SAPtips4On Logistics

February / March 2007 Volume V Issue 1

Please Release Me: SAP Purchasing Release Strategies Made Easy
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By Jocelyn Hayes, SAPtips Director of Consulting and Training
Editor’s Note: The words “SAP” and “easy” are rarely used in the same sentence, but SAPtips Practice Director Jocelyn Hayes is ready to prove it can be done. In her debut article she sets out a four-step strategy that is not only practical, but achievable. In fact, Jocelyn has employed this strategy at multiple installations, across a variety of purchasing methodologies with great success. Her secret for success? Jocelyn says it’s all about keeping it simple. Yes, I know, you are skeptical. But Purchasing Release Strategies can be made easy if you understand the fundamental concepts of how to configure them and to follow the KISS principle (keep it simple, stupid). In this article, I will point out some tips and tricks I have learned through implementing Purchase Requisition Release strategies at seven different client locations with very different purchasing approval methodologies. This article will also explore some tricks to managing the constantly changing security roles and assignments due to company reorganizations or attrition. This article is written using SAP R/3 Enterprise (4.7). It is applicable for all SAP R/3 and mySAP® ERP. It does not cover Workflow for Purchasing Release Strategies. For more information on workflow scenarios, reference: http://help.sap.com/saphelp_470/helpdata/ en/d/ea9d9c7acad94b70000e82dec0/ frameset.htm implementation. Each step offers tips to help you tiptoe through the potential minefield of gotchas. Step 1: Determine the Corporate Purchasing Approval Matrix This can actually represent the most difficult step in any organization. Tip #1 – Encourage purchasing policy makers to keep it simple. The reason here is not to make the implementer’s job easier, but to make it easier for people responsible for entering purchasing requisitions to know who must approve the requisition. I cannot tell you how many times I have agreed to implement a complex release strategy, only to go back later and simplify. Why? Because the user community complained that it was too difficult to figure out who was responsible for holding up their requisition from becoming a Purchase Order. In my experience, most companies base purchasing approvals on Cost Centers. I have implemented pur Department
101 101 101 101 102 102 102 102

chasing groups to be synonymous with Cost Centers. This allows you to not require the Cost Center on purchase requisitions. Tip #2 – If you require the cost center on the requisition, you do not have to require the G/L account number, but you should, because most users do not know how to select the correct G/L account. If you do not require the G/L Account on the purchase requisition, it is not required on the Purchase Order (without a custom developed user/field exit). If your purchasing agent forgets to add the G/L account, the receiving department will get an error when they try to receive, because SAP does not know how to post the material document. Figure 1 illustrates the example I will follow for this article. I will use two values from which to determine the release strategy: 1. Purchasing group 2. Overall value of purchase requisition Approval Limits
Up to $10K Up to $50K Up to $100K Everything over $100K Up to $5K Up to $50K Up to $200K Everything over $200K

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Position
Manager Director VP CFO Manager Director VP CFO

The Four-Step Process

I will present a four-step process to lead you through the setup and

Figure 1: Approval Matrix Example

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February / March 2007 Volume V Issue 1
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The Example presented in this article is for an Overall Release procedure. This means that when someone approves the requisition, they are approving the entire requisition, and not each line. This simplifies the action required of the approvers, because they only have to approve once, but it does restrict you from allowing your users to combine purchase requisitions across departments. Step 2: Configuration SAP has published a decent note that includes a pdf document (Note 207490) with steps on how to complete the configuration. Below, we’ll discuss the three components of configuration: (A) Create Characteristics, (B) Create Class, and (C) Define Release Strategy. To start, navigate the IMG (Implementation Guide) using transaction SPRO. Follow the menu path: Materials Management > Purchasing > Purchase Requisition > Release Procedure > Procedure with Classification, then A) Create Characteristics:

• the overall amount of the purchase. These two parameters equate to characteristics. The characteristics must be represented by values entered in the purchasing document. In this scenario, the characteristics will be: • Purchasing Group – to represent the department • Overall value of requisition To determine what parameters are available as characteristics, run transaction SE11 and view table

