never know. Maybe some of you folks here in the States will contribute a tad more...Or at least have a larger lever with your boss when it comes time to try and get involved..

Go visit the site. Post a little something..You never know what will happen..

Till next time,


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Mobile Device Challenge

Well hello again..

I know, it's been a looooong time since I've posted anything. If you've read much of this blog, you know why...If not, read some more and you'll find out..

I've come to discuss an event that recently happened at the Marco Island CWG conference.

Yup, SAP is getting on the mobile bandwagon.

If you've been hiding under a rock, then you have not seen the efforts SAP has been putting into the "mobile device" buzzword. And that the efforts have been lacking in the configuration space.

No more!! There is now a challenge issued by SAP to figure out what configuration should look like on a mobile device. Phone, tablet, you name it.

For details, you have to be a CWG member and then go here;


It don't take a rocket scientist to know that it's almost too little, too late. But hey, better late than never, right!!

The best news is that you can participate. All you have to do is be a CWG member and sign up.

If you don't, then you can't complain (at least to me) about the solution that eventually comes out of the folks in Walldorf..

But hey, have fun configuring out there...

Till sometime in the future...

Saturday, January 2, 2010

How many configurators do we need???

Well, here we are in 2010. As I tend to do, I took a look at my goals during the month of December. No, not to make resolutions as I don't believe in them. I believe in goals, which are different and possibly the subject of a whole nother blog...

But part of the goal setting process is reflection. And while I did that, I realized that it was 10 years ago (November 1999) that I attended my first CWG conference and asked SAP to do something different with their configuration technology.

During that conference, I also asked them "well, since the SCE (now the IPC) just went live and you now have 2 different configurator technologies, what next?" Of course, the answer was really vague, but funny thing is, it turned out to be exactly what they did. Namely "modularize" the software.

So, here we are in 2010 and what has SAP done? Why heck, they are releasing yet ANOTHER configurator in the Business By Design software. The name of this one is the "Core Constraint Engine". While I don't have a ton of details on it, what I have seen tells me it's pretty much the same old thinking wrapped up in a new package. Buy the book "Variant Configuration With SAP" http://www.sappress.com/product.cfm?account=&product=H3070 and turn to the last chapter to read about the Business By Design solution and the CCE.

So, I have to wonder, where is SAP heading now? From what I can gather, not down a road that will break new ground. Why do I say that you ask??

Get real folks, this is 2010. Textual configurators are so 1990's technology. What are the websites with the highest hit rates? Graphical, not textual.

SAP has made it really clear that they have no interest in interactive graphical configuration. Of course, neither do those folks at the "O" company either.

But the future is clear. If you ain't graphical, the kids of today won't be paying too much attention to your software. I'm already working with college students and grads who look at SAP and throw up their hands...

So what can SAP do if they won't go graphical? Maybe they could leverage the abilities hidden in their ERP system to at least provide and package all of the necessary data elements to the configuration technologies that DO choose to cater to the future...I can tell you this, nobody else out there does this, although certain software vendors have "kind of" built their graphical configurators around the SAP data.

Maybe, if there is interest, I'll continue this train of thought in the future.

Happy configurating folks!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thankful for VC

Well, here in the States it's almost Thanksgiving. For those of you that may not know about this holiday, it's a time where we sit around, eat a lot and remember all those things we have to be thankful for.

And as Americans, we have a LOT to be thankful for.

Since this blog is about SAP's Variant Configuration software, I'll just keep my comments to that space.

You see, I'm very thankful for those within this space that choose not to invest themsleves in hard work and learning. You keep me employed.

I don't get it though. Why do people seems to want things the easy way? "Just tell me what to do and when to do it". I see and hear that all the time. Believe it or not, I'm thankful to hear it.

As an individual who learned almost everything the hard way, I found out a long time ago that knowing "why" is the key to success. The issue is, understanding "why" things are the way they are is more than just knowing what to do. It means understanding the intent, theory, and concepts behind whatever it is you are trying to learn.

And there's the rub. If you aren't willing to spend the time, and yes, the hard work building your knowledge and network, then you won't ever "get it". And when you think you DO "get it" odds are you don't. Cause that's the REAL secret. The learning never, ever stops.

