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Billing of postal partner branches with SAP BRIM

Back in 2018, Swiss Post launched a large-scale digital transformation program called "Harmonization of Value Flows". This initiated the switch from ERP/ECC 6.0 to SAP S/4 Hana.
E-3 Magazine
GTW Management Consulting GmbH
31 May 2023
This text has been automatically translated from German to English.

Post Lighthouse Project for SAP BRIM

The HWF project, Harmonization of Value Flows, was aimed, among other things, at standardizing the various billing systems developed in-house. SAP BRIM, Billing and Revenue Innovation Management, as a mass billing solution for high billing volumes is therefore a perfect solution. What started small has now been rolled out across almost all postal areas. One lighthouse project was FiLP, the branch partner billing solution. In this E-3 interview, Akin Aktas, SAP module consultant at Swiss Post, and Christoph Granig, partner at GTW Management Consulting, explain the successful project.

What is the goal of SAP BRIM?

Christoph Granig, GTW: With SAP BRIM, we have converted the billing of postal partner branches to the future solution of invoicing for services. As long as the data is supplied correctly by the upstream systems, the billing machine works like Swiss clockwork and is end-2-end audit-proof.

Christoph Granig, GTW

Christoph Granig,
Partner, GTW Management Consulting

Mr. Aktas, what is behind the term branch partner billing?

Akin Aktas, Swiss Post: Partner branches can be found, for example, in retail stores, drugstores/pharmacies, bakeries or tourist offices. Virtually all postal services can be performed at a partner branch. Exceptions are, for example, cash deposits, express shipments abroad and bulky goods shipments, collection of debt collection documents. The partner operates the postal business on behalf of Swiss Post and is compensated for this. The employees are trained and supervised by Swiss Post.

Akin Aktas, Swiss Post

Akin Aktas
SAP Module Consultant
Swiss Post

How can you imagine this exactly?

Aktas: Swiss Post distinguishes between two different partner models: Model with self-service module for posting mail items or with service for payment transaction services and model with service counter for all postal services offered. Partner branches offer the most frequently requested Swiss Post services. For example, letters and parcels can be posted, items can be picked up and stamps can be purchased. Cashless deposits can be made with the PostFinance Card and Maestro cards from the banks; cash withdrawals are also possible with the PostFinance Card. Customers can use postal services throughout the opening hours of the partner store. In order to compensate partners for the services offered, there are two different remuneration models that differ based on the services offered. 

Granig: The services sold at the service counter or at the self-service module are delivered from the POS system via different interfaces via KAFKA and SAP PRO to BRIM as valuable items. The valuable items contain all data relevant for billing or printing, such as quantity, price, consignment number, etc. The data is then transferred to BRIM. Depending on the contractually defined remuneration model, the items are priced and then billed and invoiced. The two remuneration models used were mapped in SAP Subscription Order Management and differ in the number of services/materials that are billed and remunerated in the broader sense.

Aktas: Depending on the service a partner offers, there are variable and/or fixed remunerations. The variable portions are predestined for BRIM, because no matter how high the transaction volume, the billing solution is designed for mass processing and can also process a very high number of data records automatically. The partner contracts and remuneration models themselves are taken into account centrally as part of the master data in the SAP module SOM, Subscription Order Management.

How audit-proof is the solution?

Granig: Audit security plays an elementary role in any introduction of a new billing and invoicing system. The Access solution, which was replaced with BRIM, had long been a thorn in the side of the auditing department, as there were very many intervention options that were not logged on the system side. Today, when the upstream systems deliver the accounting data fully automatically and pass it on to SAP BRIM via SAP PRO, no one has to intervene manually anymore. In addition, implemented microservices control the data stream at any time, every change is logged and manipulation is thus almost impossible or would be recorded. At Swiss Post, Subscription Order Management is currently only used for billing branch and partner agencies to manage contracts and contract master data.

How is the master data for billing created and what is the role of SAP MDG and SOM ?

