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Functional vs. Technical: How Migration Automation Bridges the Gap

SAP functional and technical consultants complement each other, and both are indispensable for operating an SAP landscape.

Without functional consultants, you wouldn’t be able to harness the flexibility, customizability and power of SAP HANA or SAP ERP. Likewise, without a technical team, you wouldn’t be able to keep your system running, or execute upgrades and migrations.

Here’s how functional and technical consultants’ skills complement each other in an SAP system.

SAP Functional vs. Technical Modules

Here’s a simple rule of thumb for SAP functional vs technical modules: if it’s something you CEO is interested in, it’s a functional module. If it’s something your admin is interested in, it’s a technical module.

Functional modules in SAP are the modules that provide features your business wants. They process orders, track inventory, handle human resources, turn raw data to business intelligence and so on. The modules SAP sells businesses are functional modules for the most part — for example, SAP Finance, SAP Logistics, and Human Capital Management (HCM).

SAP technical modules are what your admins use behind the scenes to run your SAP landscape. They enable technical consultants to maintain and tune your landscape, schedule tasks, troubleshoot performance issues, build applications, download and install updates, and plan and execute migrations. SAP Basis, Solution Manager and ABAP are examples of functional manuals.

Difference Between Functional and Technical Consultants

Because of their different skill sets, functional and technical consultants have very different roles when they work with clients. The functional stakeholders are generally (although not always) the ones who initiate a project.

They talk to the client, identify their needs, assets and gaps. They come up with a plan to bridge the gap between what the client has and what they want. That could mean a wide variety of things, from adding a new module, to planning out a complete upgrade and migration.

As the project proceeds, the functional team takes on a range of different tasks. They will set benchmarks, make sure the system performs the way it should, and prepare other stakeholders for steady state operation, once the project is completed.

The technical team are the ones that figure out how to put the actual system together, scale it and refine it. Technical consultants have backgrounds in areas like programming and SAP administration — they’re the ones who do the meticulous work of calculating how much processing power you need, making sure all requirements are met, installing upgrades and configuring your system to work properly.


Functional and Technical Consultants in Steady-State Operations

The technical team handles the day-to-day maintenance of the system, along with planning routine patches and upgrades. In many cases, the same technical partner that executed the migration will stay on to administer the landscape. This ensures they’re familiar with the landscape and ready to operate it effectively from day one. It also provides the client with an ongoing technical partner who can shepherd them through future upgrades.

The functional stakeholders do not necessarily stay on after the migration. Unless the client is working on an ongoing development project, there may not be work for them. However, an SAP migration isn’t the end of the story. SAP will continue to release updates and new features, the industry will adopt new technology, and the client’s needs and strategies will evolve.

Forward thinking companies should start working with functional stakeholders on the next phase of their technology strategy soon after their upgrade, rather than waiting until their technology becomes outdated. This will enable them to develop quicker adoption, less disruptive upgrades and better alignment between business and tech goals.

Functional vs. Technical Skills in SAP Migrations

Both functional and technical consultants play a major role in migration. Typically, the process starts with the client approaching the functional team with a problem or need that requires upgrading and/or migrating the SAP system. The functional team leads the way, exploring the client’s problem, gathering requirements and defining the scope of the problem.

However, the functional team brings in the technical partner early in the project. In SAP Activate (The standardized methodology for SAP projects, such as upgrades and migrations), the technical team comes in during the Discover phase, the first phase of the project.

If the client needs a trial system to test out the solution before committing, it’s the technical team that builds it. Additionally, technical partners work with functional partners on strategic planning.

As the process continues, the Technical and Functional teams each play a distinct, complementary role. The functional team structures the project and ensures that the design meets the client’s requirements through multiple stages.

For example, in Fit-Gap analysis, they look for gaps between the proposed SAP application and the client’s needs. They’ll go through Line of Business areas like asset management, finance and HR, and ensure their solution can do everything the client needs it to do. They’ll also progressively plan, test and refine other aspects of the landscape like security and UX. Gathering all of the information end users will need and teaching key end users is also part of the functional domain.

Meanwhile, the technical partner is hard at work on the underlying mechanics of the system. They’re responsible for sizing the system, and hitting technical targets like performance, availability and recovery time.

The complexity of an SAP project makes a strong functional team crucial. When you upgrade or migrate SAP, a lot of things change. The tools and information your stakeholders need are in a new location, and may have been completely rebuilt. Your system will generally be on a new set of hardware or virtualized resources, run by a different team employing a different set of tools and procedures.

And there are going to be new requirements, such as higher availability, faster performance and more robust disaster recovery protection. In a system as complex as SAP, a small mistake in implementation can have huge consequences. It could mean your finance department can’t access records when you go live, or your disaster recovery plan doesn’t actually protect you from the scenarios it’s supposed to, or your migration fails.

To make sure none of these things happen, your technical team builds out a model of your system through multiple stages. At each stage, they note any problems, refine their plan, and build a better model. By the end, not only have they created the landscape, but they’ve practiced the entire migration and have everything timed out, almost to the second. This ensures there are no unpleasant surprises when it’s time to actually migrate and switch on the new system.

Automation is Changing Migrations

For SAP migrations and upgrades, automation performs or simplifies a lot traditionally laborious tasks for both functional and technical consultants. Protera CloudVantage starts with a self-service intelligent assessment, automating the traditionally laborious process of requirements gathering performed by the functional team. Essentially, it allows you to have a detailed overview of your SAP landscape, and your migration readiness before you even start the project.

FlexBridge is just as useful for your technical consultants, helping them with the nuts and bolts from the early stages of the project, through a guided dress rehearsal (the practice run for the migration), through the actual migration and go-live.

FlexBridge also provides an integrated system to guide you through the project. It serves as a central repository for all the tools and activities required to realize your migration, making migration easier, quicker and less costly.

Technical Automation is Also Changing Steady State Operation

Automation also facilitates steady state operations. Many of the tasks involved in day-to-day SAP operation involve retrieving and analyzing data from various sources and then analyzing it to look for trends, diagnose issues and perform needed tweaks.

Doing this manually is time-consuming, and difficult. It’s very hard to get an overview of system behavior reading logs.

SAP managed services platforms like Protera AppCare greatly speed and simplify these tasks. Data is gathered automatically, where technical consultants can view it through a single pane of glass. Much of the analysis is performed by the computer, making it easier to troubleshoot, plan and track long-term patterns.

Additionally, automation cuts down on some help desk tasks and end user wait time by enabling self-service in certain tasks, such as spinning up new resources. This means better service for both end users and clients, along with lower costs.

Beyond the Functional vs. Technical Divide

Advances in technology via Platform based solutions and project management means you’re not just looking for technical and functional consultants anymore, but a holistic solution to support your entire SAP landscape.

Instead, you’re hiring or building a team with its own workflow, tools, service level, skill sets and strategies. The right combination of people, methods and tech can dramatically accelerate projects, cut costs and improve time to value. For example, in just three months we were able to migrate and upgrade L.B. Foster from a private cloud to SAP HANA on a public cloud, with minimal disruption.

Protera’s platform-based approach brings the perfect combination of functional and technical service to your HANA, S/4HANA or cloud migration project.


Get started with a free self-service assessment to see the power of the CloudVantage platform.