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Together always better

The topic of SAP ERP and Microsoft Excel is not without controversy and emotion. If the strengths and weaknesses are combined correctly, ERP and Excel will result in a successful and sustainable platform. In an interview, Eckard Moos from SAP partner Kern explains the roadmap.
Eckhard Moos, Kern AG
E-3 Magazine
11 February 2021
Interview: Inconsistent data simply costs money
This text has been automatically translated from German to English.

When you hear "back to standard" in the SAP community, do you feel left out as an add-on supplier and Excel vendor, or is Excel part of the SAP standard?

Eckard Moos, Core: Dear Mr. Färbinger, please excuse me for laughing out loud when you talk about Kern as an Excel provider: Please imagine that I would introduce you to your profession as editor-in-chief of E-3 Magazine as a seller of newsprint or printer's ink. You would quite rightly want to slap me on the back of the head.

Sure, you work with paper and ink every day. But you justify and strengthen your unique selling proposition by having linking know-how, by knowing the SAP scene like few others. That's the way it is with us, too. Swap paper for SAP, ink for Excel and change the editor-in-chief for the business process engineer and you're at the core.

Now to your question: "Is Excel part of the SAP standard?" Yes, absolutely and exactly when Excel is used as an integral interface within SAP. Yes and exactly when nothing happens outside, but everything happens inside SAP: Authorizations and data, transactions and processes, etc.

So a togetherness?

Moss: That's what's fascinating, and I would even go so far as to say what's gratifying about our work and our SAP-integrated product Allevo: There is never any competition between SAP and Excel, but always cooperation; there are never sub-processes here and sub-processes there, but always an overall process - and completely within SAP.

Anyone who moves outside the SAP specifications, even in the Z namespace numerous Abap modifications customized, would no longer be release- and revision-safe. Are these arguments correct?

Moss: No - at least not for those providers who have mastered the use of SAP. Personally, I have been actively involved with SAP since mid-1994; my first customizing projects ran under R/3, Release 2.0. Since I became self-employed in mid-1996, Kern has been dealing with SAP on a daily basis, and the first customers used our Allevo product under Releases 4.5b and 4.6c, a good 20 years ago.

At that time, one could have doubted the release capability of 3rd party applications, but not today in view of a business world in which the demand for interfaces is increasing. From my experience, therefore, one thing is clear: SAP has always offered reliable interfaces and will continue to do so in the future. I am convinced that the bottleneck will not be SAP, but the professionalism of the 3rd parties.

What are the main advantages from the combination of Excel and ERP/ECC 6.0?

Moss: Generations of IT experts are chasing the ideal of replacing Excel with a homogeneous business management application. The driver of this intention is a fundamental error: It is not Excel as an interface that creates the risk, but Excel as the place where data is stored. Before answering, I list the weaknesses and strengths of Excel.

Weaknesses: miserable data storage, highly critical authorization control, singular "business actions" instead of integrated business processes. Strengths: Modeling calculations, controlling users through well-designed interfaces, subsidiarity principle, meaning that the business process experts can do their own tasks.

Now for the answer: As soon as you eliminate Excel's weaknesses and instead allow Excel's strengths to come into their own, you are on the optimal path. More accurately, I have to say: You are in any case on the path to the Bliss Point, to the point of absolute bliss, as the economists smirkingly say, when Excel is integrated into the standard business software.

What are the possibilities and opportunities for Excel and S/4?

Moss: If you want a succinct statement, it's this: Both applications are getting better and better; together they are becoming even stronger; the number of business processes is constantly increasing, as are their diversity and customer-specific characteristics. Excel integrated in S/4 offers the ideal answer to constantly increasing and changing demands on processes and user guidance. This is exactly what Allevo does: With our application, you create fast, precise and SAP-
compliant solutions.

What would be a typical scenario, a relevant task, for an existing SAP customer to add the core Excel offering to their system?

Moss: I can list hundreds of processes here and distill typical scenarios from them. But this list is of no use to you, because our experience teaches us that every user is tempted to claim, out of self-protection, that his or her own process cannot be generalized under any circumstances and must therefore be treated in a highly individual manner. However, simple observations that you can make without much effort are helpful.

Will Excel adoption increase or decrease among future S/4 users?

Moss: The incentive to do one's own thing is an anthropological constant. That's why Excel is immortal - but so is SAP. So the task of making the best of it is an eternal one. To paraphrase Albert "Excel" Camus, we have to think of Sisyphus as a happy man.

Thank you for the interview.

Core AG
Eckhard Moos, Kern AG

Eckhard Moos is Managing Director of Kern AG.

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