Granig: The customer master data of the branch partners is delivered via the central HR system via HR/GP interface to the central S/4 Hana system and created as a sold-to party. The payers are entered via SAP MDG, taking into account various checks and release workflows. The contract accounts are opened manually by the specialist department without SAP MDG and finally assigned in Subscription Order Management together with the sold-to party and payer when the contract is created. For us, SOM was a new and relatively young module, which we initially developed to meet our needs. Today, the specialist department can create contracts manually or via file upload, e.g. in order to import several contracts simultaneously and save time. It is a complex master data construct. The specialist department must prepare the master data well so that the contract creation can be carried out without problems. 

Why was the switch to SAP BRIM made?

Aktas: With over 1,500 partner branches in Switzerland, our old, self-developed Access solution was reaching its limits and we urgently needed to replace it. As the management decided on a further and rapid expansion of the branch partner network, the timeframe for implementing the project was very sporting. 

Granig: The project schedule was so tight because billing would no longer have been possible above a certain number of partner branches due to limitations in Access. We then switched to SAP BRIM within just a few months, otherwise Swiss Post would not have been able to bill any more partners.

Aktas: We were under extreme time pressure in this project and also had a lot of stakeholders. Getting everything down to a common denominator was certainly not always easy. Thanks to our implementation partner GTW and SAP, however, we had experienced project partners at our side who, despite the time pressure, never lost sight of the big picture and always got all the departments and people involved on board.

What do you think was one of the biggest challenges?

Granig: In addition to the time pressure, the switch to Fiori was a major challenge for the department. In particular, they had to contend with performance problems and the need for extensive training, as the department had previously only been familiar with the SAP GUI. In SOM, for example, the maintenance of subscription-specific data on the material only works via Fiori; in mass billing, on the other hand, Fioris are not yet quite as mature and performant. We can hardly expect the user to scroll down page by page in Fiori with 100,000 entries to select all the data. For special use cases, it is therefore still allowed to execute dedicated GUI transactions, e.g. the display of billable items. Otherwise, there is no way around Fiori in the future.

Aktas: The colleagues in invoicing know SAP and GUI inside out, so the changeover to Fiori is not always as easy. In SOM, contract creation is very complex anyway and can only be done via Fiori. So we spent a lot of time on good documentation for the subject, explaining step by step how and in what order the master data has to be created. The training materials are so good, we could sell them outright. In the meantime, the department only works with Fiori.

What is the role of choosing the right BRIM implementation partner?

Aktas: In such a critical project, the implementation partner plays an extremely important role, also for the transfer of know-how. We are fortunate to have both GTW, with over 20 years of implementation experience in SAP BRIM and relevant industry know-how, and SAP as a software supplier directly on board. By using a standard product like SAP BRIM, we now have the know-how distributed among several people who can operate and further develop the system.

What did the FiLP project mean for the other departments?

Granig: The implementation strategy at Swiss Post was to start with a small implementation project and gradually roll out BRIM to the other areas. After Swiss Post Solutions, the billing of digital services, we succeeded with the billing of partner branches, the next big hit for SAP BRIM. In the meantime, five more BRIM projects in the logistics services area have gone live within a year.

Aktas: FiLP was a lighthouse project for building BRIM's reputation at Swiss Post. If we had failed with the project, the whole program roadmap would have been in question. FiLP was extremely important for the other BRIM implementations that followed. The departments saw that BRIM worked and could also handle large masses of data. Thus, the other departments were also open to the invoicing solution of the future. 

And what's next on the agenda?

Aktas: In the meantime, everything runs like Swiss clockwork and we get only a few productive errors reported from the specialist departments. This means that the users are satisfied with the billing solution because they know that the data is being billed correctly. The next major BRIM project, "Future Solution Invoicing", to replace the central invoicing system for letter mail and parcel post has already been started.

E-3: Mr. Aktas, Mr. Granig, thank you for the interview.

E-3 Magazine

Information and educational outreach by and for the SAP community.

GTW Management Consulting GmbH

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