CEBAN. This table stores what fields are available in the release strategy determination. Figure 2 shows where to correlate the characteristic to the field used for determination from CEBAN. Tip #3 – If the field you want to use for the release strategy does not exist in the CEBAN communication structure, (a custom field, for example) you can use the following user exits: • M06B0003 release For item-wise

• M06B0005 – For overall release

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In Step 1, you probably developed an approval matrix in Excel or on a napkin. Now you need to translate that Release Strategy. What you need to ask is, “what are the parameters that determine the approval person?” In the scenario illustrated in Figure 1, the parameters that determine the approval person are: • the department requesting the purchase
Figure 2: Create Characteristic Additional Data Screen

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Tip #4 – Notice in Figure 2 how the “Not Ready for Input” box is checked in the Procedure for Value Assignment area. I cannot tell you how many times this has stung me! Make sure you deselect it. Otherwise, it will prevent a value from being assigned to your characteristic and your release strategy will not work! It does serve a purpose, in the case when the value is inferred by object dependencies, but that is only applicable when Characteristics are used in Variant Configuration for configurable make-to-order materials in the Sales and Distribution module. Once you complete the Reference to Table/Field, SAP will import the characteristic formats from the data dictionary (the SAP table/field definition). If you click on the Basic Data tab, you will see the data format and value assignment pulled in from the data dictionary field definitions.

Figure 3: Create Characteristics Basic Data Screen

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There are many advantages to using one release strategy for multiple departments.

Tip #5 – SAP will carry over default values to the value assignment portion (shown in Figure 3). Make sure you pay close attention to whether it allows intervals (which you will want in the case of a range of values, like value of requisition) and if it allows multiple values (which you will want if you plan to use one release strategy for multiple departments or purchasing groups). There are many advantages to using one release strategy for multiple departments, including ease of configuration and ease of security role setup. B) Create Class Once you have created your characteristics, you must assign the characteristics to a class. On the first

screen, make sure you use the Class Type 032, which is the class type for Release Strategy. See Figure 4. C) Define Release Strategy Here we’ll discuss 5 steps for your Release Strategy definition: Release Group, Release Codes, Release Indicators, Release Strategies, and finally we’ll discuss the tie in to Workflow. 1. Create Release Group In this step, you create release groups (Figure 5). A release group will have the same release levels and strategy. In the scenario illustrated back in Figure 1, there will be two release groups needed because the approval interval values are dif-

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February / March 2007 Volume V Issue 1
Figure 4: Create Class – Assign Characteristics
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ferent between the two departments. If there were a third department that had the same approval interval values, it could share a release group and the release strategy would be for more than one department (or in this example, purchasing group). Tip #6 – You can only have ONE CLASS per release “type”. Release type is defined as “overall release” or “item-wise release”. This can be quite a limitation if you have a complex approval structure. You can have characteristics that are assigned to the class, but not utilized in the release strategy. 2. Create Release Codes A release code is an identifier that is associated with the person responsible for approving

Figure 5: Create Release Groups

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the purchase requisition (Figure 6). Tip #7 – You can utilize a customer user exit for purchase requisitions, M06B0001, to define the workflow and generate notification and work list objects for the person responsible for the approval. 3. Create Release Indicators A release indicator shows the release status of a purchase requisition. In the standard system, a purchase requisition release status is either “Blocked” or “RFQ/Purchase Order”. The “RFQ/Purchase Order” status indicates that the Purchase Requisition has been fully released and can now be converted into an RFQ or Purchase Order. In the standard system, SAP will not allow changes to the quantity, unit of measure, or price when an approver is executing the release transaction. If you require that other fields, such as delivery date, plant, etc., not be modified via the release transaction, follow TIP #8. Tip #8 – If you want to allow certain fields to be changed during or after a release, you can modify the Field Selection Key. To modify the Field Selection Key, follow the menu path in the IMG: Materials Management > Purchasing > Purchase Requisition > Define Screen Layout at Document level. Once you have created a custom field selection key, you should create a custom release indicator by maintaining a new entry in the “Create Release Indicators” screen. It is also possible to configure the release to not be restarted if the amounts have only changed a specified percentage. To do this, enter “4 - Changeable, new release in case of new strategy or value” and a percentage in the “Value chgs” field, as shown in Figure 7.