And that means the hard work doesn't stop either.

So this one's for those of you that don't want to work that hard. You know who you are, and there are a BUNCH of you out there.

Thanks! You keep my family and I fed.

We appreciate it!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Marco Madness 2009

The CWG had it's latest bi-annual conference at Marco Island...If you missed it (and a lot of you did) that's really a shame. The Board did a great job getting presentations and content together for this round. All kinds of interesting stuff, most of which I can't tell you about..

You see, most of what goes on in the CWG is advanced notice kind of stuff from SAP, which you have to be a member (covered by a NDA) in order to hear..But you can still see it..

Go to the CWG website (http://www.configuration-workgroup.com/node/32) and get yourself registered. Then you'll get access to all the content from conferences all the way back to 2002!!

For a little taste of this conference, you would be able to see "Unambigous Best Practices", or "10 Things Every Modeler Should Know"..Then there is the Roadmap for PLM enhancements..

But you can't get there unless you get yourself signed up!!

In the meantime, you can go to SAPPRESS and buy yourself the one and only book written on Variant Configuration by SAP employees...Find it here;

Maybe I'll give a little review of it here in a week or two..I'm reading one of the 2 copies I was given at the conference...If you read it, maybe you'll see why.. :)

Till next time,


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Marco Island Madness

Well here we are. Just over a week until we hop on the big silver bird and fly south for the annual Marco Island migration.

Are you going to be there? If not, that's a shame. The program is good with multiple different topics.

A modeling challenge is on the agenda for the first time in a long time. Unlike past years, this one covers both declarative and procedural modeling. Should be a hoot!

Then of course, there's my little talk about the lack of a truely integrated Product Devleopment process. You see, I'm of the opinion that PLM and\or MDM (as it exists today) really only scratches the surface of the problem. Much of the data that is in the SAP Variant Configuration word is sourced elsewhere. Not in CAD, not in SAP, but in other systems such as Marketing research, Statements Of Line, Industrial Design tools, desktop publishing, etc.

So, how to get at the data? PLM believes in "collaboration". This means that those content creators can let me see the data they create so I can recreate it in SAP. That my friends is non value added.

If the author created the data, why should I have to recreate it? Guide them in the proper useage maybe, but certainly not do the same work over again..

MDM promises much, but delivers little in this regard. It certainly isn't a bi-directional system, much less a multiple system integrator. Especially for configurable product data!!

Come on down to Marco. Not only will I talk about it, but I'm leading a workshop where others can provide their input into the debate..It should be interesting..And of course, you know what happens when I give a presentation right??

We play the old "Beer or no beer" game!! Yup, some lucky souls will actually get free beer!!

Till next time!!


Saturday, September 5, 2009

What to do with the VC data?

Coming quickly to the CWG Marco Island conference, the question that burns in my mind is one that I'll be speaking on..Namely;

Where do the data objects utilized in Variant Configuration actually get sourced from?

If you design or build variant configuration structures in SAP, you must surely realize that you don't OWN any of the data you create.What you do is translate someone elses business needs into SAP data elements.

But did you ever stop to wonder if those elements had already been created and if so, where?

I can't think of a single relevant data element in VC that isn't really created by a business owner in another application.

Materials are created by Marketing and Engineering.

Characteristics start in Industrial Design, then Marketing and Engineering create more.

The rules are always defined by the business and Engineering staffs.

Keep thinking about it. I think you will see what I mean.

So, what does this mean to the value chain? It means that what we do for a living as translators is redundant work. Muda, in other words. Non value add!!!

Chew on that one for a minute...And take it to the next logical conclusion. Non value add work is being eliminated, especially in these times of economic hardship..

Not to worry though, the software industry is coming to our rescue...Since they consistently fight among themselves to create "bigger and better" software languages, the big companies typically don't think about interoperability.

But they'd better start.

With the semantic web (OWL, RDF, etc) the technology exists to leverage the data at the point of entry.

The questions are;

  • Will anyone?
  • If they do, what will YOU do?

Come join me at the CWG conference in Marco Island for a round table conversation on this subject. Your ideas would be greatly welcomed..

Registration can be accomplished here;


Till next time,