Figure 6: Create Release Codes

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Figure 7: Change Release Indicator

4. Create Release Strategies A Release Strategy is a combination of the Release Group and Release Code. The Release Group combines the release codes (think of them as release levels) and each combination gets assigned a release strategy.

For each release level (or code) you will define the prerequisites required to get to that release level, release status, and the characteristic values that place the release into that release level.

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I have never experienced a business rule that allowed a higher-level approver to approve a purchase requisition prior to or simultaneously with a lower level approver. In other words, I have not had a client that wanted the purchase requisition release to go to the approval queue of a director at the same time as the same approval request went to the manager. Directors usually wants their manager to approve the expense before they approve it. So, it makes completing the Release Prerequisites screen easy to complete (even though, when you view the screen, it is very confusing). I just check the boxes in the lower left corner, as in Figure 8. In the classification screen shown in Figure 9, you assign the values or ranges of values to the Release Strategy. Tip #9 – Be sure you have entered the characteristics value assignments correctly. If you have not selected to allow an “interval value” for the “total value of requisition” amount, you will not be able to enter a range in the characteristic value assignment. 5. Workflow: Assign Release Codes to Release Point

Figure 8: Release Prerequisites

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Note: You only have to perform this step if you wish to link this release procedure to Workflow, and are not using customer exit M06B0001. Here’s a brief description of how Purchase Requisition Release Strategies work in SAP. 1. When the purchase requisition is saved, SAP determines which type of release is required for the document type. In this case, the document type is NB and is flagged in configuration for Overall release.
Figure 9: Release Strategies: Classification

2. Then, SAP determines what class to use for this type of release. 3. Once the class is determined, the characteristics assigned to the

class are associated to the values in the purchase requisition. 4. With the data up to this point, SAP determines which release

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strategy to invoke and then follow through with any workflow activities.

Object
Characteristics: PURCHASING_GROUP PR_VALUE

Transaction
BD91

Check (Target)
CT04

Message Type Notes (BD64)
CHRMAS Don’t worry about IDOC e rror message “Object S2L3 (T16FS) not found”

Step 3: Security

Security can be the most time consuming activity in developing release strategies – particularly if you have used multiple characteristics to define your release strategies and you have multiple release levels. Again lies that recurring theme of “Keep It Simple”. Also, not that you don’t want the job security for your Basis Security Administrators, but you want the change process to not be overly complex, so you can react quickly when there is a major company reorganization. Tip # 10 – For SOx compliance, do not use the * function when defining the roles in security. This will allow some folks to have approval authority when they should not. You should set up a role for each Release Group / Release Strategy combination. For further security, include either in this role or another role, the restriction for other values that you have assigned as characteristics, such as Purchasing Group.

Class: PR_RELEASE Class Type: 032 Class: PR_RELEASE Class Type: 032

BD92

CL03

CLSMAS

BD93

CL03

CLFMAS

Figure 10: Sample Transaction Codes

Conclusion

Step 4: Transport Classes and Characteristics

In this article I attempted to lay the groundwork and provide some good tips to help beginner SAP Configurators journey down the path to developing a Purchasing Approval solution. Purchase Requisition release strategies have always ranked high on my list of the “tricky” configuration challenges (others include Condition Techniques and Account Assignments for Inventory Management). But, with a little time and commitment, you too can master this skill! Jocelyn Hayes, Director of Consulting and Training for SAPtips, has over ten years of SAP experience. She has enjoyed a successful consulting career for a Big 4 firm as well as independently. Jocelyn’s focus primarily has involved the Logistics modules of SAP, and has she also developed ESA Roadmaps using NetWeaver™ tools, including Visual Composer, XI, Enterprise Portal, and BI. She also led a CRM Business Process Reengineering project. Contact Jocelyn at Jocelyn.Hayes@ERPtips.com. ≈

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This is the most overlooked step in the process. The transport you created in Step 3 in your “Gold” SAP Configuration client, does not include the values you associated to the characteristics. They are stored in characteristic value tables that must be moved through your SAP environments via the ALE (Application Link Enabling) function. Tip #11 – Don’t forget to request your ALE with your transport. Figure 10 is a sample spreadsheet of transaction codes, which you can provide to your Basis team.

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February / March 2007 Volume V Issue 1
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